Archive

Posts Tagged ‘poorly researched’

I Serve: Roseanne E Lortz

September 14, 2011 7 comments

A tale of ARMS, of DEATH, of LOVE, and of HONOR

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.

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.

###

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.

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.

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.

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.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 116 other followers