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Posts Tagged ‘11 pages read’

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.

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The Devil Won’t Care, by John Streby

June 2, 2011 14 comments

GENERAL FICTION

The Devil Won’t Care

A novel of betrayal and retribution

The Devil Won’t Care delves into the career of Lanny Lessner, a journalist who rockets to fame and wealth with a hard-hitting documentary about the decline of his home town after a spate of factory closings. Revered by millions, Lessner seems poised to become the Ralph Nader of his generation.

But Lessner has a dark side, replete with shady dealings, antisocial behaviour, and mean-spirited hypocrisy. The filmmaker’s saga is retold by a friend and supporter, Warren Hill, whose narrative chronicles their relationship. As the story evolves, Hill confronts a growing body of evidence that Lessner, intoxicated by his celebrity status, is a crass, deceptive, manipulative phony, whose shortcomings mimic those of the targets of his pungent wit.

The Devil Won’t Care addresses some of the flaws of a dysfunctional society in which “What’s in it for me?” is the common denominator. Checkbook photojournalism, celebrity worship, reality TV and our sound-bite culture are all laid bare. On a broader level, the book is a morality tale in which the narrator is forced to confront his deepest fears and emotions, set against a backdrop of deception, atonement and redemption.

About the Author

John Streby is a connoisseur of Broadway musicals, pre-1930 phonographs and records, and films noir. His first novel, Rabbit Stew, dealt with the incestuous mix of law and politics, and featured several characters who appear in this book. Mr. Streby is currently writing a third novel, Follow the Money.

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There might well be an excellent story lurking in The Devil Won’t Care but much was obscured by the author’s bad writing habits, which really got in my way as I read. It was frustrating: I could hear echoes of John Grisham in this book, and once or twice even caught a whiff of Donna Tartt’s Secret History, which is one of my all-time favourite books: but those moments were rare, and they were swiftly buried beneath the author’s frequent lapses into verbosity and exposition.

There were several places where the author threw away what could have been scenes of great tension; and I found much of his description overwritten and far too lengthy. The author’s habit of telling the reader what had happened instead of showing us those events stopped me caring much about any of his characters or what happened to them; he frequently repeats information; and at times I felt that he was too self-consciously Doing Writing rather than telling us his story.

All of these small problems add up to a text which is slow-paced and waffly. But the biggest problem was that it was confusing: there was little flow in the text; the narrative was jerky and inconsistent; it skipped from subject to subject and back again with little consistency; and this lack of focus, along with the over-wordy vocabulary, made what should have been a fast-paced courtroom drama into a slow dull read

I suspect Mr. Streby could do so much better if he worked with a strong editor or took part in some good writing workshops: there’s the hint of a good, commercial book buried beneath his mistakes. I read eleven of this book’s four hundred and thirty five pages; but had I not been reading this for review, I wouldn’t have got past the anti-trade publishing rant which makes up the bulk of the book’s second paragraph. It’s astonishingly ill-informed and the idea of anyone with an ounce of commercial experience investing money in the business proposed is ludicrous. I strongly advise this writer to research the realities of business better before he writes any more about it.

Tomas: Robert Bedick

February 3, 2011 1 comment

You’ll also find this review on my bigger blog, How Publishing Really Works. You can comment on it here, but you can’t over there.


Who is Alfred Tomas?

When Paul Webber is approached by an intriguing widow to write a book about her “highly influential, but criminally obscure” husband, the artist Alfred Tomas, Paul thinks Tomas will be his first step towards achieving literary glory. But the more he learns about Tomas, the more he begins to question the quiet family life he leads with his wife Sylvia and their young son Josh.

Tomas has the potential to be an absorbing, interesting read: but it’s sadly let down by careless mistakes and what I suspect is the writer’s inexperience.

Unlike most of the other writers I’ve reviewed here, Robert Bedick knows how to use an em-dash (hurrah!); but his use of hyphens is haphazard, and his use of speech marks is inconsistent especially where other punctuation marks get involved.

His characters did a pretty good job of engaging my attention: but they were prevented from reaching their full potential by some flabby writing which I found both confusing and distracting. And as for the dialogue tags—no! Almost every single one might just as well have climbed onto my kitchen table and waved its red knickers in the air, they distracted me so from the narrative flow. Writers rarely need to use more than “he said”, “she whispered”; I don’t think there’s ever a call for “I meekly offered in rebuttal”.

So: would I recommend this book? Very nearly, but not quite. Mr. Bedick could easily improve it to a point where I would have recommended it just by tightening it up and deleting all of those overdone dialogue tags: but then it would have made an extremely short book. I read eleven pages out of one hundred and ninety-two, and think Mr. Bedick would do well to edit his own work far more rigorously in future.

ASO: Lindsey Mackie

June 3, 2010 Comments off

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.

Refined In The Furnace Of Affliction: John McCulloch

May 28, 2009 4 comments

UNFORESEEN TRAGEDIES LEADS TO A MORE MEANINGFUL LIFE

John McCulloch’s oldest son received a head injury at birth, re-sulting in blindness. A second injury at age 28, resulted in his being confined to a nursing home for life. This book is about how these afflictions and others led one family to a positive result.

Refined in the Furnace of Affliction is John McCulloch’s account of both his own life and the life of his son John, who received a head injury at birth and was subsequently disabled. There’s an insistent strand of Christianity and prayer in this book, and a strong focus on the need for family life, and it’s obvious that McCulloch is passionate and devoted to all of these things. Sadly, he isn’t a good writer and that lack of expertise means that this book is a flat, dull read.

Most of the pages reminded me of the journals I used to keep as a child: “I got up and then I had my breakfast and then I brushed my teeth and went to school”. It’s all tell and no show and it’s very disorganised, too: in the middle of what should be a heartbreaking tale of the birth of his disabled son, McCulloch abruptly breaks into an account of how his wife got a good deal on a car.

This is a very badly-written book which I wish I could have reviewed more favourably. I read only eleven of its one hundred and fourteen pages.

"We’ll Always Be Pals": Tom McManus

April 16, 2009 12 comments

“We’ll Always Be Pals” are the last words my father said to me before he died. The youngest of his six children, he taught me everything there is to know about how to be a man in this world. He should know, after the life he lived. Born in 1920, Gene McManus witnessed some of the most historic events in our country’s history. A product of the Great Depression, he was a football star, a boxer, and a B-24 Liberator pilot and POW during World War II.

My story is a small one. Out of football for two full seasons after a glorified college career, I had left my football dreams behind me until I got a call out of the clear blue sky. The man who taught me how to play the game was all the inspiration I ever needed to realise a life long held dream.

“We’ll Always Be Pals” is ultimately the story of a father and son who were fifty years apart in age yet ended up best of friends.

“We’ll Always Be Pals”: The Last Words of a Dying Father and a True Hero! is part memoir, part biography, as Tom McManus tells both his life story and his father’s. It’s a potentially touching story—McManus’s brief career in pro-football was hampered by injury, and his father was a prisoner of war—but I’m afraid that it didn’t engage me. The writing is clunky and pedestrian, I found several sentences which didn’t quite make sense, there were a few oddly-capitalised words and a whole rash of extraneous commas. I read just eleven pages of text out of a total of 281 pages in order to find my fifteen errors, and wish that this story had been more strongly told.

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.