When Catherine Ryan Howard decides to swap the grey cloud of Ireland for the clear skies of the Sunshine State, she thinks all of her dreams – working in Walt Disney World, living in the United States, seeing a Space Shuttle launch – are about to come true…
Ahead of her she sees weekends at the beach, mornings by the pool and an inexplicably skinnier version of herself skipping around the Magic Kingdom. But not long into her first day on Disney soil – and not long after a breakfast of Mickey-shaped pancakes – Catherine’s Disney bubble bursts and soon it seems that among Orlando’s baked highways, monotonous mall clusters and world famous theme parks, pixie dust is hard to find and hair is downright impossible to straighten.
The only memoir about working in Walt Disney World, Space Shuttle launches, the town that Disney built, religious theme parks, Bruce Willis, humidity-challenged hair and the Ebola virus, MOUSETRAPPED: A Year and A Bit in Orlando, Florida is the hilarious story of what happened when one Irish girl went searching for happiness in the happiest place on Earth.
This is one of those reviews which is very difficult for me to write. There’s a lot to praise in Mousetrapped: A Year and A Bit in Orlando, Florida; but there’s also a lot to criticise and knowing Catherine Ryan Howard as I do, I am as certain as I can be that she’d rather hear all of my reservations than be fobbed off with a few kind words. So brace yourself, Catherine: this is going to be tough.
Catherine Ryan Howard has an engaging, friendly tone and the story trips along at a reasonable pace. Everything she writes is infused with a lively humour and she has a natural storytelling ability which I’m sure many writers would envy. This already earned her a recommendation for me (so you can stop worrying now, Catherine). She has the basics right: her spelling and grammar are fine, although the punctuation is flawed and inconsistent. But these problems are few, and are nowhere near bad enough to interrupt the flow of her narrative, or to put off a determined agent.
However, there is an indication of problems to come in the back cover copy, which feels a little repetitive and over-long; to then come across phrases from the back cover copy repeated in the first few pages of the book feels a little wrong: I would expect the back cover copy to be its own entity and not a close copy of some of the passages from the book. The opening of this book is not up to scratch: the pages before she reaches Disneyland are too long, too rambling and once more repetitive.
This doesn’t mean that I disliked the book: but I can see how easily (!) the opening could be tightened up and made significantly more absorbing, and how its lack of focus and clarity might well put browsing readers off.
To continue with my criticisms, the humour is at times rather forced; Catherine Ryan Howard’s bleak first few weeks in Orlando made me feel very uncomfortable and unhappy for her despite the jokes she kept right on cracking; and I found her stories rather episodic, as if this were a collection of short stories or articles rather than a continuing memoir. I would have preferred more variation in tone, and more integration of the book’s various strands: I don’t think either is beyond Ms Ryan Howard as she is clearly a confident, intelligent writer. If these points were addressed (a more concise opening, more variation in tone and a better narrative flow) then this book would be very much improved
Where I struggled was with Ms Ryan Howard’s actions. She seemed to crash off on each new venture with little thought or preparation, which at times made me wonder if she was purposely sabotaging herself. It could just be the natural foolhardiness of the young which caused her to believe behave in this way; but I found it infuriating and anxiety-provoking, and that directly affected my enjoyment of this book. I’ll admit that I am an obsessive researcher, and make thorough preparations before I even brush my teeth: so this could be my natural caution showing through.
On the whole, then, an enjoyable read from a humorous and talented writer, which could be much improved with a more stringent edit to improve the pace, tone and flow, but which nevertheless earns a recommendation from me. Well done, Catherine!
Note: I received this book aeons ago and its review should have appeared much sooner than this. My apologies to Ms Ryan Howard for the delay.
Five years ago when Lindsay Paulson, a naive college student and talented distance runner, was 18, she was convicted of drug smuggling. Now, halfway through a 10-year prison sentence, she begins having what seem to be dreams, in which she leaves her cell in the night and visits another reality called Trae. Dreaming of Deliverance tells of Lindsay’s experiences both in Trae, where she finds herself among people enslaved by terrifying creatures, and in prison where she tries to make sense of what’s happening in her sleep: Is she actually escaping from prison somehow or is she losing her mind?
When I review books for this blog I don’t often set my notes aside and read the book purely for enjoyment: but that’s what I did with Dreaming of Deliverance, and I’m very pleased that I did.
Ms Chambliss has a very fluid, readable style; I read all five hundred and fifty-four pages of this book in one day, and thoroughly enjoyed it. The typos I found were so minor that they didn’t intrude upon my enjoyment of the story; and I was genuinely sad when I reached the end and had to say goodbye to all of the characters I had come to know.
However (you knew there’d be a “however”, right?), despite my general enthusiasm I do have criticisms: and they mostly focus on the book’s plot and structure.
First off, it’s much too long. It could easily be cut by 20 to 30% without losing any of the plot, and that would improve the already-good pace no end.
There are too many instances where an important issue is mentioned just before it becomes necessary to the plot: for example, the news that Parl had gold deposits, and that Joel could disable the Loche (the terrifying creatures mentioned in the book’s back cover copy above) if he needed to. These things (there were several others) should have been built more firmly into the plot so that the reader could better appreciate the costs involved when such skills had to be used. The reader wasn’t let into the world of the Loche enough, so it was difficult to empathise with them and so understand more fully why they did what they did; and no explanation was ever given for how Lindsay ended up in Trae in the first place, or why she returned to her own world each time she slept.
The storyline involving the prison was unsatisfying: the prison was little more than a box to keep Lindsay and when she wasn’t visiting Trae and a lot more could have been done with this part of the book: I wanted to see some real resolution here, some more tension; and for events on each side of the story to directly affect the other.
In all, then, the good, enjoyable read which could have been even better had the writer improved the plot, made full use of the situations she created, edited far more ruthlessly and thought more carefully about pace and tension. I believe this is a first novel (I might be wrong): if it is then Ms Chambliss has done remarkably well and I look forward to watching her work improve over the years.
“I love the story and the humour. I totally empathize with Molly, and find her a great role model.”
Sally Zigmond, Hope against Hope
Molly Makepeace Jamison never expects to dabble in Voodoo. But when she discovers that her husband Bob has been stealing away her advertising agency while cavorting with his mistress of many years, she has good reason to adorn his effigy with a few sharp pins. After all, venting a little righteous anger can’t hurt anyone.
But Molly inadvertently taps into something deep and mysterious, and it produces shocking results. When Detective Jonathan Wilson lands on her doorstep with a list of pointed questions, Molly envisions the inside of a prison cell and the bed-lined wards of mental institutions.
She knows she has to save herself. Yet as her new choices produce more highs and lows than Chicago’s weather, she worries that her Voodoo dalliance has taken on a life of its own….
I have to start this review with an apology: Ms Todd sent me this book to review a very long time ago but I misfiled it and it’s only just surfaced again. I do hope she’ll forgive me.
Pins is a cracking read. It trots along at a good pace, it’s funny and kind and warm and it has lovely happy endings for almost all of its good characters and satisfyingly nasty endings for the less likeable ones. The story is great, the characters are very well-rounded and believable, and Ms Todd’s writing is clear and simple and easy to read: I loved it.
I do have a few reservations. I found a small number of minor typos (a couple of extra commas, and some dialogue which was missing a final punctuation mark before its quotation-marks closed) but I was enjoying the book so much when I found them that I didn’t bother to record them; and the writer does have a tendency to use this construction:
- “Struggling to keep myself together, I follow…”
- “Stopping the car in front of a small shop window in the center of a row, I think…”
- “Standing in the central arched doorway of the Passages room, I survey…”
I never like this passive, impersonal construction: it’s clumsy, and it distances me from the character very slightly which is never a good thing. These seemed to appear more frequently towards the end of the text, which made me wonder if Ms Todd had become a little punch-drunk while revising her work. This isn’t such a big problem but it was enough to jar me out of the narrative each time I came across another example of it and this book would be so much better if the use of this phrasing could be reduced or even eliminated. It was the only writerly tic that I noticed, though, which is pretty good going; and despite my finding quite a few examples, it wasn’t enough to stop me reading this already-good book.
I felt that some of the characters weren’t strictly necessary; and that the endings could have been tighter for a few of them; I would have liked a bit more voodoo involved in the story, perhaps involving more than just the main character; and a little more uncertainty and tension about whether or not Molly’s use of voodoo really did have any effect on the people around her. But these are very small points: the book is good just as it is, but could be even better with a bit more of a polish. I can easily imagine a good publisher wanting to take this book on if that’s Ms Todd’s goal; and I will go out of my way to buy anything else this writer has published. I strongly recommend Pins, and am only sorry I took so long to get around to reading this delightful, absorbing book.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A house cleaner becomes the muse to a crazy trophy wife and then finds her status threatened by a newcomer.
A Personal Recommendation
A bright student will do whatever it takes to pay for her education.
You Never Know
The eccentric subjects of a documentary offer more strange behaviour than the filmmakers expected.
Next to Nothing
A bitter catering company employee reaches the breaking point during a party at a wealthy client’s house.
Some siblings live large and others are born to clean up the mess. (Idiot Boy was originally published by Identity Theory.)
First, the bad news. The back cover copy for this book tells me nothing about the book or its author and needs to be substantially reworked; the layout of the front matter needs addressing; and the image on the jacket is muddy and dull, and could be vastly improved (it would help, too, if the title were easier to read). All these things do affect sales, and with self-published books being so difficult to sell it seems foolish to me that so many writers shoot themselves so firmly in the foot by producing covers and layouts which are below par.
And now, on to the writing. The short story is a very difficult form to master. There’s no room for even a single mistake: every word has to earn its keep, and in an anthology every short story has to work alone and in conjunction with the others that it shares space with.
In Red Poppies there are a few glitches in punctuation which I mostly ignored, because I found the writer’s voice so clear and compelling; some of the plots felt a little trite; the writer has a tendency to exposition which on occasion chopped into the flow of text. However, if she continues to refine and improve her work, and reads widely in the genre, I suspect we’ll see more from Ms Miskowski in the future. This a good collection, which could do with a little more polishing and a few more stories: but which nevertheless carries with it echoes of Grace Paley and Aimee Bender. I read it all, and recommend it.
It’s the summer of 1879, and Annie Fuller, a young San Francisco widow, is in trouble. Annie’s husband squandered her fortune before committing suicide five years earlier, and one of his creditors is now threatening to take the boardinghouse she owns to pay off a debt.
Annie Fuller also has a secret. She supplements her income by giving domestic and business advice as Madam Sibyl, one of San Francisco’s most exclusive clairvoyants, and one of Madam Sibyl’s clients, Matthew Voss, has died. The police believe his death was suicide brought upon by bankruptcy, but Annie believes Voss has been murdered and that his assets have been stolen.
Nate Dawson has a problem. As the Voss family lawyer, he would love to believe that Matthew Voss didn’t leave his grieving family destitute. But that would mean working with Annie Fuller, a woman who alternatively attracts and infuriates him as she shatters every notion he ever had of proper ladylike behaviour.
Sparks fly as Anne and Nate pursue the truth about the murder of Matthew Voss in this light-hearted historical mystery set in the foggy gas-lit world of Victorian San Francisco.
The author is currently living in San Diego with her husband and assorted animals, where she is working on Uneasy Spirits, the next instalment of her series of historical mysteries set in Victorian San Francisco. Go to http://www.mlouisalocke.com to find out more about M. Louisa Locke and her work.
Maids of Misfortune is competently written and clicks along at a pretty good pace, once you get over the frequent blocks of exposition which stand in your way. There are a few clichés to interrupt the flow, which could easily be remedied; and a couple of places where a more modern idiom intrudes on an otherwise Victorian world.
It’s a light, bright read which can’t be taken too seriously: and in the end it was this frothiness which let the book down for me. I couldn’t quite believe in any of its rather flimsy characters; the situations which they found themselves in were just a little too sanitised and lacking in depth to fully catch my attention; and despite the author’s evident skill I found her main character almost scarily cheerful, and longed for her to reveal a darker side.
Despite my reservations, though, I read ninety-three pages out of three hundred and twenty-nine, and might well dip back into this book. It is well above the average of the books that I read for this blog, and consequently I’m happy to cautiously recommend it to you.
Her name is Bernadette Elsbeth McIntyre, and she hates it. There’s a whole story about the people in the family she’s named after, people she’s never met, never seen, never heard from, but she tries to not learn it, tries to not remember it. She hates names in general, and her name in particular. She hates the whole concept of names. Names make things real. Names give things substance. Knowing names gives people power. Only someone who knows your name can get you into trouble. Think about it — what’s the first thing the cops always ask you for?
Alone, at home, in bed, he goes again through the long catalog of her imperfections, trying to make sense of this whole thing, trying to scare himself off, away from this whole spooky set of new feelings. Her hair is wild and uneven, her ears stick out a little, her eyes… well, all right, there is absolutely nothing wrong with her big green eyes. Her nose has been broken, and it’s a little crooked, her lips are a tiny bit thicker on the left than the right, her chin is pointy. Her cheekbones, her collarbones, the bones of her wrists and knees, her hipbones, are all just a tiny bit too prominent, her arms and legs a tiny bit too thin. To top all that off, she’s weird — she dresses oddly, shouts at teachers, smashes peas on the lunchroom tables…
Why why why is she the most attractive girl he’s ever seen? Why can’t he stop thinking about her? Why can’t he sleep?
Levi Montgomery lives in Northwest Washington. He has been married for nearly thirty years, and he and his wife have six children, four of whom are active-duty United States military personnel.
Stubbs and Bernadette is an extraordinary book, and Levi Montgomery is a writer of rare potential. He has created some wonderful characters who would veer close to caricature in the hands of a lesser writer: but with him in control they are complex, compelling and utterly believable. I love the stream-of-consciousness flow of his text, and the intimacy and subtlety with which he writes.
Where he lets himself down, though, is in the editing of his work. He frequently takes far too long to make his point; he makes the same point over and over, which gets a little irritating for the reader; and he makes far too much of some things which add nothing to the forward movement of his story, or to the depth of his characterisations.
Stubbs And Bernadette is readable and enchanting: but it would be significantly better if a good editor got her hands on it and helped Montgomery pare away all of his unnecessary meanderings. It would result in a tighter, more compelling narrative without sacrificing any of the beauty and subtlety of Montgomery’s text. I read fifty-two pages out of two hundred and two in order to reach my score of fifteen: but I will be reading this on to the end, and despite its flaws I recommend it wholeheartedly. It’s a beautiful, bewitching book with the potential to be even better.
The day the Berlin Wall came down, Jennifer returned to England, leaving her week-old daughter, Szandi, to grow up on a Hungarian vineyard with 300 years of history. Now 18, Szandi is part of Budapest’s cosmopolitan art scene, sharing a flat and a bohemian lifestyle with her lover and fellow sculptress, Yang. She has finally found a place in the world. Then a letter arrives that threatens everything, and forces her to choose once and for all: between the past and the present; between East and West; between her family and her lover.
Quirky, contemporary, and ultra-cool; sensuous, seductive, and heartbreaking: Songs from the Other Side of the Wall is a coming of age story that inhabits anti-capitalists chatrooms and ancient wine cellars, seedy bars and dreaming spires; and takes us on a remarkable journey across Europe and cyberspace in the company of rock stars and dropouts, diaries that appear from nowhere, a telepathic fashion mogul, and the talking statue of a bull.
I found a few things to criticise in the production of this book: its cover image is far too low-resolution to work well; its front-matter and end-matter are jumbled and unfocused and so fail to do their jobs properly; but the typesetting of the main text is elegant and spacious and very readable, which immediately set it apart from most of the books I have looked at for this blog. Some of the characters used in the italic fonts were overly heavy and so distracting, and really should be corrected; but that’s a tiny thing which I hope will be resolved in subsequent editions of this book.
And now onto the really important stuff.
Dan Holloway writes with a wistful, writerly tone which he handles with great skill. However, he hasn’t edited this book rigorously enough and so at times his writing is overly complex or descriptive (or both), which drags down his pacing. He risks losing his readers’ attention because of this which would be a shame: but it could be easily fixed if he could force himself to be a more ruthless editor. I would also like to see more variation in tone: while wistful is good it can get rather wearying if it’s not lightened occasionally with joy or laughter of some kind, and I wonder if this is something that Dan might find more difficult to fix.
Please don’t think that I’m dismissing Songs From The Other Side Of The Wall: I’m not. Despite my criticisms I think that this is a lovely book written in that rare thing: beautiful, lyrical prose. Dan Holloway is a writer of talent and great potential who we should hear more from. I read it all and recommend it.
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.
“I know you don’t see it, but deep inside, I see a girl who is strong, who deeply cares about others and who will fight for what is right. And besides,” he said in a whisper, “You were right… I have been looking for you.”
“This is such an original and unique story…. Christina crafted a beautiful story with a wonderful purpose that involves a lot of the issues that our planet is having today.” -Fantastic Book Review
WHEN SOFT-SPOKEN TATIANA TURNS 18, SHE BEGINS TO EXPERIENCE UNUSUAL CHANGES. Suddenly, she can read minds, sense emotions and move at a speed that far surpasses anything she’s known before. When her physical features begin to change as well, Tatiana tries desperately to keep her new abilities are secret. Amidst tragedy, unimaginable transformations and an unexpected friendship, Tatiana has to learn to reveal the girl hidden behind her Illusions and what it means to face the world in order to preserve not only the forest but her very existence.
CHRISTINA HARNER spent years studying the complexities of culture for her B.A. A lover of all things fantasy, creating imaginary beings and stories in her head, she is thrilled to finally blend her passions for anthropology, nature and the unknown realm of fairies together in this debut book.
This book presented me with all sorts of problems. I found plenty of mistakes and editing issues inside it; and yet I just kept reading and on many occasions I didn’t mark those mistakes down because the writing held my attention far too well.
Don’t get me wrong: it is in need of a strong edit. There is far too much repetition. The writer often takes several scenes to make her point when only one is really needed and this means that the pacing is far too slow and the book is far too long for its young adult audience. There’s a lot of exposition; and there were several instances where although I think I understood what the writer meant she had actually written something completely different. These are all things which could easily be corrected by a good edit and buried beneath all these problems there is probably a very good book, albeit a much shorter one. Despite those problems I read all four hundred and ninety three pages of this book, and I enjoyed almost everyone. If Ms Harner pays sufficient attention to developing her editing skills alongside her writing, she could be a name for us to watch out for in the future.
Ghost Notes is a worthy contribution to the pantheon of rock novels. This is a savvy, sharp, insider’s view of the rise and fall of a band and what can be lost and found along the way.
-Mark Lindquist, author of Never Mind Nirvana and The King of Methlehem
Engrossing, real, and well-written… the characters are reliable and honest.
-Laurie Notaro, author of There’s a (slight) Chance I Might Be Going to Hell: A Novel of Sewer Pipes, Pageant Queens, and Big Trouble
Ghost Notes is the Almost Famous for the minor leaguers of rock ‘n’ roll. I read it straight through and loved it.
-Curtis Grippe, Arizona Republic/Dead Hot Workshop
A bass player ready to jump ship from his mega-band, a drifter who hasn’t seen his son for twenty years, a sixteen-year-old high school dropout who is going to rock the world come hell or high water, what melodies will pour forth from these rock ‘n’ roll hearts?
Art Edwards, co-founder and former bass player of the Refreshments, has published two novels, Ghost Notes and Stuck outside of Phoenix, and has released one solo album, Songs from Memory. To learn more about art, visit http://www.ArtEdwards.com.
When I was a junior editor one of my duties was to deal with the slush-pile. It was a miserable thing to do, with the bulk of the work it contained far too bad to be publishable; too bad to even be interesting. I’d sit there reading through each submission hoping, every time, that I’d find something good. Something sparky, well-written, original, exciting: but I never did. I had a few near-misses; there were a few submissions which made me hold my breath, just for a moment; which made me think, perhaps—but almost every time the writing would stumble, the direction would change, and into the rejection-pile it would go.
The few times I found a book with real potential—with writing which caught my attention and a premise that made me sit back and smile—I’d feel an odd moment of stillness and silence, a hesitation in time. I’d hear a voice saying, “there—you didn’t expect that, did you?” It didn’t happen often but when it did, it was magical.
I had one of those magical moments when I read Art Edwards’ book, Ghost Notes.
It’s the story of Hote, a troubled bass player with Fun Yung Moon, a touring rock band with a fading reputation. When Hote abandons Fun Yung Moon in the middle of a tour he encounters Pippy, who has dropped out of high school to be a musician.
There is a poignancy to Art’s writing which gives his book a rare authenticity. I believed everything he wrote, even the chapter from a drummer in rock and roll heaven who addressed us while reclining on a cloud. I found his sparse, gritty prose quietly lyrical: Art Edwards has a real writerly talent.
My only quibble lies with the multiple viewpoints we encounter through Art’s book. While all of his characters are beautifully drawn and fully motivated, their voices do not differ from each other sufficiently to make it clear who is speaking in new each chapter and, as the book is written from a first person point of view throughout, this is particularly troublesome. Had I been editing this book for Art this is the one area I would have advised him to work hard on: resolving this problem would have eliminated the confusion I sometimes felt as I read through the book and it would have enhanced and improved the texture of his multi-layered narrative, giving his already-good book much more depth and scope.
There were a few typos (including that run-on sentence in his back cover copy, quoted above—if you read this, Art, fix it, please!) but they were just about invisible to me because of the quality of Art’s writing. I loved every page of this book despite its flaws, and will be buying his other novel, Stuck Outside of Phoenix, and perhaps his music too. As writers go, he’s the real thing and this book is a lovely, memorable read.