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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.

Dreaming of Deliverance: R E Chambliss

August 17, 2011 7 comments

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?

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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.

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.

ASO: Lindsey Mackie

It has taken ruthless dedication for Rachel Develin to achieve her in the status as a Fidelis Officer in ASO, a society born from the remains of old Britain. Here in 2050, the role of the family has been redefined and, under the leadership of Magnamater Beatrice, people live in age-related regions. In Abovo, trained professionals named Maters rear all children before they graduate to Suris, where they stay and contribute until they reach 55 and are obliged to resort to Olim. It is a time of limited resources when all energy and water supplies are strictly controlled, each garment is recycled and every child is an eagerly awaited prize.

Rachel’s highly developed physical and intellectual abilities have always commanded respect, but privately the strain is now telling. While her fragile union with Ben has survived his infidelities, she struggles to suppress the need to be with her daughter, Bera, and to ignore the growing social unrest.

Her latest assignment begins with a routine interrogation, but her investigations are forced in a more unpredictable direction by the unaccountable Death of her superior officer, Josie Kitchener, with whom she has had a long and volatile relationship.

Her discoveries, and the punishments she must administer and endure, force stark choices that irreversibly change her loyalties and threaten the stability of ASO itself.

Accompanied by a CD featuring original music tracks written and performed by the author.

Aso is a perfect example of why editors are needed. The author has a tendency to slightly wooden and over-formal dialogue, and her writing is occasionally rather muddled, an effect which is exacerbated by her habit of head-hopping. Despite these faults she does have a mostly smooth and fluent style—which she then scuppers with numerous errors in punctuation, which range from minor errors to problems which completely cloud her intended meaning.

This tendency to confusion—both in the writing style and the misuse of punctuation—leads to a rather unsatisfactory read of a book which might well have shone had it been edited more effectively.

Mackie shows promise: she seems proficient at world-building, and there is an undercurrent of a lovely, lyrical tone: but she needs to pay more attention to detail, and to have more awareness of some of the pitfalls of the craft of writing, if she is going to fully realise that promise. I read eleven pages out of three hundred and three.

This review should have been published a long time ago: my apologies for its delay.

The Wave Queen: Caroline Harris

May 27, 2010 2 comments

Adventure Romance Suspense

After inheriting a diary written by a 19th century ship’s cook, together with a handwritten will and USA naturalisation papers I was inspired to tell the story of the voyage of the Wave Queen, a merchant vessel, from Shoreham, England to Valparaiso, Chile in the year 1872.
Three years of research and the book became a fictional adventure story based on fact.
The hero, Charles Hamilton-Bashford is an eighteen year old Eton School-boy. He recklessly squanders his five thousand pound annual allowance and being hard-pressed for the payment of debts, begs his father to give him an advance. On refusal he in his desperation steals and forges his father’s cheque to settle his debts.
Charles’ father, a retired Major and a respected Magistrate, discovers the forgery and sends Charles to serve on a cargo ship separating him from his sweetheart, Florry.
Charles escapes before the ship sails, and reaches his aunt ‘s London home only to be recaptured and sent back to the Wave Queen.

Meanwhile Florry is propelled into a series of tumultuous events.

What adventures will befall them ?
Will he returned to England?
Will he ever be re-united with Florry?

The Wave Queen is full of careless errors. I found misplaced commas, missing quotation marks, inconsistent formatting, comma splices, and some random capitalisations. Charles, its central character, uses a modern idiom throughout while his father talks more like Mr. Banks, the father in Mary Poppins; and the heavies who visit Charles in order to encourage him to pay his debts complete our Disney picture by talking a pastiche of English which owes more to Dick Van Dyke than to 1872, the year in which this book is set.

The author has failed quite spectacularly with some of her more basic research: for example, she provides Charles with an annual allowance of £5,000 which equates to an income of £2.7m today which could be possible, I suppose, but it’s a heck of an amount for an eighteen-year-old to have unsupervised access to while at boarding school.

The text lacks detail, colour and sophistication and despite my very best attempts to be lenient, I read just three pages of it.

Songs From The Other Side Of The Wall: Dan Holloway

May 20, 2010 3 comments

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.

Einstein And Human Consciousness (Eternity Is An Instant): Brad Buettner

April 22, 2010 6 comments

HEALTH/INSPIRATION

Which is more important: the practical or the sublime? Are you a Doer or a Dreamer? Brad Buettner has over twenty-four years of experience utilizing his physics degree in a wide array of engineering and management assignments. With this background he examines early twentieth-century physics and human relationships observed during his professional tenure to illustrate how Einstein’s theory of relativity pertains to our perception of time and how it explains divisions in our outlook. By applying the theory of relativity to human consciousness, Buettner discovers the motivation for personal inclination toward either the practical or the abstract.

Buettner defines total reality as containing more than the reality our senses perceive. When discussing alternate forms of reality, however, he insists on measurable and observable conclusions, eliminating references to mysticism, magic, or mystery. He outlines an engaging search for the unlikely possibility of interaction with the reality that existed before the Big Bang.

Einstein in Human Consciousness: Eternity is an Instant provides stunning revelations concerning human reality. Does your world extend beyond that perceived by the physical senses? If so, why? Buettner offers the answers to these questions by explaining an aspect of reality that was previously elusive.

Brad Buettner received physics and metallurgical degrees from Benedictine and Lehigh Universities, which he applied to a varied career in engineering and management. He’s lived or worked in New York City, Baltimore, Princeton, and the Chicago area. He has a wife and two sons and currently resides in the Chicago suburbs.

Brad Buettner might have written his book Einstein and Human Consciousness: Eternity is an Instant around an interesting theory, and he certainly has an easy, fluent writing style. But both were spoiled for me by his repeated reassurances that I would be able to understand his reasoning if I only tried, even if I wasn’t very highly educated. I found some of his comments about this patronising, and at times almost insulting.

When Buettner commented, “Dreamers have a different view of reality than Doers, and the reason is that Dreamers concentrate on a different reality altogether. Dreamers have found a peculiar aspect of human consciousness that has different properties than the physical reality that our senses detect” I wonder if he realised that he was casting Dreamers as “other”?

Buettner is at his best when he explains proven, accepted concepts: his account of relative time is clear, elegant and interesting. His writing is good; his text is beautifully error-free. But in trying to reach a wider audience he’s only succeeded in patronising us all; and he’s perhaps revealed more about himself than he had planned to in places. I stopped reading on page nine, when I came across this:

Imagine the ridicule simpler minds must have given Einstein when they first heard his proposal.

I don’t like the implication that anyone less clever than Einstein (which, let’s face it, includes pretty much most of us) would have automatically ridiculed him for proposing his theory: most, I suspect, would have asked him questions and tried to understand it for themselves. The human race is usually more curious than it is judgemental: if we weren’t, we would never have escaped our more superstitious beliefs and reached the moon. Because of that I’m not going to judge Mr. Buettner for apparently thinking so little of his readers: instead I’m going to wonder how much better his book would have been if he’d worked with someone who challenged his ideas and edited out all of his more patronising bits. How good could it have been then?

Ghost Notes: Art Edwards

February 18, 2010 2 comments

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.

Outside The Lavender Closet: Martha A Taylor

October 22, 2009 2 comments

Fiction

What is it that makes us straight or gay?
Is it environment or genetics?
Choice, chance or maybe even persuasion?

The answer to this age-old question is one that fledgling writer Margaret Allen sets out to discover as she endeavors to complete her first book. Taking on a subject she believes she knows well, she begins a very human odyssey, examining the lives of gay women, all of whom come from diverse backgrounds and mindsets.

Among those whom we meet are —

the florist, whose parents try to “cure” her of her homosexuality;
the twins who, separated at birth, live their lives at opposite ends of the economic spectrum;
the radiant redhead and her three failed marriages;
the poet who spent most of her young adult years as a nun;
the Kentucky woman who, as a new bride, makes a rather shocking discovery;
and the non-verbal, wheelchair-bound woman, who is a political activist with an extraordinary ability to communicate.

As we share in their deeply personal narratives, Margaret’s book ultimately raises the question: “Are relationships between two women really all that different than heterosexual ones?”

Outside the Lavender Closet brings to life a collection of contemporary stories inspired by actual women and true events.

Martha A Taylor’s Outside the Lavender Closet: Inspired by True Stories is affectionately-written and has an easy charm to it: I genuinely liked the narrator and her group of friends and I wanted the book to do well, but in the end it was let down by a series of careless errors which include all the usual suspects: punctuation, spelling, grammar, homophone substitution, cliché, and some rather odd logic.

That list of errors sounds much more damning than it should. There were lots of errors, and the text is often clumsy: in order to bring this book up to a publishable standard it needs to be completely rewritten, to sort out all the confusion and unbelievable dialogue; it needs a very strong edit to make it coherent and tight; and it needs a full copy-edit to clear away all those irritating errors. That’s a lot of work, none of which would be worth doing on a text which was completely substandard: but I think it’s worth doing here because despite all of its problems this one has a warmth and a character to it which most of the books I’ve reviewed here lack. It might well turn out to be a bit of a treasure if it were properly worked up. As it is, it’s just not good enough, I’m afraid, and I read just three of its one hundred and forty-nine pages.

A Voyage beyond Reason: Tom Gauthier

September 24, 2009 5 comments

He Dared to Dream an Impossible Dream.He Risked Body and Soul to Make it Real.

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“A VOYAGE BEYOND REASON”

On September 13, 1996, twenty four year old Benjamin Wade set out on a solo voyage in a tiny sea kayak. As he pushed off from the shores of San Felipe, his goal lay 6,000 miles away – and deep within his own soul. The chance discovery of his journals, buried on a Colombian cliff above the sea, uncovered a mystery which took many years to finally solve. His journals tell of misery and elation, of triumph and failure, of insight and insanity. Follow the events which will forge his character, and follow the mind of a young man set on achieving a dream that no amount of misfortune can dissuade him from reaching…on a journey that challenges his survival, and brings him face to face with himself.

Tom Gauthier weaves the word pictures and intimate thoughts of Benjamin Wade into a gripping story of the struggle for survival and the reshaping of a young life in a way that few of us could imagine.

As with so many of the books I’ve reviewed here, Tom Gauthier’s A Voyage Beyond Reason: An Epic of Survival Based on the Original Journals of Benjamin Wade is let down by the writing, which is often overdone and frequently relies on clever tricks rather than on good writing to make the author’s point. I found inconsistencies in the tense used; an intrusive amount of passive voice; a couple of contradictions in the text, and homophone substitutions; there were several missing hyphens and the author would do well to cut his comma-use by half. But what irritated me most was the significance with which Benjamin Wade’s name was used in the early parts of the text: this implied that I should know who he was, but no information about him was given to support that implication.

Despite that, this is one of the better books I’ve looked at here. With a strong edit it could be vastly improved and it has real potential to make a fascinating read if that is done: but as it is, I found my fifteen mistakes within its first seven pages. A shame.

Gambling For Good Mail: Evelyn Cole

July 9, 2009 2 comments

Take a romp through contemporary Southern California culture—self-help groups, weird addictions, drive-in religion, romance novel contest, time-share sales, serial marriages, chiropractic manipulations, and stuffed pets—all shadowed by an unusual and tragic love story.

A Connecticut transplant in King Disney’s Court, Felicia Wood gambles for good mail that comes from catalogue orders. She runs from memories and skims the surface of life, cluttering her home with bonus gifts. “Sometimes I think I should think,” Felicia says, “But now is not the time,” and she plunges in. So should you.

In Gambling for Good Mail, Evelyn Cole has written a book with real potential. But it has are several problems: there’s a bitty feel to the text, and quite a few typos (including several missing closing quote-marks); but, judging by the portion that I read, the problems are nothing a strong line-edit couldn’t fix and many could be resolved by a decent copy-editor.

The front cover is okay, but not great; I think that the title could be improved; the author photo isn’t the best I’ve seen and the back cover copy is absolutely dire. But Felicia is a very engaging main character and the writer’s warm and funny tone and make this book very accessible and easy to read. I’ve not read right to the end so it’s quite possible that the plot falls to pieces along the way, or the tone fails at some point: but the writing is significantly better than competent and had it been polished some more, I think it would have had real potential for being taken on by a mainstream romance line. As it is, I read fifty-five pages out of four hundred and twenty-six, and thoroughly enjoyed them all.

Not Remembered, Never Forgotten: Bob Hafetz

June 25, 2009 2 comments

“On a compelling journey searching for his family of origin, Bob Hafetz explores the emotional ride that adoptees take while searching for their birth families. His ability to express his feelings make this profound book a primer for everyone who wants to understand underlying issues for adoptees. A beautiful book that you will not want to put down.”

Not Remembered Never Forgotten is in desperate need of a stringent line-edit. The text is far too often vague, confusing or reliant on opinion or assumption rather than research or hard fact; a couple of sentences are so poorly-written they are nonsensical; and in one particular case it’s stated that people only adopt because they can’t have biological children, which simply isn’t the case. A strong edit would resolve all of these problems and produce a tighter, more coherent book with greatly-improved pacing and flow.

Then there are the careless errors: there is a punctuation error in the subtitle; a spelling mistake in the quote which is used to introduce the book; and several typos which really should have been corrected before this book was published. It’s a shame because despite all of the problems I’ve listed this is a reasonably well-written book which isn’t nearly as bad as many of the others I’ve reviewed here. I read as far as the tenth page, and I was disappointed not to have to read further.

My Splendid Concubine: Lloyd Lofthouse

November 2, 2008 Leave a comment

“No Westerner has ever achieved Robert Hart’s status and level of power in China. Driven by a passion for his adopted country, Hart became the “godfather of China’s modernism,” inspector general of China’s Customs Services, and the builder of China’s railroads, postal and telegraph systems, and schools. But his first real love is Ayaou, a young concubine.”

By the time I reached the top of page seven of My Splendid Concubine I’d found my fifteen errors, most of which were down to problems with punctuation. There were also a few errors of context, and a few issues which are typical of the inexperienced writer.

I really wanted this book to do better: it tells a mostly-true story which has the potential to be fascinating. A little more writing experience, a rewrite and a stringent edit might fix the problems that I found but as it stands, it doesn’t measure up to commercial standards.

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