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Posts Tagged ‘patronising’

Tomas: Robert Bedick

February 3, 2011 1 comment

You’ll also find this review on my bigger blog, How Publishing Really Works. You can comment on it here, but you can’t over there.


Who is Alfred Tomas?

When Paul Webber is approached by an intriguing widow to write a book about her “highly influential, but criminally obscure” husband, the artist Alfred Tomas, Paul thinks Tomas will be his first step towards achieving literary glory. But the more he learns about Tomas, the more he begins to question the quiet family life he leads with his wife Sylvia and their young son Josh.

Tomas has the potential to be an absorbing, interesting read: but it’s sadly let down by careless mistakes and what I suspect is the writer’s inexperience.

Unlike most of the other writers I’ve reviewed here, Robert Bedick knows how to use an em-dash (hurrah!); but his use of hyphens is haphazard, and his use of speech marks is inconsistent especially where other punctuation marks get involved.

His characters did a pretty good job of engaging my attention: but they were prevented from reaching their full potential by some flabby writing which I found both confusing and distracting. And as for the dialogue tags—no! Almost every single one might just as well have climbed onto my kitchen table and waved its red knickers in the air, they distracted me so from the narrative flow. Writers rarely need to use more than “he said”, “she whispered”; I don’t think there’s ever a call for “I meekly offered in rebuttal”.

So: would I recommend this book? Very nearly, but not quite. Mr. Bedick could easily improve it to a point where I would have recommended it just by tightening it up and deleting all of those overdone dialogue tags: but then it would have made an extremely short book. I read eleven pages out of one hundred and ninety-two, and think Mr. Bedick would do well to edit his own work far more rigorously in future.

Life Skills 101: A Guide To Understanding The Seasons In Your Life: Lori J Parker

August 5, 2010 5 comments

As the magnitude of trials continue to escalate in the world today, Christians need to understand the seasons of preparation that God has for each of them. In Life Skills 101, Lori Parker identifies why we experience various trials. She offers practical ways to identify and overcome these trials so we will be ready for the Lord’s return.

Lori Parker, is an anointed author, conference speaker, and founder of One Choice Ministries. God has given her gifts of compassion, joy, and boldness. She has a passionate desire to see people develop an intimate relationship with the Lord. Lori preaches Biblical truths that stir the Body of Christ into action.

“I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see.”~Revelation 3:18

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Life Skills 101 gets off to a poor start. Its back cover copy discusses the trials we will all face in life, and informs us that the book has a strongly Christian perspective: then on the first page of its introduction it tells us that it’s actually about our relationships with money and with god.

It implies that everyone reading the book will have little money and an irresponsible attitude to the little they have; that everyone who appears to be doing well is really hiding a mountain of debt and misery; and that the reason so many people overspend is that they are too proud, and feel they deserve better than they have. The author seems to resent college graduates, especially those who go on to postgraduate education; and she states that Christians should be exempt from rules which apply to non-Christians, as they can depend on god’s guidance. It would have been useful if god had given the author a little guidance on the rules of punctuation and grammar, but perhaps he shares my view that writers should learn how to do these things for themselves.

This book gave me a very interesting glimpse into another world—but that doesn’t mean I think it’s any good. The author attributes all sorts of things to god’s grace but doesn’t discuss why this might be so; she shows no understanding of social or psychological failings, she implies that we have no need to take personal responsibility for our mistakes or problems, and makes no allowance for the fact that sometimes terrible things happen to people which they simply cannot overcome even if they believe and trust in god. And that’s where this book fails.

If the author had attempted to encompass more shades of grey—to recognise that not everyone believes in god, for example, and that often, hard work can be far more practical and effective than prayer and contemplation—this book would have been much better. As it is, it’s a judgemental, disappointing and patronising text which encourages us all to live our lives responsible only to god, and to make no efforts to resolve our own problems or improve our lives other than by praying for god’s guidance: and that means it’s only going to be taken seriously by people who already agree with the stance it takes; and that people like me, who disagree very strongly with most of the claims made in the book, are going to dismiss it.

If I were this writer, then, how would I improve this book? Instead of discussing abstract groups of people who are disappointed in their lives I would write about specific people and tell their stories in more depth; I would stop making insulting generalisations about people who do not share my beliefs; I would learn a little about logic and fallacy and apply what I’d learned to my writing; and I’d stop being so very disapproving about the way other people live their lives.

I read fifteen of this book’s one hundred and thirty seven pages, and won’t be reading any more.

Einstein And Human Consciousness (Eternity Is An Instant): Brad Buettner

April 22, 2010 6 comments

HEALTH/INSPIRATION

Which is more important: the practical or the sublime? Are you a Doer or a Dreamer? Brad Buettner has over twenty-four years of experience utilizing his physics degree in a wide array of engineering and management assignments. With this background he examines early twentieth-century physics and human relationships observed during his professional tenure to illustrate how Einstein’s theory of relativity pertains to our perception of time and how it explains divisions in our outlook. By applying the theory of relativity to human consciousness, Buettner discovers the motivation for personal inclination toward either the practical or the abstract.

Buettner defines total reality as containing more than the reality our senses perceive. When discussing alternate forms of reality, however, he insists on measurable and observable conclusions, eliminating references to mysticism, magic, or mystery. He outlines an engaging search for the unlikely possibility of interaction with the reality that existed before the Big Bang.

Einstein in Human Consciousness: Eternity is an Instant provides stunning revelations concerning human reality. Does your world extend beyond that perceived by the physical senses? If so, why? Buettner offers the answers to these questions by explaining an aspect of reality that was previously elusive.

Brad Buettner received physics and metallurgical degrees from Benedictine and Lehigh Universities, which he applied to a varied career in engineering and management. He’s lived or worked in New York City, Baltimore, Princeton, and the Chicago area. He has a wife and two sons and currently resides in the Chicago suburbs.

Brad Buettner might have written his book Einstein and Human Consciousness: Eternity is an Instant around an interesting theory, and he certainly has an easy, fluent writing style. But both were spoiled for me by his repeated reassurances that I would be able to understand his reasoning if I only tried, even if I wasn’t very highly educated. I found some of his comments about this patronising, and at times almost insulting.

When Buettner commented, “Dreamers have a different view of reality than Doers, and the reason is that Dreamers concentrate on a different reality altogether. Dreamers have found a peculiar aspect of human consciousness that has different properties than the physical reality that our senses detect” I wonder if he realised that he was casting Dreamers as “other”?

Buettner is at his best when he explains proven, accepted concepts: his account of relative time is clear, elegant and interesting. His writing is good; his text is beautifully error-free. But in trying to reach a wider audience he’s only succeeded in patronising us all; and he’s perhaps revealed more about himself than he had planned to in places. I stopped reading on page nine, when I came across this:

Imagine the ridicule simpler minds must have given Einstein when they first heard his proposal.

I don’t like the implication that anyone less clever than Einstein (which, let’s face it, includes pretty much most of us) would have automatically ridiculed him for proposing his theory: most, I suspect, would have asked him questions and tried to understand it for themselves. The human race is usually more curious than it is judgemental: if we weren’t, we would never have escaped our more superstitious beliefs and reached the moon. Because of that I’m not going to judge Mr. Buettner for apparently thinking so little of his readers: instead I’m going to wonder how much better his book would have been if he’d worked with someone who challenged his ideas and edited out all of his more patronising bits. How good could it have been then?

Petalon: Cornelius W Hyzer, Sr

April 8, 2010 Comments off

History flows like a river with tributaries and small streams feeding it on its inexorable journey to the sea. Sometimes it is blocked by ice or artificial dams, but it always breaks through. Floods and droughts change the level of the water, making it flow faster or slower, destructively or congenially. Most people enjoy the quiet times by the river, but historians prefer the rapids and violent waterfalls.

I read just eight pages of Petalon, which is a shame. If Mr. Hyzer had revised this book more thoroughly and paid more careful attention to the details, he could have had a real winner on his hands.

The little I read was full of potential: I think there could be a good story here, and the author does show an understanding of structure and pacing, which are both very important in fiction. However, his writing was often jumbled and confusing; he drops chunks of exposition into his text which further disrupt its flow; he makes sweeping statements which range from wrong to ludicrous; and he really needs to improve his copy-editing skills if he wants to hold his readers’ attention.

I did come across the odd undercurrent of excitement in the text: brief moments when there was a buzz of tension, which reminded me a little of Grisham and Coben. The difference is that both Grisham and Coben establish that tension early and then maintain it for pages at a time, whereas in Hyzer’s text it’s gone almost as soon as it appears.

Petalon looks suspiciously like an early attempt at writing to me. This writer has the potential to achieve much more, and to be much better. Whether he’ll realise that potential is entirely up to him, and the effort that he’s prepared to put in from now on.

The Snow Cow: Martin Kochanski

April 1, 2010 Comments off

Ghost Stories for Skiers

That chill running down your spine—is it just the melting snow?

The thirteen stories in The Snow Cow tell of love and death, terror and joy, mixing ancient myths with modern legends. They are stories to be shared in the firelight after a long day’s skiing.

The skier who leaves tracks on inaccessible mountain faces—is he dead or alive?

Your chalet girl—could she be a mass murderer?

A woman on her wedding night, a promise made to the devil—how can she escape?

Experience impossible love inNot This Time. Ski with a ghost in The Long Man. Discover a new twist to an old legend in The Passport of Dorian Gray. And be haunted by the terrifying tale of The Snow Cow herself!

After you have read this book, skiing will never be the same again.

Short story collections are notoriously difficult to sell: if you manage to find a publisher willing to take them on, that publisher is going to struggle to find readers to buy your book (unless you are already a major name). If you then announce that your short story collection is intended for a specific niche market you’re narrowing your market even further. Which is why, if I were Martin Kochanski, I’d remove the tag-line “Ghost Stories for Skiers” from the cover of The Snow Cow: Ghost Stories for Skiers. I don’t think it adds much value, and I’m concerned that it will lose him sales despite his fabulous cover, which I thought delightful.

As for his stories: they’re not in the same class as the blisteringly good collections I’ve read from Salt Publishing, but then Martin doesn’t pretend to write literary fiction: these are more mainstream, and somewhat laddish. They are mostly competent, clear and amusing and consequently, I mostly enjoyed them.

I did find several of the stories just a little unsatisfying. They were at times trite, obvious, or too neatly tied up: a couple of the stories seemed to run out of steam and ended more from apathy than anything else. I don’t think that’s due to a lack of ability on Kochanski’s part: I suspect it has more to do with his experience (or lack of it) as a writer. The Snow Cow is his first publication, and he’s probably too new to the form to have fully got to grips with its conventions and requirements. With a good few thousand words more to his credit he’s going to be a much better writer (I’d advise him to read widely in the form, to): as it is, The Snow Cow is an entertaining but not a challenging or life-changing read, and I expect Martin Kochanski will improve greatly in the future. I read it all and do think that he’s off to a good start: but despite that I feel that this collection lacks that significant quality which transforms our writing from pedestrian to compelling. Give him time.

As They Grow Older: S M Cashmore

November 19, 2009 7 comments

Witch Street is paved with stories for children. Strange stories. Spooky stories. Halloween stories.

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.

The Shipwreck Of A Nation: H Peter Nennhaus

September 3, 2009 2 comments

Early on the morning of September 3 1939, the British ambassador to Berlin delivered a letter to the German government which stated that unless the German government announced plans to withdraw its invasion force from Poland by 11am that day, Britan would declare war against Germany.

Germany ignored the British ultimatum and so, at 11.15 that morning, Neville Chamberlain, the British Prime Minister of the time, announced: “I have to tell you now that no such undertaking has been received and consequently this country is at war with Germany.”

The French government presented a similar message to Berlin at 12.30, giving Germany until 17.00 to withdraw its troops from Poland. This was also ignored, and the French government also declared war against Germany.

In the six years of fighting which followed, thousands of soldiers and civilians died in the fighting: and over seven milllion people were exterminated in the German death-camps through starvation, torture and intentional neglect.

Those death-camps were run by people who believed in the German regime. And what they did cannot be excused by any reasonable human being.

History/Europe

THE MIND-SET OF THE GERMANS
AND OTHER SECRETS OF WORLD WAR II

This memoir portrays the attitudes of a nation caught in political crisis and devastating war. The author vividly recalls his youth in Berlin before and during WWII amidst political upheaval, love, hope, and terror. The reader witnesses the appalling tyranny of Stalin in the 1930s and learns of the Germans’ conviction that they were waging a righteous and desperate struggle against the Soviet empire. The impact of this upsetting story derives from aspects of that war, which hitherto have remained unknown or been misconceived and which cast the moral equation of that conflict into a more sober light. The reader will walk in German shoes and experience the full range of their emotions, beliefs, and thoughts. The understanding of the mood then prevailing in Europe is aided by scholarly chapters of historical data that weave through the narrative of childhood, war, and ruin. In exploring the enduring mystery surrounding the root causes of the two world wars and Germany’s final destruction, the author reaches thought-provoking conclusions.

For those seeking to know what in reality transpired in the German soul during that period, this is one of only few, unbiased sources available.

H. Peter Nennhaus grew up in Berlin during WW II and became an American citizen in 1961. He is a retired surgeon and lives outside Chicago. Among his various interests, the study of history, especially of the 20th century, has been an enduring focus.

Peter Nennhaus is a fluent writer and his text is relatively clean: I found few errors in this book compared to most of the others I’ve reviewed here, although his spelling does sometimes go awry (I found both “furor” in place of “furore” and “guaranty” when “guarantee” was required on page three and no, I’m sure that first one wasn’t Freudian at all); and there were a few careless errors: the occasional misused word and some random capitalisations have also crept in (but as that latter problem could have its root in Nennhaus’s first language, I didn’t include those errors in my tally).

In this book Nennhaus aims to present a new view of World War II, and of the German people during that period of history. He states in his back-cover copy that this book “is one of only few, unbiased sources available” and while I admire his confidence in making that statement, I have to question it: thousands of books and articles have been written about the war and Germany’s role in it and while some are clearly biased, many more give a reasoned and dispassionate account of those horrific times. That Nennhaus apparently thinks otherwise reveals more about his own bias, I fear: and the more I read of this book, the more my fears were realised. Nennhaus suggests that it was Europe’s jealousy of Germany’s excellence which was the real cause of World War II; and he rationalises anti-Semitism in a way I find disturbing. I finished reading his book when I came across this little plum, in which Nennhaus suggests that we shouldn’t judge too harshly the German leaders of the time:

Who could accurately guess how you or I would have acted, had we been seized by fury and obsession while possessing the executive force to give the frantic orders?

While I’ll admit to having a bit of a temper and can remember having said a few pretty nasty things while in the grip of it, I can be pretty sure that no matter how powerful and angry I become I will never attempt to annexe several neighbouring countries through the use of force, nor will I order the debasement, torture and extermination of millions of people in the most vile ways imaginable.

Overall then, The Shipwreck of a Nation: Germany: An Inside View is very deceptive. It relies on fallacies and denial to sustain its central premise; and the author’s fluency and persuasive tone cannot compensate for the ugliness of his opinions or beliefs (some of which might stem from his time spent fighting in the German army). I read twelve pages, and cannot recommend this book on any level.

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