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Posts Tagged ‘poor use of detail’

Faith: JoAnn Welsh

January 20, 2011 1 comment

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.

Lost in Juarez: Douglas Lindsay

October 28, 2010 Leave a comment

From the creator of the cult Barney Thomson crime series, comes a darker, more sinister novel.

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.

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.

Moonlight: Keith Knapp

July 15, 2010 Leave a comment

Fiction/Horror

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.

Leviathan’s Master: David M Quinn

HISTORICAL FICTION It was the biggest sailing vessel ever built and the world’s first supertanker. In the winter of 1907, the T.W. Lawson, a four-hundred foot schooner with seven masts, makes her first transatlantic crossing with more than two million gallons of kerosene to be delivered to London. With almost fifty years of sailing experience, Captain George W. Dow Is not intimidated, despite the Lawson’s checkered history. But hurricane winds and an angry sea conspire to defeat man and machine. Bereft of her sails, the giant ship is trapped in treacherous shoals off the southwest coast of Britain. Seventeen lives are lost, including a local pilot trying to avert disaster. Now, Captain Dow is called to account—most especially to himself. Leviathan’s Master is a true story, transformed into a gripping historical novella by the captain’s great, great nephew.

Praise for David M. Quinn’s
It May Be Forever—An Irish Rebel on the American Frontier
  • “Master storyteller, David Quinn, erases time…. To transport the reader is the writer’s job. Quinn does just that.” Mary Sojourner, Novelist and NPR Contributor
  • “A beautifully written historical novel filled with excellent research and characters! Highly recommended!” USABOOKNEWS.COM
Visit the author’s website: http://www.davidquinnbooks.com


iUniverse Editor’s Choice

This is a momentous day for, after more than a year of reviewing books here, I have finally found a self-published writer who understands the difference between the hyphen and the em-dash. Hurrah! Here ensues much rejoicing.

Right. That’s quite enough of that. Because apart from Mr. Quinn’s impeccable em-dashery Leviathan’s Master: The Wreck of the World’s Largest Sailing Ship fails on the same old points: his writing just isn’t strong enough. His dialogue is wooden, and veers queasily between an oddly-formal, Hollywoodesque archaic pattern and a more modern idiom: he uses dialogue to present great big chunks of exposition, so reinforcing its woodenness; and I found several contradictions, lapses of point of view and tense, and problems with logic: for example, the narrator describes the house he is in from various points outside; but he is bed-bound, and was brought to this house following an accident: he can’t even walk to his bedside chair, let alone walk around the outside of the house; so how could he possibly know what the house looks like from the outside?

Once again, then, this is a story with potential let down by lacklustre writing. A better editor would have picked up these mistakes: but then a better writer would not have made them. I did my best to be kind, and managed to read fourteen pages out of one hundred and nine.

ASO: Lindsey Mackie

It has taken ruthless dedication for Rachel Develin to achieve her in the status as a Fidelis Officer in ASO, a society born from the remains of old Britain. Here in 2050, the role of the family has been redefined and, under the leadership of Magnamater Beatrice, people live in age-related regions. In Abovo, trained professionals named Maters rear all children before they graduate to Suris, where they stay and contribute until they reach 55 and are obliged to resort to Olim. It is a time of limited resources when all energy and water supplies are strictly controlled, each garment is recycled and every child is an eagerly awaited prize.

Rachel’s highly developed physical and intellectual abilities have always commanded respect, but privately the strain is now telling. While her fragile union with Ben has survived his infidelities, she struggles to suppress the need to be with her daughter, Bera, and to ignore the growing social unrest.

Her latest assignment begins with a routine interrogation, but her investigations are forced in a more unpredictable direction by the unaccountable Death of her superior officer, Josie Kitchener, with whom she has had a long and volatile relationship.

Her discoveries, and the punishments she must administer and endure, force stark choices that irreversibly change her loyalties and threaten the stability of ASO itself.

Accompanied by a CD featuring original music tracks written and performed by the author.

Aso is a perfect example of why editors are needed. The author has a tendency to slightly wooden and over-formal dialogue, and her writing is occasionally rather muddled, an effect which is exacerbated by her habit of head-hopping. Despite these faults she does have a mostly smooth and fluent style—which she then scuppers with numerous errors in punctuation, which range from minor errors to problems which completely cloud her intended meaning.

This tendency to confusion—both in the writing style and the misuse of punctuation—leads to a rather unsatisfactory read of a book which might well have shone had it been edited more effectively.

Mackie shows promise: she seems proficient at world-building, and there is an undercurrent of a lovely, lyrical tone: but she needs to pay more attention to detail, and to have more awareness of some of the pitfalls of the craft of writing, if she is going to fully realise that promise. I read eleven pages out of three hundred and three.

This review should have been published a long time ago: my apologies for its delay.

The Wave Queen: Caroline Harris

May 27, 2010 2 comments

Adventure Romance Suspense

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.

Eternal Horizon: A Star Saga; David Roman

Chronicles Of Vincent Saturn

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

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.

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?

With My Pen as My Witness: Ian Boyd

March 11, 2010 Leave a comment

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.

The Deadline Murders: Ron Morgans

January 7, 2010 Leave a comment

HENRIETTA FOX is a paparazzo. A wild, flame-haired girl in biker’s boots and leathers with an Irish temper. She rides a Yamaha on the streets of London stalking celebrities for the tabloid gossip pages. When a Chinese military plane explodes in a fireball before her camera, life for Henrietta Fox gets dangerous!

Five reporters across Europe have been murdered, each with their exotic, lop-eared Sumxu cats. Animals considered extinct for 300 years. Only Henrietta Fox knows why – and that knowledge could kill her. To survive she must pursue a madman across China with partner CASS FARRADAY, a six foot three ex-Repton public schoolboy turned tabloid reporter.

Only they can prevent an Armageddon assault on Britain’s Air Traffic Control. Fail and half a million lives will be lost.

http://www.ronmorgans.com/

Some self-published books are dreadful; a few are fabulous; and a few come so very close to being really good that I want to grab their authors by the lapels and shout words like “typesetting!” at them, as loudly as I can.

If Ron Morgans lived near me, he’d be getting the shouty treatment right now.

With The Deadline Murders Mr Morgans has written an engaging, competent murder mystery which I thoroughly enjoyed: but he’s let his book down by allowing some very basic errors to scatter themselves all over its pages. He’s used hyphens where dashes should appear; I spotted a few extraneous commas; and his page numbering is all over the place: his front matter pages are numbered 1 to 8 and then begin all over again with page 1 when his story starts (it’s convention to use a different numbering style for front matter if you want it numbered separately from the main text otherwise you end up with more than one page 4, which is confusing and can cause problems when referencing the text); and on a personal note, I found the paragraph indents far too deep. These are problems which a good copy editor—or even a good typesetter—could have fixed for him, and it’s a shame to see them on the pages of this otherwise competent book.

Such problems are minor, though, and as ever, my main focus is on the writing. I have a few issues with some of the grammar (for example, in the back cover copy quoted above it is implied that Henrietta’s leathers have an Irish temper); and there were a few problems with the text which only Mr. Morgans can fix: I realise that this is a thriller, and not a literary novel: I expect it to rely on the standards of the thriller genre. But in this novel some of those standards have been over-used to the point where they’ve become stereotyped. The two main characters were stereotypical in both their characterisation and their differences to one another: Henrietta Fox is a biker-girl photographer with red hair and a temper; Cass Farraday is ex-public school and wears suits from Saville Row. While they’re lively as characters go, I wanted them both to have more depth and subtlety and I think that a writer of Mr Morgans’ talent could have achieved this without too much trouble, even allowing for the limitations posed by the genre’s conventions. As it is, the interplay between his two main characters at times strays into Gene Hunt’s territory: on several occasions I felt like I was visiting the provincial 1980s (which was my favourite decade, though, so no great hardship there). Despite these little niggles it’s obvious to me that Ron Morgans is a capable, confident writer who, with a little more guidance and revision, could have brought this book up to a significantly higher standard.

I’ll happily admit that my genre-of-choice is literary fiction, which isn’t what Ron has written here: but I’m not trying to drag him over to the literary dark side. I just get the feeling that while this book is good, he is capable of much more. He has sailed through some of the things that others find most difficult—finishing a whole novel, creating distinct and lively characters, and constructing a plausible world for them to live in—who hasn’t done quite so well with the easier stuff. I think that Ron Morgans is a writer to watch who, with persistence and dedication, might well go on to bigger things, and I’m thrilled to have been sent a self-published book which shows such potential. By the time I reached page twenty-seven I had abandoned my scorecard: I read The Deadline Murders right through to the end and I’m pleased to be able to recommend it to you, albeit with just a few very minor reservations.

Edited to add: my good friend Sally Zigmond has also reviewed this book, and you can read her opinion of it here.

Until The Deep Water Stills: Michael Robert Dyet

December 3, 2009 2 comments

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.

Romancing the Claddagh: Ruby Dominguez

October 15, 2009 13 comments

Fiction Romance/Mystery Horror/Drama

The breathtaking mystery of the Irish Claddagh unraveled!

On a fire singed wall not so far away from the tragedy, a collage of photographs shaped the heartbreaking desperation of a city in search of missing love ones. A rescue recovery centre is deluged with a cascade of hundreds of Irish CLADDAGH rings uncovered from the collapsed World Trade Center at Ground Zero. The legend of the CLADDAGH’S origin entwines with romance of love tales, perilous adventures, mystery and royalty. A distinctively unique, timeless and honoured treasure of Irish heritage that is no stranger to love, tragedy and triumph. FOR IT WAS ONCE UPON A TIME, a sigil painted on an exclusive white sale of the Fisher King Ship marked with a crown, a pair of hands clasping the escutcheon of Nassau, evident of the crest of the royal house to which Liam, the King of CLADDAGH belongs, was recreated into a great spherical gold brooch to adorn the velvet lavender cloak of his future queen: Rowena, a descendant of ancient Ireland’s fiery crimson-haired goddess Macha, who wreaked a terrible powerful curse upon the northern kings of Ireland’s bloodline. An Irish phenomenon: its famous adage of “Let Love, Loyalty and Friendship Reign,” still eloquently resonates to this day.

Ruby Dominguez, creatively inscribes a link between fantasy and reality, life and eternity, love and constancy; capturing the essence of her vision. She also penned, THE PERUKE MAKER -The Salem Witch Hunt Curse. Both are Fiction Romance/Mystery/or/Drama/Tragedy Screenplays of a CURSE TRILOGY. The Peruke Maker was professionally reviewed by LEJEN Literary Consultants and attained a Good Script Coverage/Analysis. “Visually compelling, provocative, suspenseful, memorable, smooth pace with excellent twists and turns. By LEE LEVINSON

Ruby Dominguez is a brave woman: she is only the second person to have sent me more than one book to review. Her first book, The Peruke Maker: The Salem Witch Hunt Curse, had little to recommend it; and Romancing the Claddagh: The Curse of Macha, her second, is probably even worse.

I shan’t comment in detail about the back cover copy which is quoted in full above: it stands for itself. It’s jumbled, confusing, and tells me nothing about the book which would encourage me to buy it. The jacket design is a disaster: it’s strangely off-putting, and I wonder if that the girl in the image really is old enough to pose naked (and assuming she is, why does she look quite so sweaty?). I’d have preferred a more legible font for the title, too.

The book gets no better inside. It begins with a prologue which is just as confusing as the back cover copy:

Prologue

Guardedly, I listened to the echoes of my heart, yet fervently chased it down the deep recessions of a dark sacred chamber, where unspoken intimate emotions of agony and ecstasy come to surface.

Like a goldsmith, I creatively hammer down a precious link between fantasy and reality, life and eternity, love and constancy.

Herein pressed between the pages is the essence of my vision.

That’s on page i; then on the next page we have a single paragraph (which is repeated in full a few pages later, in a different context) with the title Time Period, which reads:

A rescue recovery centre is deluged with a cascade of HUNDREDS of Irish CLADDAGH RINGS recovered from the collapsed World Trade Center, at ground Zero.

Is this part of the setup information or has the screenplay begun? Despite it reading like a scene description, I have to assume that it is part of the setup, because the pages which follow contain character lists and locations. Page numbering then begins again, and we have a montage set before us which includes the following quotes:

An unforgettable stark landscape of inferno, pandemonium and death is broadcasted on TELEVISION and RADIOS across a horrified nation and to the shocked world.

ASH-MOLTEN ROADS are creased with GRIEF-STRICKEN FACES, engulfed with sorrowful CRIES of the CLADDAGH ring as a frame of reference to help find and identify love ones.

On this page alone I found fourteen mistakes. I already had more than enough to base this review upon, but something compelled me to read on. The screenplay continues to page five; then on page six we have this:

V

Time Period

CLADDAGH VILLAGE 17TH CENTURY

Fishermen leave the safety of the stony shores, love of family and comfort of home to set out to sea to make a living, in spite of the danger of abduction by seafaring pirates and treacherous weather.

Hence, to live in Claddagh is to be a fisherman, or starve.

Or to be abducted by treacherous weather, perhaps.

Some of you might notice that the conclusion there does not follow on from the paragraph which precedes it; so this is a fallacious argument. It’s not part of the action of the screenplay so what’s it doing here? And why is it followed by a list of characters and locations? We have five more pages of such setup before the screenplay begins again.

I’ll admit: I’ve read on through this, to try to make sense of it: but I failed. It’s jumbled, confusing, and at times cringingly badly written. All of the segments I’ve read show a sentimental affection for a non-existent, stereotypical, Hollywood kind of Irish; and what little I’ve read of the historical sections are very ill-informed. In addition, stage directions are used to fill in the plot’s back story and background: it’s bad enough encountering information dumps on the page, but how is this information meant to be conveyed to the audience if this play is ever performed?

I’m very concerned that the Lejen Literary Consultancy has told Ms Dominguez that this book shows promise, because in its current form, it isn’t good at all. Based on its judgement of this book, I strongly urge all writers to avoid the Lejen Literary Consultancy and if you’re still not convinced, read this thread at Absolute Write. I read four pages out of a possible 130 and if I’d observed my “fifteen strikes and you’re out” rule strictly I would have not read even that far.

The Bomb That Followed Me Home (Rumpleville Chronicles): Cevin Soling and Steve Kille

May 14, 2009 3 comments

We’ve all heard of stray cats following kids home or a lost puppy yelping by a kitchen door for food, but did you know that even a wayward little bomb needs love and attention to?

When a bomb, looking for a friend, follows a young boy home, trouble breaks out in a suburban household that is just trying to keep peace with the angry neighbors next door.

I make it quite clear that I don’t review picture books so by sending me a picture book to review, the authors of The Bomb That Followed Me Home: A Fairly Twisted Fairy Tale already have a strike against them.

Because this is a picture book it has relatively little text and I’ll admit, I consequently reached the end before I’d found my fifteen errors: so as I do follow the rules here, I shall now review the book even though it shouldn’t have been submitted to me in the first place.

According to the the press release which was included with this book, the author and illustrator responsible for this book are being deliberately provocative in an attempt to make their readers think about social issues: I wish they’d spent a little more time working on their story, and a little less time thinking about how clever they could be, because it just doesn’t work.

In the book, a bomb follows a little boy home; the next-door neighbour shouts at the boy when he takes a short cut through her garden; and as his parents don’t like the neighbour either, they end up giving the bomb to her. You can guess the ending. And if you want to be helpful you could also try to guess the social commentary contained within the story because all I can see here is a book with an ugly cover and a retro-in-all-the-wrong-ways design; an unengaging text with a few clumsy attempts at humour and characterisation, and a glib, self-congratulatory tone which alienated me right from the start.

My Splendid Concubine: Lloyd Lofthouse

November 2, 2008 Leave a comment

“No Westerner has ever achieved Robert Hart’s status and level of power in China. Driven by a passion for his adopted country, Hart became the “godfather of China’s modernism,” inspector general of China’s Customs Services, and the builder of China’s railroads, postal and telegraph systems, and schools. But his first real love is Ayaou, a young concubine.”

By the time I reached the top of page seven of My Splendid Concubine I’d found my fifteen errors, most of which were down to problems with punctuation. There were also a few errors of context, and a few issues which are typical of the inexperienced writer.

I really wanted this book to do better: it tells a mostly-true story which has the potential to be fascinating. A little more writing experience, a rewrite and a stringent edit might fix the problems that I found but as it stands, it doesn’t measure up to commercial standards.

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