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Posts Tagged ‘reads like a shopping list’

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.

First Wolf: Carol Anne Carr

April 29, 2010 1 comment

It was Toland’s twelfth year of life when his father hurled the wolf’s head at the mighty Eorl Uhtred, bringing his childhood to a violent end. These were dangerous times, with people driven from their settlements, tribal wars, and bands of robbers on the roads, but Toland must keep his solemn promise to save the Lindisfarne Gospels from the Vikings, protect his family, and find his father. With his faithful hound Bodo, he sets off on his quest through Anglo-Saxon Northumbria and his many adventures lead him to the mysterious hermit on Inner Farne, the mystery of the stolen jewels, a blood debt, and a terrible discovery at the White Church…

I had high hopes for First Wolf: it has an above-average front cover (although the author’s name is in the wrong font, the wrong colour, and wrong position); and although the back cover copy is flawed (it contains a tense-change, is a little confusing, and at times reads a bit like a shopping list) it could be brought up to standard without too much trouble. The book’s premise appealed to me too, with its echoes of Alan Garner and its roots in a particularly spectacular part of our landscape and history. But, as is often the case with self-published books, the text is in need of a strong edit, and that’s what lets this book down in the end.

In my view, it suffers from a surplus of commas. I realise that not everyone will agree with me on this point: but I prefer text to be as clear and clean as possible and including commas when they’re not strictly needed makes this impossible. Before you all shout me down here, bear in mind that my preference for clarity-without-commas hasn’t developed simply because I dislike the look of them on the page: it’s because their overuse often hides a fundamental problem with the text which they adorn.

Too often, commas are used to prop up an inadequate sentence structure, or to try to improve a syntax which is forced and lacking in fluency: and that’s what has happened here. A good editor would have helped the writer correct all those errors and let the fast-paced story shine: as it is, the story’s excitement is dulled by the writer’s slightly confusing writing, her oddly over-formal tone, and her frequently illogical statements. Which is a shame, as with a proper edit this book could have been much improved. I read seven pages out of one hundred and fifty-five, and despite their flaws rather enjoyed them.

Girl Without A Country: Rosemary Schulga

February 5, 2009 2 comments

A rare intimate account of a resourceful girl’s adventures as she sets out on her own in a quest for knowledge and freedom. It is an inspiring story of hardship, courage, and hope, told with wit and charm. Born stateless in a village in Germany, without any citizenship, the girl without a country has to satisfy the demands of the law for non-citizens. She seeks a better life by immigrating to Australia, but not before falling in love with an American soldier. Their touching love story develops across the oceans. Trying to obtain a visa to visit her love in America, she is forced to return to Germany to have her passport for foreigners extended. The irony is that she has to be in Germany first before she can receive permission to return to Germany. A girl without a country has no right to travel. She manages the impossible by taking, without proper documentation and without resources, a remarkable journey from Australia to Germany, travelling through Japan, Hong Kong, Bangkok, India, and Turkey. The reader is held in suspense as, against all odds, she finally succeeds in her quest. Readers may more deeply appreciate their own citizenship after reading this book.

While I don’t doubt that the author has had a more-than-usually difficult life, I’m afraid that Girl Without a Country did nothing to help me sympathise with her.

Judging from the back cover copy, it’s unlikely that English is her first language and so it’s possible that much of the clumsiness in the text is due to an over-literal translation from German to English: but as you know, I judge books here against the standards of mainstream, commercial publishing and so won’t accept any such excuses.

There were many careless errors: on page six I found both “proof reading” and “proofreading” in the same paragraph; and then on page nine there was this sentence: “We were nine children in our family, and I was the youngest of the five girls, having three younger brothers.” I realise it’s possible that the author had an older brother too, or that maths isn’t one of her strong points: but errors like this are not going to endear this story to anyone.

The combination of clumsy phrasing, the heavy use of cliché, and the abundance of careless errors took me to the third page of the main narrative—page nine in the book.

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