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Posts Tagged ‘point of view’

Never Mind Yaar: K Mathur

September 28, 2011 6 comments

Never Mind Yaar

K. Mathur’s vivid descriptions bring the college and its students to life. Immensely pleasurable and thought provoking.

When longtime friends Binaifer and Louella meet Shalini Dyal at Gyan Shakti College, Gyan full knowledge and Shakti full strength, a true friendships that transcends cultural and religious backgrounds is born. Louella is a Christian, Binaifer, Parsi and Shalini, a Hindu.

“To me the book is a mixture of history, cultural information and a lovely story all rolled into one.”

- Sarah, UK

“I was in a style trick about my college days after reading about the three friends from different backgrounds.”

Snigdha, India

“Khoty has written a beautiful story… I dare anyone to read Never Mind Yaar and not come away with some insight.”

- Rita’s Book Reviews

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This writer has a lively and individual voice and handles her male characters quite well: they are all distinct and believable, and work well together. Her female characters aren’t so finely drawn, however, and the writer’s tendency to head-hop makes the scenes in which they appear jumbled and confusing. It’s a shame, as there’s something I like about this writer’s voice: but the writing wasn’t clear enough for me to be to recommend it.

There was a scattering of punctuation problems; and Never Mind Yaar would be much easier to read if the paragraphs were indented; but for me, the overwhelming problems with this book are the writer’s tendency to overwriting, and the lack of clarity in her prose. I’d like to see what Ms Mathur could achieve once she gains a better understanding of point of view; and once she learns how to edit more ruthlessly, with clarity and pace in mind.

I was also disappointed by the slowness with which the story developed. I read fifteen of this book’s two hundred and thirty-two pages and no real conflict had been established by then: all I knew about the story is that it takes place in a university with a grumpy administrator, and that the young women who have just arrived are pleased to be there.

A quicker start to this book would grasp the reader’s attention, and make them eager to read more. If this were combined with a crisper, cleaner prose style this book might well have great promise: as it is, it’s a slow, confusing read which gives just the smallest hints that with a little more guidance this writer might do right rather well.

Root Cause: James W Crissman

September 21, 2011 10 comments

When Bruce Dinkle takes up the cause of eating only local food, his zeal badly exceeds his judgement. After alienating his family by enforcing a strict locavore and urban agriculturist lifestyle, he abandons them by bicycle on a quixotic quest to learn where food comes from. He quickly becomes enmeshed in a small Michigan farming community where he goes to work for a large crop farmer, meets a sagacious veterinarian, and falls for a randy goat lady, all part of a sprawling cast of characters who enliven this often hilarious, mix of food, family, sex, and a little violence down on the farm. Think Michael Pollan meets James Herriot and Carl Hiaasen.

James W. Crissman is a veterinary pathologist and former large animal veterinarian. He is the author of a 1998 Pudding House Publications chapbook, Jailbait in Holy Water, and has won numerous prizes for his poetry. His short story, Wallhangers, won the 2007 Dirt Rag literature contest. Root Cause: the story of a food fight fugitive is his first novel. Jim and his veterinarian wife Jill live on a small farm in central Michigan where they’ve grown three children and much of their food for more than twenty years.

“We know there is tragedy and drama in obsession, but sometimes we forget that there can be something wonderfully comic in it, too. James Crissman reminds us of this with Bruce Dinkle, the richly weird protagonist of ROOT CAUSE, who sacrifices everything from family to dignity in his effort to find the right way to live. He is Don Quixote for our time — silly, misguided, and just maybe absolutely necessary.”

Keith Taylor, Creative Writing Coordinator, University of Michigan and author of If the World Becomes so Bright.

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There is much to like about Root Cause: its characters are reasonably well-drawn, the premise is interesting, and it’s full of black humour which is quite delicious at times. But all these things are overshadowed — not to a great degree, but enough to be significant — by problems which could easily have been fixed with a rigorous edit.

There were a few typos and punctuation errors: Mr. Crissman is over-fond of commas; and he is prone to overwriting and to writing complex sentences with long words when simpler and shorter would be better. Many of the pages that I read were given over entirely to exposition, and to telling the reader what was happening and how the characters felt, rather than showing us the nuances that makes reading so much more rewarding.

The story didn’t actually get going until page seventeen, which is far too late: and by that time I’d already been lectured at several times as Mr. Crissman banged his point home and then repeated himself, just to be sure we got it. Scenes which should have been sharp and pacey (for example, pages twenty six to twenty nine, if anyone’s counting) felt rushed and flat, and were unsatisfying as a result.

These points are not minor but they could be addressed by a ruthless rewrite. It would vastly improve this book which, despite all the flaws I’ve listed, has great potential. I came so close to recommending it but decided not to because there are so many issues with it: but I’m convinced that beneath all the clutter there’s a good novel here, from a clever writer who is bound to get better. I read thirty pages out of this book’s three hundred and eight. Mr. Crissman mighth like to read Alice Monroe and Carol Shields so that he can see what to aim for: and I look forward to watching his talent develop in the years to come.

High on a Mountain: Tommie Lyn

July 28, 2011 5 comments

As a boy, Ailean MacLachlainn dreamed of living an adventurous life and longed to be a celebrated warrior of his clan. Until a shy smile and a glance from Mùirne’s blue eyes turned his head and escalated his rivalry with Latharn into enmity and open conflict.

When Ailean became a man, his boyhood dreams faded. Until Bonnie Prince Charlie came to reclaim his father’s throne. The Jacobite loyalties of Ailean’s clan chief involved the MacLachlainns in the uprising and set Ailean on a course toward a destiny of which he could never have dreamed.

What happens when a man’s dreams turn to dust? And when a man loses everything, does he have what it takes to go on?

High on a Mountain is the stirring tale of one man’s remarkable journey through life; a story of adventure and love…of faith, loss and redemption.

About the Author
Tommie Lyn resides in the beautiful Florida panhandle with her husband of 48 years (who was her high school sweetheart). She spends part of each day engrossed in the lives of the characters who people her novels.

Visit her on the ‘net: http://tommielyn.com

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There’s a lot of action and emotion in High on a Mountain, which is usually a good thing; and I found only minor problems with punctuation and grammar which, compared to most of the books I review here, were inconsequential.

Where the book really failed for me was in the writer’s style. Ms Lyn is rather fond of extraneous detail; she has a tendency to list her characters’ actions instead of showing her readers the action is unfolding. There’s a tendency to hammer plot points home by telling the reader what is happening two or three times: and there are a few very clunky transitions from one point-of-view to another which made the text quite difficult to follow at times.

What really put me off this book, though, was the stereotypical Hollywood treatment that the author gave to the Highlands and its people; and the lack of freshness present in the storyline and in the writer’s style. This book has a dull and dated flavour, I’m afraid, from its tin-of-shortbread tartan cover to its two-feuding-men-both-fall-for-the-same-girl storyline. It’s a valiant attempt but despite the relatively clean text, it didn’t work for me. I read thirty-four out of its three hundred and seventy-nine pages and doubt that any editor worth her fee would be able to bring this up to a good enough standard.

Wastelander: Manda Benson

May 26, 2011 4 comments

When you live in a rubbish tip and your favourite food is your mum’s mouldy soup, life in the city is strange and confusing

Lenny is a boy from a family of barbarians living in a landfill site, who finds himself lost in a strange, sterile world. Although the people he meets are only trying to help him, Lenny can’t fit in, so he must make the perilous journey back to the rubbish tip to be reunited with his people.

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Wastelander has an extremely unattractive front cover with a strange Photoshop effect which doesn’t quite work. The writing is clean enough, with few technical errors; but it’s a bit on the dull side and quite a lot of it is unconvincing.

The main character lives on a landfill site and although there is quite a lot of detail dedicated to explaining how his people live, it’s not convincing. They are not sufficiently different to us; they don’t seem to have much of their own culture or language, and this lack of difference means that when Lenny accidentally leaves the landfill, the world he finds outside doesn’t feel terribly different to his landfill home. The descriptions of the strange new things he encounters have a coy, self-satisfied edge which made me feel as though I were being invited to laugh at Lenny rather than empathise with him; nothing is experienced through Lenny’s viewpoint, which again made it difficult for me to in empathise with him; and all the time I was reading this book I was thinking of Stig Of The Dump, which explores a similar premise so much more successfully.

In all, then, a flat read which misses much of the potential in an interesting premise. I read forty-seven out of two hundred and twenty pages and stopped reading because of the lack of writing flair, not because of my error-count.

If this writer wishes to improve she needs to think more of idiom and detail, get closer to her characters’ emotions, and make her characters believable, rather than cardboard cutouts who only seem to exist in order to move rather passively through her plot. And she needs to treat her main character with more respect, and not use him as a novelty to examine under a light and exclaim about: that, more than anything, put me off this book.

A little more research wouldn’t hurt either: my husband is a minerals surveyor and works with landfill sites, and much of the detail provided about Lenny’s life on the landfill simply did not ring true. I recognise that thanks to my husband I have an insight into the workings of landfills which perhaps most other readers would not enjoy(!); and that this book is fiction and so some artistic licence is only to be expected. But there’s a difference between artistic licence and getting things plain wrong, and that difference makes all the difference to a book.

Green Skies: Eric Uhlich and Andrew Oberg

May 12, 2011 4 comments

Rampant climate change. Unchecked and self-serving authorities. Clinging to imported traditions. Thriving but hostile indigenous tribes. Racism. Starvation. Murder. It is Western Settlement, Greenland, late fifteenth century, and the Norse colony there is plagued by all these problems and many more. Green Skies tell their tale through the eyes of a young farmer named Bjorn Thorsson, a man whose efforts to eke out a living are mirrored countless times across his community. Season after season, from midnight sun to polar night, their hardships mount until the settlement’s very survival is in question. Will the Norse be able to limp their way through another harsh winter? Or will the Inuit finally push them over the brink? Will Bjorn be able to find peace in his eerily modern medieval world? Or will he succumb to the despair that haunts his neighbours and afflicts his nation? Green Skies is the story of the struggle we all face to survive in a changing world — physically, certainly, but much more so psychologically.

The back cover copy of Green Skies changes subject at random, and is thick with clichés. It tells me very little about the book and its claims to greater things ring hollow when considered alongside the lacklustre text inside.

I tried my hardest with this book but found it terribly slow reading. The pace drags; the illustrations (which are really rather important for a graphic novel) are competent at best and never veer towards excitement. The story lacks tension and rhythm; the characters merge into an homogenous, bearded whole; and my only concern as I read on was how the polar bear they captured could survive for so long in a cage little bigger than itself, with no food or water to sustain it.

I read fifty-seven out of two hundred and ten printed pages and, had I found this book in the slush pile, I’d have stopped reading much sooner. I’m afraid it’s a dreary read with little to recommend it.

Nymphas’ World: Rachael Haldane

July 29, 2010 3 comments

Nymphas’ World

Although Kay is only ten years old, she always knew that she broke away from the ordinary. However, she did not anticipate ever acquainting herself with a fairy. Kay discovers a new world of old that no other human has ever trespassed before, meeting mythical creatures, strange beings and experiencing magic!

Kay and her brother Rob explore the land of Nymphas and learn much about fairy origin. There are, however, evil Nymphas as well as virtuous. Rob is snatched by the Onyx Nymphas and Kay has no choice but to go…

Beyond the Onyx Mountains.

Nymphas’ World has the most off-putting cover I’ve seen on a book for a long time. It’s an ugly image, badly executed, without any comedic value to lessen its impact.

The back cover copy is, as you can see, confused and confusing, and can’t even manage to remain in one tense. And then we get to the text inside.

It takes a lot of effort to write a novel and this one is relatively substantial, at nearly four hundred pages long: I applaud Ms Haldane’s efforts for getting so far. But I’m afraid that her writing is nowhere near good enough to be published.

She makes so many of the basic errors that I wondered at times if it was intentional: she writes in a very passive voice; she lists almost every action her characters perform, so reducing her pacing to a plodding, pedantic crawl; her sentences are so poorly constructed that it is often difficult to extract any meaning from them; and she has a tendency to sacrifice clarity in favour of big, impressive-sounding words.

These are issues that even the most skilled editor could not fix: with all due respect to Ms Haldane her writing just isn’t up to a good enough standard, I’m afraid. I went out of my way to be lenient here, but even so I read just four pages out of three hundred and eighty-four. I strongly advise this writer to read more, and to learn more about the craft of writing, before she considers publishing anything else.

The Darkness: Bill Kirton

July 22, 2010 Comments off

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.

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