Set against the turbulent backdrop of the Hundred Years’ War, I SERVE chronicles the story of Sir John Potenhale. A young Englishman of lowly birth, Potenhale wins his way to knighthood on the fields of France. He enters the service of Edward, the Black Prince of Wales, and immerses himself in a stormy world of war, politics, and romantic intrigue.
While campaigning in France, Potenhale developed an interest in Margery, a spirited lady-in-waiting with a close-kept secret. He soon learns that Sir Thomas Holland, a crass and calculating baron, holds the key to unlock Margery’s mystery and possesses the power to overturn all of his hopes.
When the Black Death strikes Europe, however, Potenhale realizes that the fiercest enemy does not always appear in human form. Seeing the pestilence as a punishment for the sins of his generation, he questions his calling as a knight and considers entering the cloister. Margery or the monastery? Torn between losing his soul and losing the love of his life, he finds friendship with a French knight who might-just possibly-help him save both.
I read very little historical fiction: it’s a genre I’ve never really developed a liking for, with the exception of the wonderful books by Elizabeth Chadwick, whose novels I adore. I’m always very aware of my lack of appreciation of this genre, and so when I review historical fiction I always try to overcome my personal feelings and judge the text on its merits, and not my own biases. I Serve: A Novel of the Black Prince only reinforced my lack of interest in the genre, I’m afraid. It had the usual sprinkling of errors in punctuation; but my overwhelming feeling with this book is that it lacks authenticity.
There were several reasons for this. The author has included a handful of details which don’t ring true: for example, an out-of-breath horse is described as having “heaving withers”: as withers are a horse’s shoulders that seems very unlikely to me; and a character snaps “a single blossom” from a broom plant: brooms have lots of tiny pea-like flowers on each branch and a single one wouldn’t take much snapping nor would it be at all impressive.
Then comes the dialogue. It’s stilted, overly formal, owes more to the movies of Errol Flynn than to history, and it really interferes with the authenticity of this text. Add to this frequent bouts of exposition, a tendency to over-write, some repetition, and a pace that at times feels draggingly slow and at other times hurried, and I’m surprised that I read as far as I did. I reached page forty four of this three hundred and sixty one page book, and wasn’t sorry to put it aside.
Mike Daniels cared little for close human relations. He cared even less about the environment.
Why should he? His world already provided him with all the things that mattered in life. Things were about to change.
A mysterious package containing a memory stick arrives, with a request to meet an old school friend in an isolated spot. Mike is unaware what the memory stick holds. He soon discovers, however, that the owners want it back, at any price. Now his very existence is at risk and he must run.
Using a false identity, Matt Durham, he finds sanctuary in Canada. In this new life he learns about friendship, comes to appreciate the environment all around. He even believes he finds love. So Matt Durham chooses to close his mind to what brought him to this safe haven.
But, when he is found, Matt Durham is faced with a stark choice. Does he run again, or fight back against his enemies? In truth, he has only one option. Matt realises his only salvation lies in taking on the overwhelming odds ranged against him. To do this he must cross the globe undetected, suffering loss and betrayal along the way. He would also have to learn how to kill.
He had to, because he wanted to live. And the lives of billions of other people depended upon his survival.
My reading of The Milieu Principle got off to a very poor start when I looked at the back cover copy, which is rendered almost illegible by being printed in dark greenish-grey on a black background. My two sons are both colourblind and they couldn’t even see any text on that back cover. I suspect that this book is aimed primarily at a male readership; and far more males are colourblind than females. It seems to me to be foolish for the writer to risk alienating so much of his target market because of a simple design choice.
The book has a reasonably interesting premise; the punctuation is mostly okay, there’s not much wrong with the grammar and the plot seems clear enough. And perhaps that’s the problem: this book is okay, but it isn’t spectacular.
The story is let down by wooden dialogue, exposition-by-dialogue, and an assumption that the reader needs to be told all sorts of unimportant details to help the story unfold. For example, I’m not sure why the writer chose to mention that the main character’s freezer is steel-coloured and upright: knowing this adds nothing to the story or to the characterisation of anyone involved. This fondness for unnecessary detail leads to several convoluted and confusing paragraphs; and makes a slow and laborious reading.
Not that this text is beyond hope: it has potential, but that potential is hidden behind a lot of very basic mistakes. If the writer were to revise this book very thoroughly and question the purpose of every sentence, he could make it much more readable. If he were to cut all of that redundant detail, make sure that everything he’d written meant what he thought it meant, and get rid of much of the exposition, then this book would be hugely improved. As it is, it’s a tired read, full of errors and confusion, with little to recommend it. I read just eight of its five hundred and ten printed pages.
The government is watching.
4 million names on the DNA database and counting; CCTV cameras on every street corner; telephone records available to any agency which requests them; restrictions on movements around Westminster; ID cards and the most all encompassing surveillance operations ever conducted. All in the name of freedom.
When his latest book is shelved due to government interference, Lake Weston—international bestselling, Bob Dylan-addicted children’s author—decides that it is time to stand up for personal rights. He writes and anonymously publishes a scathing polemic, the Animal Farm of its day, about a government which seeks to restrict civil liberties in the name of freedom. The book quickly achieves notoriety. The media is animatedly curious about the author; the government, however, already knows.
As the security services close in, Weston find his name dragged through the gutter press. Suddenly he must run for his life, not knowing who he can trust and with nothing in his pocket except a few pounds and an iPod loaded with 1256 Bob Dylan tracks.
About the books of Douglas Lindsay:
“Gleefully macabre… hugely enjoyable black burlesque.” The Scotsman
“Pitch black comedy spun from the finest writing. Fantastic plot, unforgettable scenes and plenty of twisted belly laughs.” New Woman
“Lindsay’s burlesque thrills offer no sex, no drugs, no desperation to be cool. Just straightforward adult story: fantastic plot, classic timing and gleeful delight in the grotesque.” What’s On
“Extremely well-written, highly amusing and completely unpredictable in its outrageous plot twists and turns.” The List
I really wanted to enjoy Lost in Juarez: it has a good jacket design, and the book feels balanced in my hands thanks to its professional production values (although I would have preferred a matt laminate on the cover—those glossy finishes always feel a bit too low-end to me). Despite the rather clumsy back cover copy the quotes which accompanied it really got my hopes up, and its premise appealed to me: so I started work on this book with some enthusiasm.
I was very disappointed.
The first hurdle I had to overcome was the book’s poor internal layout. The paragraphs are indented by only a single space, making reading difficult and tiring; and the font used throughout the book is just a trifle small. The problem with the font size is just a personal preference (amazingly, I seem to be getting older and find such close type wearing to read for long), so I didn’t include it in my tally of problems, but such typesetting issues have to be considered by self-publishers: they directly affect the readability of the book, and are likely to make potential readers turn away from this book without really knowing why they’re doing so. If you want to sell as many copies as you can it’s important to put as few barriers between the reader and the text as possible, and by making it even a tiny bit difficult to read the text, you’re shooting your book in its metaphorical foot.
Sadly, though, I felt that this book had more troubling issues than the size of its typeface. The author’s style is staccato and repetitious: he frequently uses sentence fragments and seems to be aiming for a hard-edged tone which at times morphs into pastiche. There were several confusing passages; a few lines which made no sense at all; a scattering of odd punctuation choices including an ellipsis of magnificent proportions; and a post-coital scene which was so full of adolescent self-importance that I found myself cringing as I read it.
I stopped reading after that sex scene, so read just sixteen pages out of two hundred and twelve. It’s a shame, as further on in the book the writer gets into his stride more, and the text does improve: but that’s too late if he wants to grab browsing readers who will usually begin at the book’s first page.
I’ve skim-read this book to the end and am convinced that with a better editor this book could have been significantly improved, and would probably have earned a recommendation from me. In its current state, however, I found it a clumsy and uncomfortable read on several levels. Nevertheless, there is something about it that I liked and I hope to see more from Mr Lindsay in the future.
After inheriting a diary written by a 19th century ship’s cook, together with a handwritten will and USA naturalisation papers I was inspired to tell the story of the voyage of the Wave Queen, a merchant vessel, from Shoreham, England to Valparaiso, Chile in the year 1872.
Three years of research and the book became a fictional adventure story based on fact.
The hero, Charles Hamilton-Bashford is an eighteen year old Eton School-boy. He recklessly squanders his five thousand pound annual allowance and being hard-pressed for the payment of debts, begs his father to give him an advance. On refusal he in his desperation steals and forges his father’s cheque to settle his debts.
Charles’ father, a retired Major and a respected Magistrate, discovers the forgery and sends Charles to serve on a cargo ship separating him from his sweetheart, Florry.
Charles escapes before the ship sails, and reaches his aunt ‘s London home only to be recaptured and sent back to the Wave Queen.
Meanwhile Florry is propelled into a series of tumultuous events.
What adventures will befall them ?
Will he returned to England?
Will he ever be re-united with Florry?
The Wave Queen is full of careless errors. I found misplaced commas, missing quotation marks, inconsistent formatting, comma splices, and some random capitalisations. Charles, its central character, uses a modern idiom throughout while his father talks more like Mr. Banks, the father in Mary Poppins; and the heavies who visit Charles in order to encourage him to pay his debts complete our Disney picture by talking a pastiche of English which owes more to Dick Van Dyke than to 1872, the year in which this book is set.
The author has failed quite spectacularly with some of her more basic research: for example, she provides Charles with an annual allowance of £5,000 which equates to an income of £2.7m today which could be possible, I suppose, but it’s a heck of an amount for an eighteen-year-old to have unsupervised access to while at boarding school.
The text lacks detail, colour and sophistication and despite my very best attempts to be lenient, I read just three pages of it.
In Change and Decay, an archivist’s visit to a crumbling gentry estate reveals a history of sharp practice and opportunism belying the elegant exterior, and he becomes embroiled in their current intrigues.
Exchange Mechanism is a science fiction story exploring what would happen if we could see inside other people’s minds.
Candle on the Table follows a frustrated solicitor’s obsession with a perfect family, unaware that it conceals dark secrets.
The world of a maverick PR man and the Toronto Mafia collide in The Gift of the Gab.
In The Time Zone Rule, two colleagues are sent at short notice to Morocco; they find the romance of the situation irresistible, but one night’s folly changes their lives for ever.
All the stories explore moral issues within a framework of spare narration and realistic characterisation, overlain by sardonic humour and elegance of expression. They have been described as “funny, accurate and deeply cynical.”
Martin Locock is an author and poet who works as a project manager at the National library of Wales. Previously he had worked in commercial archaeology, publishing extensively on a range of obscure topics. He was born in 1962 and has lived near Swansea since 1991. He is married with three children. He writes a blog, A Few Words (http://locock.blogspot.com).
I have a small emotional attachment to this book: its author lives in the same Welsh town where my grandfather was born and foolishly this gave me hope that the book would be good. Sadly, I was disappointed.
I did appreciate the errata which the author provided which read, “Corrections. A battle of wills between author and a subversive spellcheck program has led to the replacement of some words with ‘emoraliz’.” Sadly the errata is not quite extensive enough: both ‘emoraliz’ and ‘emoralized’ make appearances, accompanied by those little empty squares which appear in various computer programs when a special character is saved in a format which the program doesn’t support: a good edit would easily have found this problem; its appearance implies problems with the person who typeset the book rather than a rampaging spellchecker; and as this book was printed via Lulu (which is exclusively POD) there was almost certainly no print run of defective books: the author felt that these books were good enough to go out with this error in place. And on that point, I strongly disagree.
The punctuation was erratic, particularly the use of dashes (hyphens are often used where dashes are required, with odd and inconsistent spacing around them); a couple of punctuation marks escaped from the quote-marks which should have enclosed them; and there were a good few surplus commas scattered throughout the text.
The writing provided me with the biggest disappointment: it was flat and dull and unengaging and no more than the barest attempt was made to catalogue the events presented. The characters had no life; the events were dull; there was no depth to the work, and no texture, apart from a couple of places where the author’s voice, and opinions, intruded. And there, too, was a problem: I couldn’t agree with the opinions he voiced, and they were presented in jargon-cluttered language which made them difficult to decipher.
On top of all of that there were issues with the grammar too. I read just nine out of a total of 187 printed pages and hope that this writer polishes his work much more thoroughly before he considers publishing anything else.
(This book doesn’t appear to be listed on Amazon so I’m unable to include a cover image or a link to its sale page.)
What is it that makes us straight or gay?
Is it environment or genetics?
Choice, chance or maybe even persuasion?
The answer to this age-old question is one that fledgling writer Margaret Allen sets out to discover as she endeavors to complete her first book. Taking on a subject she believes she knows well, she begins a very human odyssey, examining the lives of gay women, all of whom come from diverse backgrounds and mindsets.
Among those whom we meet are —
the florist, whose parents try to “cure” her of her homosexuality;
the twins who, separated at birth, live their lives at opposite ends of the economic spectrum;
the radiant redhead and her three failed marriages;
the poet who spent most of her young adult years as a nun;
the Kentucky woman who, as a new bride, makes a rather shocking discovery;
and the non-verbal, wheelchair-bound woman, who is a political activist with an extraordinary ability to communicate.
As we share in their deeply personal narratives, Margaret’s book ultimately raises the question: “Are relationships between two women really all that different than heterosexual ones?”
Outside the Lavender Closet brings to life a collection of contemporary stories inspired by actual women and true events.
Martha A Taylor’s Outside the Lavender Closet: Inspired by True Stories is affectionately-written and has an easy charm to it: I genuinely liked the narrator and her group of friends and I wanted the book to do well, but in the end it was let down by a series of careless errors which include all the usual suspects: punctuation, spelling, grammar, homophone substitution, cliché, and some rather odd logic.
That list of errors sounds much more damning than it should. There were lots of errors, and the text is often clumsy: in order to bring this book up to a publishable standard it needs to be completely rewritten, to sort out all the confusion and unbelievable dialogue; it needs a very strong edit to make it coherent and tight; and it needs a full copy-edit to clear away all those irritating errors. That’s a lot of work, none of which would be worth doing on a text which was completely substandard: but I think it’s worth doing here because despite all of its problems this one has a warmth and a character to it which most of the books I’ve reviewed here lack. It might well turn out to be a bit of a treasure if it were properly worked up. As it is, it’s just not good enough, I’m afraid, and I read just three of its one hundred and forty-nine pages.
Salem 17th century — a bizarre and deadly detour in history!
The witch hunt hits feverish peak! Fear of the devil is as real as God. Witchcraft is a heinous crime a person could commit and is punishable by death at Gallows Hill for the victims accused of sorcery.
River reflections of Bridget’s scantily clad youthful beauty with long, wild, flowing, red hair, is frozen in fear amidst the overture of the Banshee’s foreboding and bloodcurdling wails of imminent death, that of her own.
THE PERUKE MAKER’S vengeful curse hastens chase for the innocent and is carried off by a whirl of ill-omened wind that transgresses all natural laws of time and space.
The Salem Witch Hunt Curse unearthed from necromancy, violates the course of natural events in a modern day world, relentlessly in quest for the avenger of innocent blood.
Sarah, a product of the 21st Century is inextricably caught in a fateful journey that comes full circle. But Michael’s abiding love for her triumphs over evil, transcending the grave in a magical and symbolic act of rebirth at the stroke of midnight of the Autumnal Equinox.
The Author, Ruby Dominguez is challenged by the conflicting complexities of the past and future. Undeterred, she strokes with pen the somber and bright hues of her visions.
A screenplay THE PERUKE MAKER was professionally reviewed by Lejen Literary Consultants and has attained a GOOD SCRIPT COVERAGE ANALYSIS.
“Visually compelling, provocative, suspenseful, memorable characters, smooth pace with excellent twists and turns!” — By Lee Levinson
A Curse Trilogy, she also penned screenplays:
• ROMANCING THE CLADDAGH — The Curse of Macha —
• THE RED DRAGON’S TRIANGLE — Boudicca’s Curse — COMING SOON!
She also exhibits a nifty double play of romance and comedy in the screenplay, “IT’S OVER MICHAEL, BUT…”
As I don’t have much experience in evaluating screenplays I showed The Peruke Maker: The Salem Witch Hunt Curse to a screenwriting friend of mine who has just a little expertise in the field: he’s won a handful of BAFTAs and a couple of Emmys, and although he hasn’t yet managed to grab himself an Oscar I’m sure it’s only a matter of time. You’re very likely to recognise his name if I give it: but he only agreed to comment on this book if I would allow him to do so anonymously. Here’s what he had to say:
This is a confused and confusing script. The prologue makes no sense, and what is it there for? I don’t think it’s a part of the script — it doesn’t seem to be spoken by a narrator, and that last paragraph is stunningly bad. The “time period” page makes no sense either. The lists of characters and locations don’t work. Does the movie’s action began on page 6? It’s not made clear. Is the paragraph which begins “legend has it” spoken by narrator? It isn’t attributed to any character, but it can’t be a stage direction either as it contains backstory. Two pages of this confusion then on page 8 we find the first real dialogue, and it’s awful: “I sense it behind me! It hinders my escape!” A lot of the dialogue doesn’t make sense: “Thou not let the devil take your soul away from your body!” The writer doesn’t seem to know what “thou” actually means.
The problem with scripts like this is that if the dialogue isn’t believable then the script has no chance of working when it’s filmed, or played on stage. I flicked through it and it’s consistently dull, confusing, and wooden. There’s a torture scene in it which reads like particularly badly thought-out porn, and God knows most porn is pretty badly thought out to begin with. I wouldn’t have looked any further than the cover were I not reading it as a favour for you, and can only suggest that if this writer is determined to continue writing, she either treats writing as a hobby or finds herself some good, professional tuition. Because this just isn’t good enough if she wants to get anywhere at all in the professional field.
I read up to page six before I found my fifteen errors, and I agree with all my friend has written: this is a dreadful book which contains misused words, clichés, misspellings, and errors in formatting, layout, grammar and logic.
What I don’t understand is how the Lejen Literary Consultants could have honestly given Ms Dominguez’s screenplay such a glowing reference. A little investigation led me to this thread on Absolute Write: based on the comments I read there, and the yawning gap between the Lejen Literary Consultants’ glowing praise and the reality of this book, I cannot recommend that anyone uses their services. And if you are in any doubt, and are considering paying the Lejen Literary consultants to evaluate your work, here is a direct quote from this book to give you an idea of what they consider good. I can’t reproduce the exact formatting so you’re denied that particular pleasure, but the text alone should be enough to give you an idea of what this is like.
INT. SALEM VILLAGE – JACOB’S BEDROOM – NIGHT
A naked young and enchanting lass by the name of BRIDGET CANE (SEVENTEEN), is with a married couple in bed, seemingly intoxicated.
They engage and indulge in forbidden lusty sexual desires and positions.
MOANS of pleasure reverberate the room.
Hmmmm… Drops of pleasure between your mounds drive me wild!
Such explicit bliss is hard to forget?
MRS. JACOB (EARLY THIRTIES)
(excitedly to husband)
Thy kiss is much sweeter and every thrust much harder since Bridget! I am encouraged by such performance! I crave for more!
A feast fit for a king! Grasps my throbbing manhood as it gorges towards deep chasms of ecstasy!
I hope that makes it quite clear why I strongly suggest that writers avoid using the services of the Lejen Literary Consultancy, which praised this dreadful book.
Knox Hilliard’s uncle killed his father to marry his mother and gain control of the family’s Fortune 100 company. Knox is set to inherit the company on his 40th birthday, provided he has a wife and heir, but he never really wanted it in the first place.
Now, after his bride is murdered on their wedding day and his backup bride poses such a threat to his uncle that he’s tried to kill her—twice—Knox refuses to fulfill The Proviso at all. Then he meets a woman he may not be able to resist long enough to keep her safe.
His cousin, notorious and eccentric financier Sebastian Taight, would have raided the company long ago to destroy the uncle he despises. For Knox’s sake, he did nothing—until their cousin Giselle barely escapes assassination. The gloves come off, but Sebastian may have jumped in too deep, as the SEC steps in, then Congress threatens to get involved.
Giselle Cox struggles under the weight of having exposed the affair that set her uncle’s plot in motion—twenty years ago. As Knox’s childhood sweetheart, she is also the most convenient way for Knox to inherit. Their uncle has twice tried to eliminate her, leaving her bankrupt and hoping to get through Knox’s 40th birthday alive.
None of them want the company, but two people have been murdered for it and Giselle is under constant threat because of it. What they want now is justice, but as embroiled as they are in their war, the last thing they expect to find on the battlefield is love.
The big problem with The Proviso (Tales of Dunham) wasn’t with errors in punctuation (although there are several, including a comma splice in the acknowledgements), but with a confusing narrative which is compounded by frequent errors in sentence construction. There are several instances where it isn’t clear who is carrying out the actions described; and there is a lot of repetition. On page three we’re told that valuables are cheap, which seems illogical; on that same page we’re told that the “collected gasp was palpable”, and on page eleven the outrage is described as palpable too.
This book runs to a staggering 696 printed pages, then the numbering begins again at one and goes up to twelve. I assume these twelve pages are from the sequel but it’s not made clear and it’s immaterial, as I’d found my fifteen errors before I’d read to the end of page nine.
“Nestled in the Appalachian foothills, Glendary College is the epitome of a small-town college. Calm and studious on the surface, the mixture of jocks, religious fanatics, and hippies creates a powder keg just waiting to explode. The igniting spark comes in teh form of the Sunburst, a homegrown rock-and-roll band whose members go out of their way to break campus rules. Finally, at a late-night concert, they go too far, and the band members are expelled.”
I nearly reached the end of page seven of The Rock Star’s Homecoming before finding my fifteen errors. Eleven of those errors were down to the writer’s repeated use of exposition to reveal backstory or characterisation, which drastically interrupted the flow of the main story and which could easily have been dealt with in a less intrusive way.
I’ve flicked through the rest of the book and while there’s less exposition as the story progresses, it does continue to intrude.