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In Search of the Menopause Ranch, by Deborah Vaughn

March 22, 2012 Comments off

FICTION

From the moment Kimberly woke up she knew she had to be dreaming. Or worse…. Where was she? Middle age felt like the edge of a cliff and she hadn’t decided whether or not to jump. She’s about to learn what lies ahead in this transition, if only she can find the courage.

Heart-warming, irreverent and funny, “IN SEARCH OF THE MENOPAUSE RANCH” shares the intimate lives of women who’ve been devoted mothers, caretakers, workaholics and loving wives. But now what? As time seems to stand still, Deborah Vaughn takes us on a journey of self-discovery through encounters with the Goddess and the lives of each woman as they discover what’s missing —  what they almost forgot about themselves, their world and their gifts.

“I loved this book! Men, women, ancient history, the church, witches, inquisition, Gods and Goddesses—everything you wanted to know about how you got to where you are and what you can do about it. What will we do with our menopausal zest? How can we change our immediate worlds for the better—one woman, one town at a time?

Read this book— well researched, fascinating in its portrayal of history we never learned in school. All women will recognize themselves or others they know in the characters found at the Menopause Ranch. Laugh, weep, and then apply its lessons in your life. A great experience!”
Nikki Marie Welch, M.D.

Women in your middle years, what would you give to be whisked away from the cares of your daily life (by such colorful Spirit Guides as Belladonna Morose and Mea Culpeppa); to be taken to a magical realm where you’d discover the secrets of the ages that women have known since the world was new? Fortunately, to gain all the warmth, humor and wisdom of this special women’s retreat, you only have to read Deborah’s captivating novel, IN SEARCH OF THE MENOPAUSE RANCH.
Kris Neri, award-winning author of NEVER SAY DIE and the Tracy Eaton mysteries.

Deborah Vaughn attributes her straight-talking honesty to her Indiana roots. Life has been an instructive detour as an aspiring actress on Broadway, a minion in the corporate jungle and loving wife for 23 years. It was on a road trip with her sister where ‘IN SEARCH OF THE MENOPAUSE RANCH’ was born with the message that every journey in life is unique and special, just like every woman. Parts of it maybe unplanned and a bit bumpy, but by mid-life we have the skills, the talent and the guts to pave our own way.

Pisquale Productions

www.menopauseranch.com

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As is often the case with the books I review here, the back cover copy of In Search of the Menopause Ranch doesn’t provide a good indication of what the book is about: in it, menopausal women arrive mysteriously at a place with beautiful scenery and perfect catering, they share the stories of their lives, and are given some dodgy information about medical science and the gift of menopause. It’s an easy-enough read and it has the potential to be amusing: but the characters are thinly-drawn and homogenous and are often used as little more than vehicles to deliver information to each other; the information provided seems biased-to-wrong; and I find it quite unbelievable that not one out of all the women who appear at the ranch chooses to share a positive, affirming moment in their lives. Instead, they all share stories of unhappiness and exclusion, and while I’m sure that there are plenty of women who experience life in this way, I know that there are plenty more who do not. The people who feature in this book are a dreary lot, with their stories of sexism and misogyny, and I found it impossible to empathise with any of them despite my own menopausal trials. The women who work at the menopause ranch are no more finely drawn: they talk of the gift of femininity and the joy that is missing from contemporary life: but far from empathising with them I wanted to strangle them for their patronising, superior attitudes and their insistence that the women who had been transported to the ranch should follow their schedule without motive or explanation.

It’s an easy enough read, and is not at all demanding: it has the usual mix of punctuation and grammar problems; it’s often confusing; and it makes all sorts of claims about research, medicine and menopause which I suspect are based more on opinion than on fact. I read twenty-five of this book’s two hundred and seventy-two pages, but that relatively high page count owes more to my lenient mood when I was reading than to the appeal of this book.

High on a Mountain: Tommie Lyn

July 28, 2011 5 comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Talisman Of Elam: Jim Mastro

July 7, 2011 1 comment

A boy and his two friends…
a spaceship buried in the woods…
an ancient talisman hidden halfway across the galaxy…
and the fate of all mankind hanging in the balance.

The Talisman of Elam (The Children of Hathor) gets off to a very slow start. The text is weighed down by exposition and mundane detail, and although it’s an easy enough read its first thirty pages or so failed to engage me. If I’d seen this in a bookshop its lacklustre back cover copy and opening would not have tempted me to buy it.

The writing improves significantly once it’s past that slow opening but by then, of course, it’s too late. There are other problems with it too: I found a number of contradictions, a few minor plot-points which were much too obvious and were made far too much of; several out-of-character reactions; and far too many incongruencies which pulled me right out of the plot.

It’s a shame, as this book is better than most of the ones I review here; but being almost good enough isn’t enough.

If I were editing this book I’d suggest that the writer dropped most of those slow pages which begin the book, and then that he should rewrite it all paying particular attention to pace and authenticity. This would involve paring the text down by a significant amount and working out how to advance the plot without reliance on coincidence; but a good writer could do that without too much trouble and this book would be much better for it. I read eighty-seven out of this book’s three hundred and thirteen pages, but don’t feel inclined to read any further.

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.

The Chronicles Of Bobby Isaacs: Stuck In The Friend Zone: LG Putzer

May 13, 2010 1 comment

When eleven-year-old, band geek, Bobby Isaacs falls in like with his best friend, Jenna Richards, he uncovers a secret about Chris Kruger, the school bully. In a plot to impress Jenna, Bobby enters a spelling bee, hoping to come in first place. Desperation drives him to do something that gets Chris Kruger’s attention. After the two fight, Bobby discovers Chris’s terrible secret, but not before Chris destroys Bobby’s most prized possession.

Stuck in the Friend Zone is a story about two of the most fundamental yet important universal concepts Forgiveness and Understanding.

I’ve received quite a few books like this one lately: books with an engaging tone, from writers who are competent and who show potential: but they are all let down by careless errors which should have been caught at the copy-editing stage.

Of the fifteen issues I found in THE Chronicles of Bobby Isaacs: Stuck in the Friend Zone, all but three concerned basic copyediting issues (double hyphens used for some of the dashes; some random and rather odd capitalisations; several extraneous commas, etc). Two of the remaining three focused on some clunky exposition; and the final point was that while I understand that all children are different I don’t believe that a boy with Bobby’s background would be showing such an interest in girls while still only eleven years old.

I can see that he might be vaguely aware of girls; but I don’t believe that awareness would have developed as far as it seems to have done in this book. If the passages concerning Bobby’s feelings for Jenna had been written in a more “something is happening here but I don’t quite get it” tone I might have believed it more but as it is written, I just didn’t.

So: I would advise Lena Putzer to pay a lot more attention to copy-editing her work in future; to be more alert to the dangers that exposition poses to her pacing and tone; and to see if she could make this major part of her storyline—Bobby Isaacs’ feelings towards Jenna—a little more believable. Because if she resolves these issues then she could have a fabulous book on her hands: her writing is lively and funny and gave me a real sense that I was acquainted with the characters, and that I understood their world. It’s a shame she failed on the basics having done so well with the more difficult stuff: I read seven pages out of a total of two hundred and forty-one.

We Were Not Lost: Constance Kopriva

April 15, 2010 Comments off

They are not Indians. That is a name some European gave to a people they thought were lost. They were not lost; it was the European who was lost.

Trenda, a young Pomo woman, lives in 1791 in the Valley of the Moons, which will become known as Sonoma Valley, California. Everything is alive, and all is holy. It is a perfect world with harmony and beauty between man and nature. Trenda tells her own story about being a shaman, seeing the future in her dreams, and learning to help heal her people. Eventually, she must leave home to marry Yosomo, a Miwok from the tribe by the sea. She is both happy and sad. When the Spanish come and destroy her perfect world, Trenda is separated from Yosomo. Treated like animals, they are forced to work. Trenda longs to be reunited with her husband and wants only what any human wants: to be free in the world she loves.

Constance Kopriva lives with her husband of thirty-three years in Sonoma, California, a forty-five mile drive north of San Francisco. They now own a few acres that long ago were part of (General) Vallejo Rancho. Obsidian shards and arrowheads, stone pestles, and mortars found on their land are evidence that early native people once lived there. After taking a class about Sonoma history and hearing a different version from a Pomo descendent regarding the Spanish conquest of early California, she was inspired to tell this story, We Were Not Lost.

We Were Not Lost should not work as a book. At times it reads like a Hollywood cowboys-and-indians script with its talk of “many moons” and “pale faces”; despite the writer’s obvious preference for a stereotypical, stilted writing-style I found several instances where a more contemporary language intruded; and at just fifty printed pages long it is no more than an over-long short story printed in book form. The author clearly doesn’t know the correct use of “lay” vs. “lie”; and I found some of the final sequences rushed and unbelievable. But you’ll notice that I mention the book’s final sequences: and that’s because I read it all in just one sitting.

Despite its problems, this story is clean and sparse and engaging. Not only it is fast-paced and vivid, it’s also a remarkably clean text with very few minor errors. And although I have my misgivings about the stereotypical view it gives of the people and events it portrays, I did enjoy it.

If I were the author I would strongly consider rewriting it with the aim of making it far less stereotypical. I would strip out the Hollywood-movie phrasing and replace it with a language which was less likely to set people’s cliché-alarms clanging; and I’d extend the story to include sub-plots, and to introduce more shades of grey into the central story: at present it’s very much “white equals bad, Pomo equals good”, and this means that the story is predictable and lacking in depth.

So, the writing is flawed, the storytelling lacks subtlety and texture; and yet I read it right to the end. For that reason I recommend it, but with reservations (and no, that’s not a pun). I hope that this author continues to write because despite my reservations I think she could eventually become very good, if she gets the right guidance and advice.

The 7 Gifts That Came To Earth: John Mellor

October 1, 2009 6 comments
Seven precious gifts bestowed on the Earth but not revealed
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
A young boy is charged with finding them
“One of those unique and wonderful manuscripts that come one’s way all too rarely”“A most unusual and beautiful story that lingers in the mind long after one has read it”
~ ~ Senior Editor at a major UK PublisherThe singer emerged, and his music raged across the land, a wild, swirling cloud of chords laying waste like locusts to all that was soulless before it ..I come not to bring peace, he said

This story may be freely read on-line. But if you buy the book it will please my wife and impress my friends. Maybe yours too if you gift it to them. And you can read it in bed

For any freethinking, enquiring mind over 12
—John Mellor

I’m not a big fan of spiritual or inspirational fiction: I find it predictable, cheesy and often quite cringe-making. So I’m not the best person to review this book, which is rooted firmly in those genres.

Despite my reservations, that hideous big “7” on the cover, and the truly horrible fonts in which this text has been set (authors: if you’re considering using fancy fonts in yourself-published book, please read this first), I thought that this little book was charming.

That doesn’t mean it’s perfect: no book is. Some of the storytelling was a little too forced and predictable from me (but that might well be down to the book’s genre which, as I’ve already explained, isn’t my favourite); the language used was a little formal and old-fashioned, which distanced me from the story and so stopped me becoming emotionally involved with it; and there were, of course, punctuation problems with it (for example, a couple of instances where a full-stop had managed to slip outside a quote-mark which should have contained it, and a dash used where a hyphen was required). There were a few lapses in meaning, to: for example, on page 21 we are told,

The specially-made gown — designed by the greatest couturier in the kingdom, assembled by a hundred hand-picked seamstresses from the finest silk of faraway lands — was cheap.

While the dress might have lookedcheap I doubt that it really was, and little lapses like that don’t help when you’re telling a story which has a deeper meaning at its core: if you can’t get the top layer right, how can the reader trust the rest?Overall, then, this is an easy read and it’s brief, too, coming in at just 167 pages. It had has shades of Jonathan Livingston Seagull to its tone; I much preferred it to The Shack, which I found trite and unauthentic; and despite its flaws and those dreadful fonts, The 7 Gifts is readable and engaging.Despite my reservations I enjoyed what I read of the book (I reached page 51), and will almost certainly read more. A good little book, and well worth considering if you’re looking for some reading in this particular genre.
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