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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.

Life Skills 101: A Guide To Understanding The Seasons In Your Life: Lori J Parker

August 5, 2010 5 comments

As the magnitude of trials continue to escalate in the world today, Christians need to understand the seasons of preparation that God has for each of them. In Life Skills 101, Lori Parker identifies why we experience various trials. She offers practical ways to identify and overcome these trials so we will be ready for the Lord’s return.

Lori Parker, is an anointed author, conference speaker, and founder of One Choice Ministries. God has given her gifts of compassion, joy, and boldness. She has a passionate desire to see people develop an intimate relationship with the Lord. Lori preaches Biblical truths that stir the Body of Christ into action.

“I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see.”~Revelation 3:18

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Life Skills 101 gets off to a poor start. Its back cover copy discusses the trials we will all face in life, and informs us that the book has a strongly Christian perspective: then on the first page of its introduction it tells us that it’s actually about our relationships with money and with god.

It implies that everyone reading the book will have little money and an irresponsible attitude to the little they have; that everyone who appears to be doing well is really hiding a mountain of debt and misery; and that the reason so many people overspend is that they are too proud, and feel they deserve better than they have. The author seems to resent college graduates, especially those who go on to postgraduate education; and she states that Christians should be exempt from rules which apply to non-Christians, as they can depend on god’s guidance. It would have been useful if god had given the author a little guidance on the rules of punctuation and grammar, but perhaps he shares my view that writers should learn how to do these things for themselves.

This book gave me a very interesting glimpse into another world—but that doesn’t mean I think it’s any good. The author attributes all sorts of things to god’s grace but doesn’t discuss why this might be so; she shows no understanding of social or psychological failings, she implies that we have no need to take personal responsibility for our mistakes or problems, and makes no allowance for the fact that sometimes terrible things happen to people which they simply cannot overcome even if they believe and trust in god. And that’s where this book fails.

If the author had attempted to encompass more shades of grey—to recognise that not everyone believes in god, for example, and that often, hard work can be far more practical and effective than prayer and contemplation—this book would have been much better. As it is, it’s a judgemental, disappointing and patronising text which encourages us all to live our lives responsible only to god, and to make no efforts to resolve our own problems or improve our lives other than by praying for god’s guidance: and that means it’s only going to be taken seriously by people who already agree with the stance it takes; and that people like me, who disagree very strongly with most of the claims made in the book, are going to dismiss it.

If I were this writer, then, how would I improve this book? Instead of discussing abstract groups of people who are disappointed in their lives I would write about specific people and tell their stories in more depth; I would stop making insulting generalisations about people who do not share my beliefs; I would learn a little about logic and fallacy and apply what I’d learned to my writing; and I’d stop being so very disapproving about the way other people live their lives.

I read fifteen of this book’s one hundred and thirty seven pages, and won’t be reading any more.

Behind Every Illusion: Christina Harner

March 18, 2010 3 comments

“I know you don’t see it, but deep inside, I see a girl who is strong, who deeply cares about others and who will fight for what is right. And besides,” he said in a whisper, “You were right… I have been looking for you.”

“This is such an original and unique story…. Christina crafted a beautiful story with a wonderful purpose that involves a lot of the issues that our planet is having today.” -Fantastic Book Review

WHEN SOFT-SPOKEN TATIANA TURNS 18, SHE BEGINS TO EXPERIENCE UNUSUAL CHANGES. Suddenly, she can read minds, sense emotions and move at a speed that far surpasses anything she’s known before. When her physical features begin to change as well, Tatiana tries desperately to keep her new abilities are secret. Amidst tragedy, unimaginable transformations and an unexpected friendship, Tatiana has to learn to reveal the girl hidden behind her Illusions and what it means to face the world in order to preserve not only the forest but her very existence.

CHRISTINA HARNER spent years studying the complexities of culture for her B.A. A lover of all things fantasy, creating imaginary beings and stories in her head, she is thrilled to finally blend her passions for anthropology, nature and the unknown realm of fairies together in this debut book.

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This book presented me with all sorts of problems. I found plenty of mistakes and editing issues inside it; and yet I just kept reading and on many occasions I didn’t mark those mistakes down because the writing held my attention far too well.

Don’t get me wrong: it is in need of a strong edit. There is far too much repetition. The writer often takes several scenes to make her point when only one is really needed and this means that the pacing is far too slow and the book is far too long for its young adult audience. There’s a lot of exposition; and there were several instances where although I think I understood what the writer meant she had actually written something completely different. These are all things which could easily be corrected by a good edit and buried beneath all these problems there is probably a very good book, albeit a much shorter one. Despite those problems I read all four hundred and ninety three pages of this book, and I enjoyed almost everyone. If Ms Harner pays sufficient attention to developing her editing skills alongside her writing, she could be a name for us to watch out for in the future.

The Genius of the Metropolis: Ronnie Lee

January 14, 2010 Comments off

Philosophy & Social Aspects

WHEN THE MATERIAL WORLD ENCOUNTERS THE SPIRITUAL REALM

This book is meant to show you,
Some connections between money,
Politics, economics and business,
To spirituality, morality and philosophy.

Much theory has been understood,
Regarding monetary policy,
But this book is meant to just remind us,
How this material World,
Interacts with our spiritual,
And moral compass…

The Genius of the Metropolis: Spiritual Economics and General Philosophy is the fifth volume of philosophy and poetry written by well-renowned author Ronnie Ka Ching Lee. In this latest work, Lee takes a holistic approach to the study of economics, approaching it with the heart of a poet in order to better understand the true nature of business. The Genius of the Metropolis analyses good and evil, social problems, duty, and work, and offers the reader ways to adapt and win at what he calls “the metropolitan life.”

Lee has lived and studied in the United Kingdom, and now dwells in Hong Kong. His previous works for Outskirts Press include The Book of Life, the Meaning of Life, The Philosophy of Life, and Poems of Life: Inspirational Knowledge for Life.

There’s a good reason why few commercial publishers publish poetry: even the best collections sell in very small numbers and just aren’t commercially viable. Mr. Lee would have done well to consider that before publishing The Genius of the Metropolis: Spiritual Economics and General Philosophy: not only is it a collection of poems, it’s a big book; it runs to 638 pages and weighs over two pounds.

I am not convinced that poetry—which is a traditionally unpopular form, much as I love it—is the best form for Lee to use to reveal the complexities of his own very personal philosophy of how economics and spirituality intertwine. Despite poetry’s brevity and apparent simplicity it’s a very difficult form to get right. It requires really stringent revision and editing, and depends on a clarity and depth of meaning which is completely lacking from Mr. Lee’s work.

The poems in this book are full of unnecessary repetition, their meanings are rarely clear, and the author’s logic is often completely out of kilter with the real world. On several occasions I found myself having to stop and re-read in an attempt to unravel the meanings behind Mr. Lee’s completed prose, and more than once I failed completely on that front.

This book would gain a lot by being edited strongly and cut by at least half; and if the author would learn about logic and fallacy before attempting those tasks, he would do himself, and his future readers, a great favour. I read just five pages, I’m afraid.

The 7 Gifts That Came To Earth: John Mellor

October 1, 2009 6 comments
Seven precious gifts bestowed on the Earth but not revealed
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
A young boy is charged with finding them
“One of those unique and wonderful manuscripts that come one’s way all too rarely”“A most unusual and beautiful story that lingers in the mind long after one has read it”
~ ~ Senior Editor at a major UK PublisherThe singer emerged, and his music raged across the land, a wild, swirling cloud of chords laying waste like locusts to all that was soulless before it ..I come not to bring peace, he said

This story may be freely read on-line. But if you buy the book it will please my wife and impress my friends. Maybe yours too if you gift it to them. And you can read it in bed

For any freethinking, enquiring mind over 12
—John Mellor

I’m not a big fan of spiritual or inspirational fiction: I find it predictable, cheesy and often quite cringe-making. So I’m not the best person to review this book, which is rooted firmly in those genres.

Despite my reservations, that hideous big “7” on the cover, and the truly horrible fonts in which this text has been set (authors: if you’re considering using fancy fonts in yourself-published book, please read this first), I thought that this little book was charming.

That doesn’t mean it’s perfect: no book is. Some of the storytelling was a little too forced and predictable from me (but that might well be down to the book’s genre which, as I’ve already explained, isn’t my favourite); the language used was a little formal and old-fashioned, which distanced me from the story and so stopped me becoming emotionally involved with it; and there were, of course, punctuation problems with it (for example, a couple of instances where a full-stop had managed to slip outside a quote-mark which should have contained it, and a dash used where a hyphen was required). There were a few lapses in meaning, to: for example, on page 21 we are told,

The specially-made gown — designed by the greatest couturier in the kingdom, assembled by a hundred hand-picked seamstresses from the finest silk of faraway lands — was cheap.

While the dress might have lookedcheap I doubt that it really was, and little lapses like that don’t help when you’re telling a story which has a deeper meaning at its core: if you can’t get the top layer right, how can the reader trust the rest?Overall, then, this is an easy read and it’s brief, too, coming in at just 167 pages. It had has shades of Jonathan Livingston Seagull to its tone; I much preferred it to The Shack, which I found trite and unauthentic; and despite its flaws and those dreadful fonts, The 7 Gifts is readable and engaging.Despite my reservations I enjoyed what I read of the book (I reached page 51), and will almost certainly read more. A good little book, and well worth considering if you’re looking for some reading in this particular genre.