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Posts Tagged ‘repetitive’

The Fall (The Rift, Book 1), by Robert J Duperre

March 29, 2012 8 comments

[This book has no back cover copy]

 

The Fall suffers from some big problems. The first is a series of careless errors which litters its pages: not only did I find problems with apostrophe-use and grammar, there were a few instances of exposition which explained things which were actually wrong. For example, the information given about how one of the characters funded his academic research, and what that research was meant to achieve, is at odds with how academic research really works. Had the author spent just ten minutes checking his facts I’d have been able to find his story much more believable. What makes it worse is that the information provided in that chunk of exposition wasn’t at all necessary to the story and could easily have been cut.

The bigger problem, though, was the tone of the writing.

The narrative frequently lapses into a lecturing, disapproving tone which I found thoroughly off-putting. The implication is that ancient civilisations were good and modern ones are bad; and that ancient knowledge was insightful and inspiring while modern technology renders our civilisation crass and insensitive. This, coupled with a stereotypical, somewhat dismissive view of today’s South American culture gave the book an unsympathetic and judgemental edge which made me reluctant to read on.

If the writer could introduce more variety of tone, could learn to not present things in such a black and white way, and could manage to be more sympathetic to his characters, then this book would be significantly improved; and once he manages that a scrupulous copyedit would resolve the book’s other issues. Whether this would be enough to change this from an ordinary predictable read into an exciting and interesting one, I’m not so sure. I read eleven of this book’s three hundred and thirty nine pages.

Remix, by Lexi Revellian

March 1, 2012 2 comments

Fun, grit and coiled menace…

Andrew Wrigley

REMIX

Caz Tallis is living her dream, restoring rocking horses in her London workshop.

When shabby but charismatic Joe and his dog turn up on her roof terrace, she is reluctantly drawn into investigating a rock star’s murder from three years before — an unsolved case the police have closed.

Somebody is prepared to kill to prevent it being reopened. Caz needs to find out who, but is her judgement clouding as she falls in love?

Lexi Revellian really can tell a story, with an enviable economy of effort, and this book deserves to go all the way. Excellent stuff.

Elspeth Cooper, author of The Wild Hunt

Great characters, great story, pacy lucid style.

Ali McKay

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Lexi Revellian has a lovely light touch, she’s quick to get to the action, the premise on which she bases Remix is interesting, and her prose rolls along nicely: but all this is overshadowed by a series of basic errors which slow the pace of her work and bounce the reader out of the text, and distance them from the story — which is exactly what writers should try their hardest not to do. This is especially irritating in the case of Ms Revellian, who shows such promise: if she could learn to eradicate such problems from her writing her work would automatically jump up a couple of notches, and if that happens I can see her doing very well indeed.

So, what were the problems I found? The usual suspects, I’m afraid. There were a few instances of inconsistent punctuation, a random capitalisation or two, a few contradictions and some sentences which didn’t quite make sense in the context in which they appeared, which made me wonder if they were lone survivors from an earlier draft. All these things distracted my attention from the text, which is a bad thing: but these things could easily be fixed and they didn’t worry me too much: if they were the only problems with the text they wouldn’t be enough to put off an interested agent or publisher, and they didn’t stop me reading. But two issues kept on popping up, and I found them really troublesome: and they’re much more serious than the other things I’ve listed, as they are likely to be deal breakers for some readers.

Ms Revellian has a fondness for hammering her point home with big chunks of exposition. I understand that sometimes the reader needs to be told things; and that a properly-placed piece of exposition can up the stakes and keep the pace trotting nicely along: but that’s not how Ms Revellian uses exposition, and so the overall effect was to slow the pace to an unacceptable degree.

What I found more troubling was her characters’ lack of proper emotional depth. It meant that I simply couldn’t understand why they often acted as they did, and consequently I didn’t believe that the story would have unfolded the way it did.

For example, the book’s heroine, Caz Tallis, wakes up one morning to find a stranger sleeping on her roof terrace and barely questions it; before we know it she is inviting him in for coffee. Does this character have serious problems in social situations? Is she unaware of how to react to events outside the norm? I couldn’t believe this point and judging by some of the less-favourable reviews Ms Revellian’s work has received on Amazon, I’m not alone. I’m not convinced that anyone could make a living restoring rocking horses (although I understand that this is a hobby of Ms Revellian’s, which is perhaps why she chose to write about it); and [ tiny spoiler alert! ] as Joe turns out to be living under an assumed name, because under his real identity he has been declared dead, I don’t see how he could have completed all of the paperwork required to bring a stray dog back from France, nor why he would have tried to do so bearing in mind the risk of discovery inherent in such an act.

Overall then, a flawed book from a writer with potential. I read 32 pages out of 266 and hope that Ms Revellian resolves these two main issues in her future works, so that I can enjoy them more.

Mousetrapped, by Catherine Ryan Howard

February 16, 2012 13 comments

Three big dreams, two mouse ears and one J-1 visa. What could possibly go wrong in the happiest place on earth?

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.

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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!

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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.

The Discovery of Socket Greeny: Tony Bertauski

October 5, 2011 3 comments

SOCKET ALWAYS FELT LIKE THE PEOPLE AROUND HIM WERE A BUNCH OF FAKES.

HE WAS RIGHT.

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The Discovery of Socket Greeny proved rather tricky for me to review. It’s confusing, inconsistent, the characters behave bizarrely for little apparent reason, and there are many instances of heavily overwritten text: but the writer’s voice is strong and compelling, and despite the book’s flaws I enjoyed this quirky read.

It does need work. While the text is clean enough some editing is still required: there are several places where the text could be significantly tightened, particularly in the many dream-like sequences (there’s a distinction between “atmospheric” and “poncey” which I suspect this writer is not yet fully aware of); the word “essence” is horribly overused; and the writer really needs to learn how to avoid constructions which make his sentences laugh-out-loud wrong. For example, on page twenty-eight we find this:

Mom waited at the office door. She pushed her hair behind her ear, it fell back, and took a deeper breath than usual.

I can tell what the author meant; but he’s written that Mom’s hair was breathing, which doesn’t work at all. If that were the only example of this particular grammatical stumble that I found in the book I would be more forgiving: but there were several, and each one made me wince. Mistakes like these add up quickly and have a very detrimental effect on the reader’s enjoyment of the book. It’s the sort of thing that a good editor would spot: and I can’t help thinking that if Mr. Bertauski had worked with a good editor, I would be recommending this book to you now. I read thirty-seven of two hundred and sixty-eight pages and am rather disappointed that this particular book couldn’t show itself off a little better.

Root Cause: James W Crissman

September 21, 2011 10 comments

When Bruce Dinkle takes up the cause of eating only local food, his zeal badly exceeds his judgement. After alienating his family by enforcing a strict locavore and urban agriculturist lifestyle, he abandons them by bicycle on a quixotic quest to learn where food comes from. He quickly becomes enmeshed in a small Michigan farming community where he goes to work for a large crop farmer, meets a sagacious veterinarian, and falls for a randy goat lady, all part of a sprawling cast of characters who enliven this often hilarious, mix of food, family, sex, and a little violence down on the farm. Think Michael Pollan meets James Herriot and Carl Hiaasen.

James W. Crissman is a veterinary pathologist and former large animal veterinarian. He is the author of a 1998 Pudding House Publications chapbook, Jailbait in Holy Water, and has won numerous prizes for his poetry. His short story, Wallhangers, won the 2007 Dirt Rag literature contest. Root Cause: the story of a food fight fugitive is his first novel. Jim and his veterinarian wife Jill live on a small farm in central Michigan where they’ve grown three children and much of their food for more than twenty years.

“We know there is tragedy and drama in obsession, but sometimes we forget that there can be something wonderfully comic in it, too. James Crissman reminds us of this with Bruce Dinkle, the richly weird protagonist of ROOT CAUSE, who sacrifices everything from family to dignity in his effort to find the right way to live. He is Don Quixote for our time — silly, misguided, and just maybe absolutely necessary.”

Keith Taylor, Creative Writing Coordinator, University of Michigan and author of If the World Becomes so Bright.

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There is much to like about Root Cause: its characters are reasonably well-drawn, the premise is interesting, and it’s full of black humour which is quite delicious at times. But all these things are overshadowed — not to a great degree, but enough to be significant — by problems which could easily have been fixed with a rigorous edit.

There were a few typos and punctuation errors: Mr. Crissman is over-fond of commas; and he is prone to overwriting and to writing complex sentences with long words when simpler and shorter would be better. Many of the pages that I read were given over entirely to exposition, and to telling the reader what was happening and how the characters felt, rather than showing us the nuances that makes reading so much more rewarding.

The story didn’t actually get going until page seventeen, which is far too late: and by that time I’d already been lectured at several times as Mr. Crissman banged his point home and then repeated himself, just to be sure we got it. Scenes which should have been sharp and pacey (for example, pages twenty six to twenty nine, if anyone’s counting) felt rushed and flat, and were unsatisfying as a result.

These points are not minor but they could be addressed by a ruthless rewrite. It would vastly improve this book which, despite all the flaws I’ve listed, has great potential. I came so close to recommending it but decided not to because there are so many issues with it: but I’m convinced that beneath all the clutter there’s a good novel here, from a clever writer who is bound to get better. I read thirty pages out of this book’s three hundred and eight. Mr. Crissman mighth like to read Alice Monroe and Carol Shields so that he can see what to aim for: and I look forward to watching his talent develop in the years to come.

I Serve: Roseanne E Lortz

September 14, 2011 7 comments

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

Set against the turbulent backdrop of the Hundred Years’ War, I SERVE chronicles the story of Sir John Potenhale. A young Englishman of lowly birth, Potenhale wins his way to knighthood on the fields of France. He enters the service of Edward, the Black Prince of Wales, and immerses himself in a stormy world of war, politics, and romantic intrigue.

While campaigning in France, Potenhale developed an interest in Margery, a spirited lady-in-waiting with a close-kept secret. He soon learns that Sir Thomas Holland, a crass and calculating baron, holds the key to unlock Margery’s mystery and possesses the power to overturn all of his hopes.

When the Black Death strikes Europe, however, Potenhale realizes that the fiercest enemy does not always appear in human form. Seeing the pestilence as a punishment for the sins of his generation, he questions his calling as a knight and considers entering the cloister. Margery or the monastery? Torn between losing his soul and losing the love of his life, he finds friendship with a French knight who might-just possibly-help him save both.

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I read very little historical fiction: it’s a genre I’ve never really developed a liking for, with the exception of the wonderful books by Elizabeth Chadwick, whose novels I adore. I’m always very aware of my lack of appreciation of this genre, and so when I review historical fiction I always try to overcome my personal feelings and judge the text on its merits, and not my own biases. I Serve: A Novel of the Black Prince only reinforced my lack of interest in the genre, I’m afraid. It had the usual sprinkling of errors in punctuation; but my overwhelming feeling with this book is that it lacks authenticity.

There were several reasons for this. The author has included a handful of details which don’t ring true: for example, an out-of-breath horse is described as having “heaving withers”: as withers are a horse’s shoulders that seems very unlikely to me; and a character snaps “a single blossom” from a broom plant: brooms have lots of tiny pea-like flowers on each branch and a single one wouldn’t take much snapping nor would it be at all impressive.

Then comes the dialogue. It’s stilted, overly formal, owes more to the movies of Errol Flynn than to history, and it really interferes with the authenticity of this text. Add to this frequent bouts of exposition, a tendency to over-write, some repetition, and a pace that at times feels draggingly slow and at other times hurried, and I’m surprised that I read as far as I did. I reached page forty four of this three hundred and sixty one page book, and wasn’t sorry to put it aside.

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 Rewritten Word: How To Sculpt Literary Art No Matter The Genre: Aggie Villanueva

July 14, 2011 8 comments

“This is really excellent advice and something many authors need. I know it will be extremely helpful not only to beginning writers but to experienced writers as well.” ~Lillie Ammann, Author and Editor at lillieammann.com

The only How-To-Write book that has nothing to do with writing. It’s all about rewriting.

Whittle away what buries the art of your words beneath pulp, no matter the topic, no matter the genre.

Aggie Villanueva is a bestselling novelist, author publicist, blogger and critically acclaimed photographic artist represented by galleries nationwide, including Xanadu Gallery in Scottsdale, AZ. For decades peers have described Aggie as a whirlwind that draws others into her vortex.

And no wonder. She was a published author at Thomas Nelson before she was 30, taught at nationwide writing conferences, and over the years worked on professional product launches with the likes of Denise Cassino, a foremost Joint Venture Specialist. Aggie founded Visual Arts Junction blog February 2009 and by the end of the year it was voted #5 at Predators & Editors in the category “Writers’ Resource, Information & News Source.” Under the Visual Arts Junction umbrella she also founded  VAJ Buzz Club –where members combine their individual marketing power, and Promotion á la Carte where authors purchase promotional services only as needed.

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The Rewritten Word is a small book with few pages; and those pages are printed in a large font, making this book a very short read. But sadly it’s not an absorbing read, nor is it an easy one.

Despite telling us that we must cut all extraneous discussion from our work, the author makes most of her own points several times; despite banging on about the importance of ensuring that our writing is crystal clear most of the writing in this book is verbose and confusing; and despite the author insisting at length that we mustn’t allow our writing to be boring… well. You get the picture.

The claim on the back cover copy that this is “the only How-To-Write book that has nothing to do with writing. It’s all about rewriting” sounds clever but it isn’t true: what about Browne and King’s wonderful Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, or Strunk and White’s useful but somewhat dictatorial The Elements of Style?

Ms Villanueva’s attempts to rewrite other people’s rambling paragraphs in a more clear and concise style resulted in text which was almost unintelligible; she provides a long quote from someone else’s website which takes up nearly five pages out of her book’s sixty pages (plus six lines in order to provide a web-link to the original blog—twice); but she provides no acknowledgement of the original author’s permission for her to do so, and I have to wonder if she even asked. I could go on but it feels a little like shooting fish in a barrel.

I read thirteen pages out of sixty, all the time wondering if Ms Villanueva would get to her point or write something sensible: I was disappointed. There are much better books to be had about writing and editing: for example, my friend Nicola Morgan’s fabulous Write To Be Published, which is better than this in all sorts of ways.

Bastard Husband — A Love Story, by Linda Lou

June 9, 2011 8 comments

MEMOIR

“What happens in Vegas…

… doesn’t often find itself captured in prose as vibrantly as it does in Bastard Husband: A Love Story. On her thrill ride through romance, marriage, and divorce, Linda Lou paints a vivid picture of what it’s like to forge a new life as an ‘ageing nymph’ in Sin city.” ~Megan Edwards, Managing Editor, http://www.Living-Las-Vegas.com

A week after I arrived in Sin City, I attended a divorce support group I found in the local newspaper listed between Cross-Dressers of Las Vegas and Friends and Family of Incarcerated People. (And I thought I had problems.) As I sat among a circle of strangers waiting for my turn to share, I glanced at the Absolutely No Swearing sign hanging from the ceiling and thought, this will be a challenge.

“I’m Linda,” I began, “I have no husband, no job, and you people are my only friends.” Everyone laughed at my pathetic truth. ~LINDA LOU

Balancing poignancy and edgy humour, Linda Lou reflects on the troubled relationship that prompted this story and leads readers through a hodgepodge of emotions as fast as a Vegas buffet—from the sadness of a failed relationship and the questioning of her spiritual convictions to the thrill of exploring the neon nightlife and the triumph of performing stand-up comedy for the first time at age 46.

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Bastard Husband: A Love Story is a memoir of divorce and life in Las Vegas and although I found it perfectly readable and mostly error-free, I’m afraid that I didn’t warm to the narrator. Some of the scenes she described were terribly sad and her ex-husband’s treatment of her was abusive; and yet she chose to tell her story in a joke-filled style which stripped the poignancy from her words and instead made the book a brittle and uncomfortable read. She also has a habit of hammering her points home, which again reduces the effectiveness of the text; and she needs to brush up on her comma-use to, as she often uses them when they’re not required and so slows her narrative.

It’s so close to being good: but because of the problems I encountered I read just thirteen pages out of two hundred and sixty. I’d like to see this book rewritten to introduce more variety of tone, and then edited stringently. Some more positive scenes would be a useful addition, as would a little more empathy and a little less desperate humour. If that work were carried out this could well become a tight, enjoyable read: but as it is, it’s too slow and laboured, with a constant background of unresolved sadness which made me feel quite uncomfortable.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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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