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The Principle Of Ultimate Indivisibility: Brent Robison

April 28, 2011 16 comments

Fiction/LiteraryTHE PRINCIPLE OF ULTIMATE INDIVISIBILITY is a collection of thirteen linked stories, in which people as recognizable as your neighbors stumble through tiny everyday epiphanies, on their way from confusion and loss toward redemption.

Brent Robison’s fiction has appeared in various literary journals and has won awards that paid actual cash… long since spent. He lives among the same mountains where Rip Van Winkle awoke from his long sleep.

Subtlety ought to be on an endangered literary species list, but Brent Robison brilliantly makes the case for its essentiality in this exquisite collection of webbed stories. These stories argue that everything is a facet of the same jewel and we touch each other’s lives in unfathomable ways. To read them is to heighten one’s bond with strangers.

—Djelloul Marbrook, Far From Algiers (2007 Wick Poetry Prize)

Rich, layered images take us deep inside the lives of Robison’s characters, their stories weaving together a tapestry as textured as it is beautiful. Brent Robison’s stories are reminiscent of Sherwood Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio — stories of ordinary people caught in the crosshairs of circumstance, sometimes of their own making, sometimes not. All of them heroic in their honest struggle to find meaning and ultimately love…. A gorgeous timeless collection about longing.

—Susan Richards, Chosen by a Horse (NY Times bestseller)


The Principle of Ultimate Indivisibility is a collection of linked short stories, and each one of them is a delight: a sparsely-written, surprising delight which illuminates unexpected corners of its characters’ lives and in so doing, reveals their obsessions, loves and longings with ruthless clarity.

Robison is a skilled writer with a remarkable gift for tone and nuance. The only thing I didn’t like about this book is its title, which seems far too pompous for this lovely collection. But that single wrong note is a minor one, and I will forgive Mr. Robison for it. Just so long as he continues to write and publish, so that I can read more of his work.

Highly recommended.

Few Are Chosen: M T McGuire

April 21, 2011 5 comments

Few are Chosen

The Pan of Hamgee isn’t paranoid. There must be some people in K’Barth who aren’t out to get him; it’s just that, right now, he’s not sure where they are. His family are dead, his existence is treason and he does the only thing he can to survive — getaway driving.

As if being on the run isn’t bad enough, when he finds a magic thimble and decides to keep it, he unwittingly sets himself on a collision course with Lord Vernon, K’Barth’s despot ruler.

Unwillingly, The Pan is forced to make choices and stand up for his beliefs — beliefs he never knew he had until they were challenged. But, faced with a stark moral dilemma will his new found integrity stick? Can he stop running?

Reader comments

“Funny and completely original, I loved it.” Joe, aged 13

“I am your number one fan.” Emily, aged 30 something

Many of the books I’ve reviewed here could have done with a good hard edit, and Few are Chosen is no exception. Where it differs from most of those other books however is that (based on the pages I read) it is most in need of a copy edit rather than a full-blown structural one. I found numerous punctuation problems, a couple of tautologies, some odd sentence constructions and some pretty naff typesetting choices which made the text much harder to read than it should have been.

However, I also found an engaging main character (even though his humour was a little forced at times), a fast-paced opening and a better-than-usual setup. If the author were to improve on the few weaknesses I found, reduce his reliance on exposition, and cut back on his use of adjectives and dialogue tags his book would be significantly improved.

I read four pages out of this book’s two hundred and forty-five, but despite that low page-count I might well return to it again.

After September: Mark D Ransom

February 10, 2011 4 comments

Mark David Ransom—comes from a long line of craftsmen. His Italian immigrant great-grandfather worked on the world famous Brooklyn Bridge. His German/Irish father practiced his trade at the 1964 World’s Fair and on the State Capital in Albany, NY. He spent many years himself restoring masonry buildings in the five boroughs, including the Brooklyn Museum and the Empire State Building. The son of a slate roof and a bookkeeper, and educated by the public school system of New York City, Mark’s chosen crafts have been making song and theater. He has done poetry slams at the Nuyorican Poet’s Cafe and readings at Reckless in Hell’s Kitchen. He is a member the White Horse Theatre Company where he played the title role of Half in a workshop production of the original play. A lifelong resident of New York City, he is a poet, an actor, and a singer/songwriter. As a building inspector and civil servant, living in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, Mark witnessed the events of September 11, 2001, from a unique perspective, one that provided him with the inspiration for this, his first volume of published poetry. In his official capacity as an inspector, he documents the physical damage of city buildings. As a poet, he investigates the emotional and psychological topography of a new era in emerging from the old. His chronicle in verse, dedicated to the city of his birth, is written with words of healing, admiration, respect, and love.

First off, I applaud Mr. Ransom’s courage in publishing After September: it’s an intensely personal account of a very traumatic time and in exposing the emotion and horror of those days he has also exposed his own vulnerabilities. This is not to be done lightly: his courage is apparent, in his words and his decision to self publish them, and I admire him for it.

Sadly, I cannot admire this book. The poetry in it is confusing, clichéd and overwritten, and often contradicts itself within a line or two. As a result Mr. Ransom’s meaning is often obscured or completely misdirected. Which is a shame because lurking below these problems there is real potential.

Mr. Ransom has a good eye for poetic detail, and for those moments which represent our times. He has a natural inclination towards sparsity and has a lyrical tone which is lacking entirely from the work of most aspiring poets.

If I were Mr. Ransom, then, how would I proceed? I’d read the greats. I’d read anthologies of prize-winning poetry, I’d read books of poetry from the classics to the avant-garde and I’d read them all repeatedly until I breathed them. And then I’d look to my own work and make sure that not a single word was wasted, and that my meaning was always clear and strong.

So: a disappointing effort from a writer with potential, who is going to have to get really tough with himself in order to improve as a poet. I read nineteen pages out of seventy-five, and really hope that he improves.

Tomas: Robert Bedick

February 3, 2011 1 comment

You’ll also find this review on my bigger blog, How Publishing Really Works. You can comment on it here, but you can’t over there.


Who is Alfred Tomas?

When Paul Webber is approached by an intriguing widow to write a book about her “highly influential, but criminally obscure” husband, the artist Alfred Tomas, Paul thinks Tomas will be his first step towards achieving literary glory. But the more he learns about Tomas, the more he begins to question the quiet family life he leads with his wife Sylvia and their young son Josh.

Tomas has the potential to be an absorbing, interesting read: but it’s sadly let down by careless mistakes and what I suspect is the writer’s inexperience.

Unlike most of the other writers I’ve reviewed here, Robert Bedick knows how to use an em-dash (hurrah!); but his use of hyphens is haphazard, and his use of speech marks is inconsistent especially where other punctuation marks get involved.

His characters did a pretty good job of engaging my attention: but they were prevented from reaching their full potential by some flabby writing which I found both confusing and distracting. And as for the dialogue tags—no! Almost every single one might just as well have climbed onto my kitchen table and waved its red knickers in the air, they distracted me so from the narrative flow. Writers rarely need to use more than “he said”, “she whispered”; I don’t think there’s ever a call for “I meekly offered in rebuttal”.

So: would I recommend this book? Very nearly, but not quite. Mr. Bedick could easily improve it to a point where I would have recommended it just by tightening it up and deleting all of those overdone dialogue tags: but then it would have made an extremely short book. I read eleven pages out of one hundred and ninety-two, and think Mr. Bedick would do well to edit his own work far more rigorously in future.

True Confessions Of Nude Photography: A K Nicholas

January 27, 2011 7 comments

This review also appears on my bigger blog, How Publishing Really Works. Comments there are closed so if you’d like to discuss this book or my review, you have to do it here. Please do!


Learn and Master the Techniques of Nude Photography

Spark Your Creativity with 100 Inspiring Poses

Composition and Visual Pathway

Control Light to Scupt the Figure

Recruit and Interact with Models

Market Your Work

The human body has been an inspiration for artists since before the invention of photography. Naturally, nudes were one of the first subjects of photography as well.

This illustrated how-to guide can be enjoyed by anyone, but is written for two main audiences: the accomplished photographer who wants insight from a peer into the genre of nude photography, and the serious amateur who wants a guided introduction to the field.

The processes are arranged step-by-step. You’ll find more than just a selection of photos and a dissection of each; you’ll see full lighting diagrams as well as a frank discussion of the techniques and pitfalls in the days and weeks leading up to making a nude image. From finding your first nude model to selling your first nude photo, the guide will take you through lighting, posing, and-post processing with Photoshop.

You’ll learn from the author’s twenty years of experience photographing hundreds of nude models.

True Confessions of Nude Photography has fallen foul of the usual problems which trouble most self published books I’ve seen: slapdash punctuation, run-on sentences, jumbled sentences, missing or extra words, and claims which are not be supported by logic. I read just seven of its one hundred and twenty-two pages despite doing my best to be generous: it’s a jerky read made all the more irritating by its frequent repetitions.

I found both its title and the author’s references to “the beauty of the human body” misleading: these terms imply—to me at least—that the book discusses photographing the human body in all its forms; but the only pictures the book contains are of over-skinny, pouting young women. While I can understand that these women might well appeal to the book’s author/photographer, some of the pictures included are quite remarkably unappealing. Some of the poses he’s chosen look extremely uncomfortable; despite this, the two young women who appear together in some of his shots (both of them fit young women, of course) seem very enthusiastic about posing together. I also found some of the advice given on how to find models just a little disturbing: call me prudish, but I don’t think it’s appropriate for anyone to ask young women to pose for them without explaining right from the start that they’ll be expected to strip off their scanties. It reeks of predatory, manipulative behaviour to me, and although that might not be the author’s intention it is a tactic that I find abusive.

If you want to know how to photograph naked people, there have to be better books than this for you to learn from; but if all you want is a poorly-written, poorly-edited book featuring a few competent photos of naked young women, then this is the book for you.

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.

Be a Sex-Writing Strumpet: Stacia Kane

January 13, 2011 1 comment

From now on I’m going to copy all the reviews I write for this blog over to my original, bigger blog, How Publishing Really Works. Comments here will remain open as usual; comments on my reviews over at HPRW will be closed, so that discussions about the books are kept to one site. This should mean that we’ll get a bigger audience for the books which are featured here, and I hope a wider-reaching discussion for each of my reviews.

We’re talking about writing sex scenes here, guys. This is not for children. Despite my best efforts there is no way I can do this and not stray into adults-only territory. — SK

Stacia Kane writes novels filled with “… flaming hot sex…” (Romantic Times), “… sizzling romance that heats up every page…” (Darque Reviews), and “… spicy sex scenes beautiful enough to make you cry and hot enough to steam windows at the same time…” (Michele Lee). She has published more than a dozen romances and urban fantasies, with publishers like Ellora’s Cave, Pocket, Del Rey, and HarperVoyager. Now she opens her bag of tricks to show you how you too can write the scenes that readers crave.

From setting the scene to consummating the union, Stacia takes you all the way. She reveals the tricks of the professional author, step by step (using examples taken from her own and others’’ writing), giving practical exercises to try in your own books.

When sex is done right, the scene illuminates the most private acts of your characters, demonstrates their connection, their trust, the depth of their feelings, their desire for each other, the moment their relationship deepens and changes beyond anything they’ve been through before; it’s the scene that strengthens the story, increases tension, and adds complications, and at the same time gives the readers what they’ve been waiting for.

From the bare outline to the fully-fledged ready-to-publish novel, Stacia shows you how to avoid common errors, which details to use and which to avoid, what to do when the sex scene isn’t working, how to heat up the action, how to switch point-of-view, how to take the readers along with you to the finish.

Be a Sex-Writing Strumpet is like a masterclass in erotic fiction.

“A sex scene should be fun to write, and it should be fun to read.” Stacia Kane


I’ll start this review off with two disclaimers: this is the first book I’ve featured here which wasn’t submitted to me for review. I paid my own money for it, and after I’d read it I asked its author if she was okay with me reviewing it here: luckily for me, she was. Which brings me onto my second disclaimer: Stacia Kane, the writer of this book, is a friend of mine. If I hadn’t know her well and read her other books I doubt I’d have even known about this book, let alone bought it.

It’s a cracking little read. It’s engaging, absorbing and full of life; and it’s a perfect book for self-publishing: it has an easily-defined niche market, and Stacia already has an established fan-base thanks to her excellent novels. Stacia writes with a very forthright, entertaining voice; her personality infuses every line; she doesn’t shrink away from the more potentially challenging aspects of sex-writing; and the advice and information she gives is absolutely clear, on-the-button and hugely useful. She’s a fabulous fiction writer and an inspiring non-fiction writer, and I wholeheartedly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in, or considering, writing any sort of sex scene.

And yes, for the record I did find a couple of problems. There is a punctuation error in the back cover copy; I don’t much like the jacket design for the print edition, which is muddy and dull; and I found a missing full stop or two between the covers. But I became so absorbed by the text that I forgot to look for such problems, and I read the entire book in one sitting. Such is the power of strong writing: and that’s why wanted to review this book here.

You can buy the Kindle edition here, or the print edition from Lulu.com; and it’s on Scribd too. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did; and that you go on to read some of Stacia’s novels, especially her Downside series, which is just amazingly good.

Take It Easy: Untangling the Internet: an easy guide to start using the Internet: Ohad Kravchick

November 4, 2010 Leave a comment

If you ever thought it’s too late for you to learn how to use the Internet THINK AGAIN!

In “Take It Easy: Untangling The Internet,” author Ohad Kravchick guides you through an easy, step-by-step process to using the Internet, by providing:

> An introduction to the Internet and the benefits of using it.
> A detailed walk-through with illustrations for using your computer and connecting to the Internet.
> Real-life Internet scenarios (websites), containing simple and more advanced examples, complete with easy to follow illustrations.
> Directions showing how to find the information you need.
> A list of useful Internet locations for your knowledge, finance, chores, hobbies, and entertainment.

A MUST GUIDE FOR ALL INTERNET NEWCOMERS!

Ohad Kravchick has been a professional computer instructor for more than 8 years; he is focused on ease of learning. He earned his master’s degree in Computer Science from Fordham University. He lives with his wife in New York City.

For more information about this booklet and its publication, log in to: http://www.takeiteasyseries.com
To order more copies call 1-877-377-3311 (toll free)

I use the internet a lot: I use it for research, for networking, and for blogging. I’m not, however, terribly computer-literate: I depend on my lovely friend Clever Andy to rescue me from technical tangles and I’m frequently grateful to him for all his help. Consequently, I was looking forward to reading this slim book in the hope that I might improve my knowledge of all things internet. Sadly, I was disappointed.

This is the single most confusing instruction manual I have ever encountered, and I include in that list the Italian instructions for a fridge which accompanied the DVD player I bought recently.

I am sure that Mr Kravchick is a lovely man; he’s a professional computer instructor and I bet when he talks to people in his classes he helps them enormously. But he has no aptitude for writing. His sentences range from confusing to unintelligible, and his errors in grammar mean that he often make statements which are completely wrong. I’m very sorry to have to be so damning. But this is a terribly badly written book and I can only see it confusing anyone desperate enough to turn to it for help. I read just three of its sixty-three pages, despite my best attempts to be generous.

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.

The Faith Of A Child: Stefan G Lanfer

August 26, 2010 1 comment

Preparing for fatherhood? Freaked out? Help is here.

Playwright Stefan Lanfer has penned a vital new book on the struggles of dads-to-be.

When a woman prepares for motherhood, other women guide her on her way. Not so a dad-to-be, who gets pats on the back, corny jokes, or vague assurances he’ll do fine. Until now, his best hope was by-moms-for-moms baby books–a gap filled by Stefan Lanfer’s The Faith of a Child and Other Stories of Becoming and Being a Dad, in which the author chronicles his own journey to, and into fatherhood, lending a comforting and humorous peek into the vagaries and joys of being a dad.

According to Lanfer, “When my wife was pregnant, I was STRESSED out, and the guys around me were no help–until, just in time, I hosted a group of dads at our home. I fed them dinner, and they fed me their stories.” As he listened, says Lanfer, “I got inside the head space of a dad, and, finally, I felt ready.”

To pay forward this gift of stories, Lanfer shares his own in The Faith of a Child. To dads-to-be, Lanfer says, “If you want tips, tactics, and advice for childbirth and parenting, you’ve got dozens of choices. But, if you want real stories that actually let you picture fatherhood, The Faith of a Child is for you.

The Faith Of A Child is composed of a series of vignettes from Lanfer’s life with his wife and, eventually, two small children. He writes in blank verse, which I didn’t find particularly successful: his writing is neither tight enough nor lyrical enough to shine in this form (to see blank verse working well, read Sharp Teeth by Toby Barlow, a book I adore). And while he presents this as a book of stories to prepare men for fatherhood I’m not convinced that fathers will find the stories collected here at all useful: most are without any real resolution or message, and far too personal to Lanfer to inspire or instruct anyone else.

It’s a shame, as there are occasional glimpses of beauty: for example, the title story is touching and rather lovely. But the few gems there are are muddied by Lanfer’s rather unfocused style, and they’re hidden among a lot of other stories which only invoked a reaction of “so what?” from me, I’m afraid.

A reasonable effort, then, let down by a lack of clarity and focus. While I think it’s wonderful that the author finds his family life so compelling, he really needs to look at his stories with a harsher, more critical eye in order to recognise which are worth working on and which should be kept as a private, more personal record. I read thirty-two pages out of one hundred and fifty-five.

Where Spirits Live: Omri Navot

August 19, 2010 Leave a comment

When a new boy moves into the neighbourhood, everyone thinks he’s as strange as can be. But not Angela. She finds herself drawn to this mysterious boy, and with his help discovers that there’s more to her world than she ever imagined. Together, they journey to mystical realms where they learn secrets about themselves and each other. A touching book about youth, spirit, and friendship, Where Spirits Live is bound to enchant you with its mystery and magic.

I did try to find a cover image to use here, but without any luck: perhaps the author could add one to his own blog. Just a thought.

The simplistic tone of this book and its young main character made me wonder at first if it was intended for a younger audience: but its focus on spirituality makes that unlikely and so I’m still not quite sure where this book would be shelved and what its target market is.

The writing is mostly competent although I noticed a couple of peculiar paragraphs which had little to do with the text which surrounded them, and which would have been much better cut; there were a few sentences which were so poorly constructed that although I could work out what I think the author intended to say, the actual meaning of his words was nonsensical; and a pivotal scene in which the main character’s parents have the first of many fights comes as a complete surprise as until that point they’ve been portrayed as happy and settled.

Despite these quibbles the pages turned at a decent pace and I suspect that a good editor could turn this text into something much cleaner and sharper and ultimately more rewarding. My main concern for this book, though, focuses on bigger things. Its plot feels far too familiar; I found nothing new or exciting here, and feel no compulsion to read on; I am not convinced by either of the two main characters (the boy seems more than a little creepy); and I’m particularly uncomfortable with the boy’s suggestion that if the girl ignores her parents fighting it will all just go away.

A valiant effort, then, and a book not entirely without merit: but it is too deeply flawed for me to recommend it, I’m afraid, even though I read forty-one pages out of one hundred and fifty-one.

The Turning: Paul J Newell

August 12, 2010 5 comments

The world is Turning. He can sense it. Now he has to stop it.

People are disappearing.

When Lleyton Quinn is arrested in connection with a missing woman, he insists he knows nothing about it. He’s wrong. Soon he comes to realise that he is intimately entwined in the whole mystery. And when the female detective who arrested him pleads for his help, he is dragged to the centre of a phenomenon that could change everything. This is more than just missing people. The very fabric of society is being slowly unstitched by an unknown seamstress, and Lleyton has been chosen to pick up the threads. Before it’s too late. Before he disappears too…

This book is an intriguing blend of crime-thriller and science-fiction. Comic, dark and surreal in places, the story is based in the near future, in a world not too dissimilar from our own. Rich in thought-provoking concepts, this novel touches on all aspects of humanity, culminating in an evocative new theory about the nature of our world. This is fiction… that promises to teach you something.

The Turning is the sort of book that would might well accrue a stack of personalised rejections and offers to consider the writer’s next book when sent out on submission to mainstream publishers and agents. It is so very nearly excellent: but because of the author’s inexperience in both writing and editing it doesn’t quite reach the mark.

I can sympathise with Mr. Newell, because he makes the same sorts of mistakes that I make in my first drafts: we both over-write, we both use cliché, and we both like to hammer our points home and then some. The difference is that I then try to edit all those mistakes out, whereas Mr Newell seems content to leave them standing.

Overall, then, an impressive attempt which is let down by a lack of skilled editing. It’s a shame, as beneath all the extraneous stuff Newell’s writing is bright and pacey and engaging, with a light humour which reminds me a little of Harlan Coben’s Myron Bolitar novels. Newell shows real talent and potential, and if he pays much more careful attention to his editing skills in future projects he might well go far. I read sixty-six pages out of two hundred forty-two to find my fifteen mistakes: however, I will almost certainly read this book right to the end and so I recommend it, despite its faults.

Life Skills 101: A Guide To Understanding The Seasons In Your Life: Lori J Parker

August 5, 2010 5 comments

As the magnitude of trials continue to escalate in the world today, Christians need to understand the seasons of preparation that God has for each of them. In Life Skills 101, Lori Parker identifies why we experience various trials. She offers practical ways to identify and overcome these trials so we will be ready for the Lord’s return.

Lori Parker, is an anointed author, conference speaker, and founder of One Choice Ministries. God has given her gifts of compassion, joy, and boldness. She has a passionate desire to see people develop an intimate relationship with the Lord. Lori preaches Biblical truths that stir the Body of Christ into action.

“I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see.”~Revelation 3:18

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Life Skills 101 gets off to a poor start. Its back cover copy discusses the trials we will all face in life, and informs us that the book has a strongly Christian perspective: then on the first page of its introduction it tells us that it’s actually about our relationships with money and with god.

It implies that everyone reading the book will have little money and an irresponsible attitude to the little they have; that everyone who appears to be doing well is really hiding a mountain of debt and misery; and that the reason so many people overspend is that they are too proud, and feel they deserve better than they have. The author seems to resent college graduates, especially those who go on to postgraduate education; and she states that Christians should be exempt from rules which apply to non-Christians, as they can depend on god’s guidance. It would have been useful if god had given the author a little guidance on the rules of punctuation and grammar, but perhaps he shares my view that writers should learn how to do these things for themselves.

This book gave me a very interesting glimpse into another world—but that doesn’t mean I think it’s any good. The author attributes all sorts of things to god’s grace but doesn’t discuss why this might be so; she shows no understanding of social or psychological failings, she implies that we have no need to take personal responsibility for our mistakes or problems, and makes no allowance for the fact that sometimes terrible things happen to people which they simply cannot overcome even if they believe and trust in god. And that’s where this book fails.

If the author had attempted to encompass more shades of grey—to recognise that not everyone believes in god, for example, and that often, hard work can be far more practical and effective than prayer and contemplation—this book would have been much better. As it is, it’s a judgemental, disappointing and patronising text which encourages us all to live our lives responsible only to god, and to make no efforts to resolve our own problems or improve our lives other than by praying for god’s guidance: and that means it’s only going to be taken seriously by people who already agree with the stance it takes; and that people like me, who disagree very strongly with most of the claims made in the book, are going to dismiss it.

If I were this writer, then, how would I improve this book? Instead of discussing abstract groups of people who are disappointed in their lives I would write about specific people and tell their stories in more depth; I would stop making insulting generalisations about people who do not share my beliefs; I would learn a little about logic and fallacy and apply what I’d learned to my writing; and I’d stop being so very disapproving about the way other people live their lives.

I read fifteen of this book’s one hundred and thirty seven pages, and won’t be reading any more.

The Darkness: Bill Kirton

July 22, 2010 Leave a comment

When Tommy Davidson is found with his throat cut, his brother Andrew’s shock turns to thoughts of vigilante retribution. Known villains, including the person indirectly responsible for the death, begin to disappear. Thanks to the efforts of one of Cairnburgh’s cleverest lawyers, each has managed to evade justice. But not any more. Meantime, rape victim Rhona Kirk starts a new life in Dundee but finds it difficult to shake off her past. As DCI Jack Carston tries to find what links the various missing persons, he’s aware of his own darker impulses and of an empathy between himself and the vigilantes. His investigation becomes a race against time and against the pressure of darkness.

The jumbled and dull back cover copy for The Darkness is no indication of the quality of the text of the book itself: I found a lot here to keep me interested, and would like to see what happens to Bill Kirton’s work when it is passed through the hands of a competent and demanding editor.

The problems I found—a tendency to exposition, a lack of clear characterisation, a couple of clichés and a few punctuation problems—are all fixable because the underlying writing is strong, clear and fast-moving. Kirton has a raw talent which gives an edge to this book that most writers will never achieve: if he focuses on revising his next text to a higher standard I can see him doing very well indeed.

I was particularly harsh with Mr. Kirton in my judgement of his book but despite that, I read twenty-four of his three hundred and thirteen pages. If I had found this on the slush pile, I would almost certainly have asked to see more: as it is, I am going to cautiously recommend this book despite its flaws.

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.

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