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Posts Tagged ‘poor use of detail’

The Ark Of Adams: Jack Kane

July 21, 2011 6 comments

Dr. Timothy Adams’ invention was supposed to save mankind. Indeed, Arcadia, was to be his crowning achievement.

Through life extension technologies and Virtual Reality fueled immersion, a land of plenty has been given birth to; a shelter from the dawning New Ice Age and collapsing globally economic markets. But, the shadowy government agency from which his funding was so generously provided has other plans.

Meet Nikki Allen, Arcadia Citizen 472. When a stranger claims knowledge of the believed mythical Genesis Code Exploit, she is drawn into a deadly game of cat and mouse, her identity stolen, a fugitive amidst the hacker underground.

But, when tragedy comes to strike the area of Limmerick, an uneasy peace will threaten to boil over and a fight will be waged for the ultimate control of an imperfect world that will never be the same.

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Oh dear.

I always do my best to try to find something positive to say about the books I review here but in this case it is just not possible for me to do so. The Ark Of Adams contains punctuation errors, problems with grammar, overwriting, contradictions, exposition and some unfortunate juxtapositions that would have been funny if they had been intentional.

This book needs more than editing and copyediting; it needs rewriting from beginning to end; but until its author develops a much better understanding of language, grammar and pace he is unlikely to be able to improve this book sufficiently to make that task a worthwhile endeavour.

I don’t like to be so negative about anyone’s work; I appreciate the effort and commitment that goes into writing a book; but this book is so deeply and variously flawed that in this case I have no option. I offer my apologies to Mr. Kane and hope that his work improves significantly over the coming years. I  read just two pages of this book’s three hundred and fifty nine, despite overlooking several errors.

Bastard Husband — A Love Story, by Linda Lou

June 9, 2011 8 comments

MEMOIR

“What happens in Vegas…

… doesn’t often find itself captured in prose as vibrantly as it does in Bastard Husband: A Love Story. On her thrill ride through romance, marriage, and divorce, Linda Lou paints a vivid picture of what it’s like to forge a new life as an ‘ageing nymph’ in Sin city.” ~Megan Edwards, Managing Editor, http://www.Living-Las-Vegas.com

A week after I arrived in Sin City, I attended a divorce support group I found in the local newspaper listed between Cross-Dressers of Las Vegas and Friends and Family of Incarcerated People. (And I thought I had problems.) As I sat among a circle of strangers waiting for my turn to share, I glanced at the Absolutely No Swearing sign hanging from the ceiling and thought, this will be a challenge.

“I’m Linda,” I began, “I have no husband, no job, and you people are my only friends.” Everyone laughed at my pathetic truth. ~LINDA LOU

Balancing poignancy and edgy humour, Linda Lou reflects on the troubled relationship that prompted this story and leads readers through a hodgepodge of emotions as fast as a Vegas buffet—from the sadness of a failed relationship and the questioning of her spiritual convictions to the thrill of exploring the neon nightlife and the triumph of performing stand-up comedy for the first time at age 46.

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Bastard Husband: A Love Story is a memoir of divorce and life in Las Vegas and although I found it perfectly readable and mostly error-free, I’m afraid that I didn’t warm to the narrator. Some of the scenes she described were terribly sad and her ex-husband’s treatment of her was abusive; and yet she chose to tell her story in a joke-filled style which stripped the poignancy from her words and instead made the book a brittle and uncomfortable read. She also has a habit of hammering her points home, which again reduces the effectiveness of the text; and she needs to brush up on her comma-use to, as she often uses them when they’re not required and so slows her narrative.

It’s so close to being good: but because of the problems I encountered I read just thirteen pages out of two hundred and sixty. I’d like to see this book rewritten to introduce more variety of tone, and then edited stringently. Some more positive scenes would be a useful addition, as would a little more empathy and a little less desperate humour. If that work were carried out this could well become a tight, enjoyable read: but as it is, it’s too slow and laboured, with a constant background of unresolved sadness which made me feel quite uncomfortable.

The Devil Won’t Care, by John Streby

June 2, 2011 14 comments

GENERAL FICTION

The Devil Won’t Care

A novel of betrayal and retribution

The Devil Won’t Care delves into the career of Lanny Lessner, a journalist who rockets to fame and wealth with a hard-hitting documentary about the decline of his home town after a spate of factory closings. Revered by millions, Lessner seems poised to become the Ralph Nader of his generation.

But Lessner has a dark side, replete with shady dealings, antisocial behaviour, and mean-spirited hypocrisy. The filmmaker’s saga is retold by a friend and supporter, Warren Hill, whose narrative chronicles their relationship. As the story evolves, Hill confronts a growing body of evidence that Lessner, intoxicated by his celebrity status, is a crass, deceptive, manipulative phony, whose shortcomings mimic those of the targets of his pungent wit.

The Devil Won’t Care addresses some of the flaws of a dysfunctional society in which “What’s in it for me?” is the common denominator. Checkbook photojournalism, celebrity worship, reality TV and our sound-bite culture are all laid bare. On a broader level, the book is a morality tale in which the narrator is forced to confront his deepest fears and emotions, set against a backdrop of deception, atonement and redemption.

About the Author

John Streby is a connoisseur of Broadway musicals, pre-1930 phonographs and records, and films noir. His first novel, Rabbit Stew, dealt with the incestuous mix of law and politics, and featured several characters who appear in this book. Mr. Streby is currently writing a third novel, Follow the Money.

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There might well be an excellent story lurking in The Devil Won’t Care but much was obscured by the author’s bad writing habits, which really got in my way as I read. It was frustrating: I could hear echoes of John Grisham in this book, and once or twice even caught a whiff of Donna Tartt’s Secret History, which is one of my all-time favourite books: but those moments were rare, and they were swiftly buried beneath the author’s frequent lapses into verbosity and exposition.

There were several places where the author threw away what could have been scenes of great tension; and I found much of his description overwritten and far too lengthy. The author’s habit of telling the reader what had happened instead of showing us those events stopped me caring much about any of his characters or what happened to them; he frequently repeats information; and at times I felt that he was too self-consciously Doing Writing rather than telling us his story.

All of these small problems add up to a text which is slow-paced and waffly. But the biggest problem was that it was confusing: there was little flow in the text; the narrative was jerky and inconsistent; it skipped from subject to subject and back again with little consistency; and this lack of focus, along with the over-wordy vocabulary, made what should have been a fast-paced courtroom drama into a slow dull read

I suspect Mr. Streby could do so much better if he worked with a strong editor or took part in some good writing workshops: there’s the hint of a good, commercial book buried beneath his mistakes. I read eleven of this book’s four hundred and thirty five pages; but had I not been reading this for review, I wouldn’t have got past the anti-trade publishing rant which makes up the bulk of the book’s second paragraph. It’s astonishingly ill-informed and the idea of anyone with an ounce of commercial experience investing money in the business proposed is ludicrous. I strongly advise this writer to research the realities of business better before he writes any more about it.

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.

***

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.

The Modern Confessions Of St August Stine: August Stine

May 19, 2011 8 comments

The True Story …

of a renegade minister and his controversial journey through depression and religion. This unique story details emotional breakthroughs that will make you laugh and cry. The author has chosen to remain anonymous; thus he uses the pen name — August Stine

If you are down, this will lift you up

If you are up, this will inspire you

If you are in-between, this will stimulate you

psychology/self-help/religion/spirituality

Rated PG! Oh Gee! & My Goodness!

I can’t say I much enjoyed The Modern Confessions of Saint August Stine: it contains all the usual subjects—two hyphens are routinely used where em-dashes are required, there are a few oddly-placed ellipses, and far too many jumbled paragraphs; but I’m afraid that the big problem with this book lies in its author’s writing style.

Mr. Stine writes in very short sentences, and he tells the reader everything that happens and almost never shows; and this brisk, expositional style results in a text with almost no emotional depth despite its troubling subject matter of divorce, emotional breakdown, and loss of faith.

What this means, of course, is that the reader is hard-pushed to empathise with the story before her, or with the characters which appear, and without empathy reading is very unsatisfying. We need to be emotionally involved in a book to enjoy it and I’m afraid that this book left me feeling completely disinterested.

How to fix it? Editing won’t be enough. The writer has to slow down, and take more risks with his writing. He needs to explore things more, reveal more of himself, and show us events unfolding instead of telling us everything as quickly as he can. He clearly has a story to tell: but at the moment his rush to tell it prevents the reader from getting fully absorbed in it, and that’s a shame.

I read nine pages out of one hundred and eighty three and felt exhausted by them. I’m afraid I cannot recommend this 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.

Necromancer: Dune Elliot

May 5, 2011 7 comments

“The land of Ilyria is bruised and dying under the growing evil power of Morgeth. And the evil is spreading. All of Alatheia is in danger. As you read Necromancer you slip into a world of magic and mystery, both good and evil, that only a master storyteller could weave. Expertly woven into the tapestry of Alatheia is a small band of would-be heroes. Bound together by prophecy, held together by love for their land and each other, they will set out to save their world. Their journey is not easy, and there are those that will pay the ultimate price, but they will not fault in their quest to rid their home of the evil Necromancer.”

-Author Mary Adair

Necromancer has real potential although the story doesn’t feel terribly original. It gets off to a good, pacey start. The text is nice and clean, with very few typos or errors of punctuation; the mix of elves and valkyries feels a little forced to me (but I’m not a regular reader of fantasy so perhaps I’m being foolish here); and it would be pleasant to read about elves without silver threads and pointed ears being mentioned.

These problems are all minor, though, compared to the issues I found with the text. There were contradictions, exposition, extraneous words and tense-slippages which really got in the way of the narrative and stopped me enjoying the book as much as I would have otherwise. The good news is that it shouldn’t take much work to correct these problems and I suspect that the book which lurks beneath them might be rather good.

I read just four pages as of this book’s four hundred and eighty-two, but would have definitely read on if the writing had been just a little tighter. This is a good effort but isn’t quite good enough to make the grade: I hope the writer improves his editing skills before he publishes another book.

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