Pins: Christine Todd

June 23, 2011

“Witty, insightful, and often poetic, Pins is a highly original story about becoming. It grabbed me from the start and stayed with me long after I finished.”
Pamela Stanton, Screentrade Magazine

“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.

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  1. Pierre L
    June 23, 2011 at 12:29 pm

    Many thanks for the excellent review. I have just ordered a printed copy from Book Depository (and a copy for my Kindle). It is nice to see that you do get worthy items from time to time.

  2. June 23, 2011 at 1:13 pm

    Sometimes things work out. I hope Ms. Todd gets to see this review right away and realize what she’s got. Distinguishing herself here is a wonderful accomplishment.

  3. June 23, 2011 at 2:05 pm

    Great to see a winner here! So, okay, Jane, fess up: How long was this jewel buried in your slush pile? How deep is the slush pile?

  4. June 23, 2011 at 10:28 pm

    Jim, I had this book far too long before I reviewed it. Entirely my fault, I’m ashamed to say.

    As for how deep my slush pile is: I have reviews scheduled until September, and I have another fifty-seven books in my pile–not that I’ll review them all: I doubt that half of them will appear here. I refuse to review the hopeless cases, or the books which are clearly written by people who need help, not readers.

    If you’re wondering when your book will be reviewed–it’s scheduled. Just look at the “recent and forthcoming reviews” page and you might be able to work out when it will appear.

  5. June 24, 2011 at 4:12 am

    Jane, I very much appreciate your wonderful review of Pins, which was well worth the wait. I also appreciate your helpful comments on how I might improve my work. Many thanks for everything.
    (Thanks much to Pierre L. too for buying Pins.)

  6. June 28, 2011 at 7:20 pm

    I’ve already read this book – Sally Zigmond recommended it some time ago so I bought and enjoyed it then. Well done to the author.

  7. June 29, 2011 at 7:44 pm

    Crud! I have the same writing tic!

  8. June 30, 2011 at 1:42 am

    Thank you Womagwriter. I always list your lovely Pins review on my sales pieces. American bookstore chain Barnes & Noble recently accepted Pins for online and in-store ordering. Pins’ reviewers helped get me through their door. I feel mighty fortunate. Many thanks and best wishes.

  9. July 6, 2011 at 9:19 pm

    How lovely to know that there are some decent self-published books out there. I’m so pleased for Christine Todd, even though I don’t know her.

    I don’t know if this is the right place for it, but I do have a query which I’ve been pondering for a while and was reminded of by something you said: “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 don’t like prodding because I know how busy you are and I don’t want to seem rude, but I wondered if you could publish some general guidance about how you work your submission pile? I sent you a book nearly a year ago, and as so much time has elapsed I’ve assumed that I won’t be seeing a review here. It seems safe to assume that you get a large quantity of submissions, and that your workload elsewhere means that you can’t review books at the same rate you receive them, which ought to mean that some fall by the wayside.

    As I said, I’m assuming my book has not been chosen for review. This would be entirely fair and I wouldn’t resent this fact. But of course, being an author I can’t resist popping back repeatedly just in case. I can see myself doing this for a long time into the future, and I thought maybe if you were to publish some kind of general disclaimer, warning authors that not all books are reviewed, then it would put me and others like me out of our misery. Alternatively, if you actually do review every book you receive, you might consider publishing the age of your backlog? For instance, “I am currently publishing reviews of books I received 17 months ago” Or tell us if you operate on a different system, eg reviewing all books but not in the order you receive them?

    It’s a great site and I enjoy reading all the reviews anyway, so I expect I’ll keep visiting regardless of whether I get reviewed here.

    Thanks for all the hard work.

  10. July 6, 2011 at 11:09 pm

    Oh erk, I can’t believe I committed such a basic error: I see that my question has already been answered above. Many apologies!

  1. June 30, 2011 at 4:49 pm
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