Archive for the ‘reviews’ Category

Charity’s Child: Rosalie Warren

February 19, 2009 2 comments

Dark Deed or Virgin Birth?

Who is the father of Charity’s Child? 16-year-old Charity Baker has her own crazy ideas but even her loyal friend Joanne find them hard to believe.

Attractive enthusiast Charity joins the Crabapple Christian Fellowship and a number of the ‘Crabbies’, including Alan the assistant pastor, fall for her charms. When Charity shocks everyone by revealing that she is pregnant, Alan is the prime suspect.

As the story reaches its disturbing climax, darkness is revealed in unexpected places and we learn with Joanne that many things in Charity’s life are not as they seem.

This powerful tale of teenage sexuality, religious fanaticism, self-harm and other highly topical issues explores the struggles of two young women striving to break free of cultural expectations and oppression.

I really wanted this particular book to do well: from email discussions with its author I knew Charity’s Child had an interesting central premise; and that she is a fluent, entertaining writer.

This is almost a good book, but it’s spoiled by duplications and lapses in logic. In the first three pages, when Charity is introduced, there are several passages which tell us how lovely she is: by the third one, I was irritated by the repetition, and consequently by her. And if the church around which the story centres only has a congregation of seven or eight people, how can it afford both a pastor and an assistant pastor, both with families, neither of whom seem to have any other means of support?

These problems, and the odd punctuation errors (an unnecessary question-mark on page two; a misused comma on page seven) meant that I had reached my quota of mistakes by page nineteen; but the potential of the story kept me reading a lot further.

I’d really like to see this book perked up: I wasn’t keen on the illustration used on the front cover, which is dark and muddy-looking; the back cover copy really needs to be re-written as it is full of cliché and does little to spark my interest. As for the text, it needs a strong line-edit and then it might just stand a good chance of commercial publication.

Life Cycles: Neil Killion

February 12, 2009 8 comments

LIFE CYCLES is a ground-breaking new theory on what life is all about. It is both controversial and evidence-based and states that we live our lives in symbolically repeatable twelve year cycles. There are two important years and this is where we see fate take a hand in unusual ways.

Designed to entertain and inform; details from the public record are used to dissect the lives of world leaders, showbiz personalities, criminals and ordinary citizens. You will learn about your life’s symbolic meaning and be introduced to a whole range of new terms and icons.

You won’t read anything quite as original and intriguing and you will never look at your life the same way again.

Life Cycles has an eye-catching cover which I liked, despite the lack of information it gave me about its genre; and its central premise—that the same twelve-year cycle resonates through all our lives—is interesting enough.

However, the book is let down by poor writing, confused and sloppy logic, the author’s preference for rhetoric over substance, and the lack of any real information in the text, which is all based on rumour, conjecture, supposition and hype. I counted six clichés in the back cover copy alone. The book lacks any real substance and I didn’t even finish the prologue before finding my full quota of fifteen errors in this one.

Girl Without A Country: Rosemary Schulga

February 5, 2009 2 comments

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

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

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

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

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

The Proviso: Moriah Jovan

February 3, 2009 12 comments

Religion Money Politics Sex

Knox Hilliard’s uncle killed his father to marry his mother and gain control of the family’s Fortune 100 company. Knox is set to inherit the company on his 40th birthday, provided he has a wife and heir, but he never really wanted it in the first place.

Now, after his bride is murdered on their wedding day and his backup bride poses such a threat to his uncle that he’s tried to kill her—twice—Knox refuses to fulfill The Proviso at all. Then he meets a woman he may not be able to resist long enough to keep her safe.

His cousin, notorious and eccentric financier Sebastian Taight, would have raided the company long ago to destroy the uncle he despises. For Knox’s sake, he did nothing—until their cousin Giselle barely escapes assassination. The gloves come off, but Sebastian may have jumped in too deep, as the SEC steps in, then Congress threatens to get involved.

Giselle Cox struggles under the weight of having exposed the affair that set her uncle’s plot in motion—twenty years ago. As Knox’s childhood sweetheart, she is also the most convenient way for Knox to inherit. Their uncle has twice tried to eliminate her, leaving her bankrupt and hoping to get through Knox’s 40th birthday alive.

None of them want the company, but two people have been murdered for it and Giselle is under constant threat because of it. What they want now is justice, but as embroiled as they are in their war, the last thing they expect to find on the battlefield is love.

The big problem with The Proviso (Tales of Dunham) wasn’t with errors in punctuation (although there are several, including a comma splice in the acknowledgements), but with a confusing narrative which is compounded by frequent errors in sentence construction. There are several instances where it isn’t clear who is carrying out the actions described; and there is a lot of repetition. On page three we’re told that valuables are cheap, which seems illogical; on that same page we’re told that the “collected gasp was palpable”, and on page eleven the outrage is described as palpable too.

This book runs to a staggering 696 printed pages, then the numbering begins again at one and goes up to twelve. I assume these twelve pages are from the sequel but it’s not made clear and it’s immaterial, as I’d found my fifteen errors before I’d read to the end of page nine.

Essays On Life (Volume I): Nicolette Bethel

November 18, 2008 5 comments

In May 2003, Nicolette Bethel was approached by the then editor of the Nassau Guardian, Larry Smith, to write a series of articles for the newspaper. Bethel chose to write a series of observations about Bahamian life, drawing on her training as an anthropologist. Essays on Life is still published in the Nassau Guardian on a weekly basis, examining topics as diverse as orality, inequality, the arts, government, and culture.

When I first received this book for review, my heart sank. These essays on Bahamina life were first published in the Nassau Guardian and not only is this book not a genre I’d usually consider, but it’s a genre I felt little connection with. I know little about the Bahamas; I’ve never visited the country; and I prefer fiction to non-fiction, so I assumed that I’d find this book hard work. I was completely wrong.

The essays provide a fascinating insight into Bahamian life and culture. Their origin is sometimes a little obvious: they’re opinion-pieces, and so sometimes they are a little overstated for collection in book form. But that didn’t detract from their charm: it just changed the way that I read the book. Instead of reading it in a couple of long sittings I read them as they were originally intended to be read, just one essay at a time, and found myself looking forward to each new episode.

If I have any criticism at all, it’s for the way the limitations of column-writing have restricted Nicolette Bethel’s natural style. I’d really like to see her extend her scope a little by writing a few longer pieces which rely less on rhetorical sweep, and more on the subtle character observations that she does so well.

As for the errors: well. These essays were properly edited for publication, and it shows. I have a small issue with the formatting: there’s an extra line of white space between the paragraphs which isn’t usual, and which I don’t like—but it’s used consistently, and I won’t condemn this book on what boils down to a matter of taste. There’s an extra space before a hyphen on page 18, which is a little careless: but it’s the only mistake I found, and it didn’t lessen the appeal of this charming collection one bit. There might have been more errors but I can’t be sure: I enjoyed the book so much that my editor-mode switched off, and I repeatedly found myself absorbed by her apparently simple narrative style.

Tiberius Steele And The Golden Leopard: Adam Britten

November 2, 2008 3 comments

The Golden Leopard…the relic of an ancient religion with the power to decide the fate of a nation. In a fight against gods and men, Steele must confront age-old superstition and long-forgotten horrors to protect an innocent girl. But he can do neither until he overcomes the demons of his past…”

I reached page fourteen of  Tiberius Steele And The Golden Leopard before finding my fifteenth error: but it’s worth noting that the main text doesn’t start until page five, so it’s fairer to say that I read nine pages of text before stopping. I found a few cases of obvious exposition, many cliches, some confusing sentence constructions and a few very odd layout choices, one of which has placed the copyright page after the book’s prologue.

The text was, however, pretty clean: I found no spelling errors and although there were many punctuation errors they were consistent (hyphens are routinely used in place of dashes, for example), which implies a misunderstanding of the rules on the writer’s part, rather than a purely slapdash approach.

The Rock Star’s Homecoming: Linda Gould

November 2, 2008 5 comments

“Nestled in the Appalachian foothills, Glendary College is the epitome of a small-town college. Calm and studious on the surface, the mixture of jocks, religious fanatics, and hippies creates a powder keg just waiting to explode. The igniting spark comes in teh form of the Sunburst, a homegrown rock-and-roll band whose members go out of their way to break campus rules. Finally, at a late-night concert, they go too far, and the band members are expelled.”

I nearly reached the end of page seven of The Rock Star’s Homecoming before finding my fifteen errors. Eleven of those errors were down to the writer’s repeated use of exposition to reveal backstory or characterisation, which drastically interrupted the flow of the main story and which could easily have been dealt with in a less intrusive way.

I’ve flicked through the rest of the book and while there’s less exposition as the story progresses, it does continue to intrude.

My Splendid Concubine: Lloyd Lofthouse

November 2, 2008 Comments off

“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.