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The Milieu Principle: Malcolm Franks

August 10, 2011 5 comments

Mike Daniels cared little for close human relations. He cared even less about the environment.
Why should he? His world already provided him with all the things that mattered in life. Things were about to change.

A mysterious package containing a memory stick arrives, with a request to meet an old school friend in an isolated spot. Mike is unaware what the memory stick holds. He soon discovers, however, that the owners want it back, at any price. Now his very existence is at risk and he must run.
Using a false identity, Matt Durham, he finds sanctuary in Canada. In this new life he learns about friendship, comes to appreciate the environment all around. He even believes he finds love. So Matt Durham chooses to close his mind to what brought him to this safe haven.

But, when he is found, Matt Durham is faced with a stark choice. Does he run again, or fight back against his enemies? In truth, he has only one option. Matt realises his only salvation lies in taking on the overwhelming odds ranged against him. To do this he must cross the globe undetected, suffering loss and betrayal along the way. He would also have to learn how to kill.

He had to, because he wanted to live. And the lives of billions of other people depended upon his survival.

###

My reading of The Milieu Principle got off to a very poor start when I looked at the back cover copy, which is rendered almost illegible by being printed in dark greenish-grey on a black background. My two sons are both colourblind and they couldn’t even see any text on that back cover.  I suspect that this book is aimed primarily at a male readership; and far more males are colourblind than females. It seems to me to be foolish for the writer to risk alienating so much of his target market because of a simple design choice.

The book has a reasonably interesting premise; the punctuation is mostly okay, there’s not much wrong with the grammar and the plot seems clear enough. And perhaps that’s the problem: this book is okay, but it isn’t spectacular.

The story is let down by wooden dialogue, exposition-by-dialogue, and an assumption that the reader needs to be told all sorts of unimportant details to help the story unfold. For example, I’m not sure why the writer chose to mention that the main character’s freezer is steel-coloured and upright: knowing this adds nothing to the story or to the characterisation of anyone involved. This fondness for unnecessary detail leads to several convoluted and confusing paragraphs; and makes a slow and laborious reading.

Not that this text is beyond hope: it has potential, but that potential is hidden behind a lot of very basic mistakes. If the writer were to revise this book very thoroughly and question the purpose of every sentence, he could make it much more readable. If he were to cut all of that redundant detail, make sure that everything he’d written meant what he thought it meant, and get rid of much of the exposition, then this book would be hugely improved. As it is, it’s a tired read, full of errors and confusion, with little to recommend it. I read just eight of its five hundred and ten printed pages.

Leviathan’s Master: David M Quinn

July 1, 2010 Comments off

HISTORICAL FICTION It was the biggest sailing vessel ever built and the world’s first supertanker. In the winter of 1907, the T.W. Lawson, a four-hundred foot schooner with seven masts, makes her first transatlantic crossing with more than two million gallons of kerosene to be delivered to London. With almost fifty years of sailing experience, Captain George W. Dow Is not intimidated, despite the Lawson’s checkered history. But hurricane winds and an angry sea conspire to defeat man and machine. Bereft of her sails, the giant ship is trapped in treacherous shoals off the southwest coast of Britain. Seventeen lives are lost, including a local pilot trying to avert disaster. Now, Captain Dow is called to account—most especially to himself. Leviathan’s Master is a true story, transformed into a gripping historical novella by the captain’s great, great nephew.

Praise for David M. Quinn’s
It May Be Forever—An Irish Rebel on the American Frontier
  • “Master storyteller, David Quinn, erases time…. To transport the reader is the writer’s job. Quinn does just that.” Mary Sojourner, Novelist and NPR Contributor
  • “A beautifully written historical novel filled with excellent research and characters! Highly recommended!” USABOOKNEWS.COM
Visit the author’s website: http://www.davidquinnbooks.com


iUniverse Editor’s Choice

This is a momentous day for, after more than a year of reviewing books here, I have finally found a self-published writer who understands the difference between the hyphen and the em-dash. Hurrah! Here ensues much rejoicing.

Right. That’s quite enough of that. Because apart from Mr. Quinn’s impeccable em-dashery Leviathan’s Master: The Wreck of the World’s Largest Sailing Ship fails on the same old points: his writing just isn’t strong enough. His dialogue is wooden, and veers queasily between an oddly-formal, Hollywoodesque archaic pattern and a more modern idiom: he uses dialogue to present great big chunks of exposition, so reinforcing its woodenness; and I found several contradictions, lapses of point of view and tense, and problems with logic: for example, the narrator describes the house he is in from various points outside; but he is bed-bound, and was brought to this house following an accident: he can’t even walk to his bedside chair, let alone walk around the outside of the house; so how could he possibly know what the house looks like from the outside?

Once again, then, this is a story with potential let down by lacklustre writing. A better editor would have picked up these mistakes: but then a better writer would not have made them. I did my best to be kind, and managed to read fourteen pages out of one hundred and nine.

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.

Romancing the Claddagh: Ruby Dominguez

October 15, 2009 13 comments

Fiction Romance/Mystery Horror/Drama

The breathtaking mystery of the Irish Claddagh unraveled!

On a fire singed wall not so far away from the tragedy, a collage of photographs shaped the heartbreaking desperation of a city in search of missing love ones. A rescue recovery centre is deluged with a cascade of hundreds of Irish CLADDAGH rings uncovered from the collapsed World Trade Center at Ground Zero. The legend of the CLADDAGH’S origin entwines with romance of love tales, perilous adventures, mystery and royalty. A distinctively unique, timeless and honoured treasure of Irish heritage that is no stranger to love, tragedy and triumph. FOR IT WAS ONCE UPON A TIME, a sigil painted on an exclusive white sale of the Fisher King Ship marked with a crown, a pair of hands clasping the escutcheon of Nassau, evident of the crest of the royal house to which Liam, the King of CLADDAGH belongs, was recreated into a great spherical gold brooch to adorn the velvet lavender cloak of his future queen: Rowena, a descendant of ancient Ireland’s fiery crimson-haired goddess Macha, who wreaked a terrible powerful curse upon the northern kings of Ireland’s bloodline. An Irish phenomenon: its famous adage of “Let Love, Loyalty and Friendship Reign,” still eloquently resonates to this day.

Ruby Dominguez, creatively inscribes a link between fantasy and reality, life and eternity, love and constancy; capturing the essence of her vision. She also penned, THE PERUKE MAKER -The Salem Witch Hunt Curse. Both are Fiction Romance/Mystery/or/Drama/Tragedy Screenplays of a CURSE TRILOGY. The Peruke Maker was professionally reviewed by LEJEN Literary Consultants and attained a Good Script Coverage/Analysis. “Visually compelling, provocative, suspenseful, memorable, smooth pace with excellent twists and turns. By LEE LEVINSON

Ruby Dominguez is a brave woman: she is only the second person to have sent me more than one book to review. Her first book, The Peruke Maker: The Salem Witch Hunt Curse, had little to recommend it; and Romancing the Claddagh: The Curse of Macha, her second, is probably even worse.

I shan’t comment in detail about the back cover copy which is quoted in full above: it stands for itself. It’s jumbled, confusing, and tells me nothing about the book which would encourage me to buy it. The jacket design is a disaster: it’s strangely off-putting, and I wonder if that the girl in the image really is old enough to pose naked (and assuming she is, why does she look quite so sweaty?). I’d have preferred a more legible font for the title, too.

The book gets no better inside. It begins with a prologue which is just as confusing as the back cover copy:

Prologue

Guardedly, I listened to the echoes of my heart, yet fervently chased it down the deep recessions of a dark sacred chamber, where unspoken intimate emotions of agony and ecstasy come to surface.

Like a goldsmith, I creatively hammer down a precious link between fantasy and reality, life and eternity, love and constancy.

Herein pressed between the pages is the essence of my vision.

That’s on page i; then on the next page we have a single paragraph (which is repeated in full a few pages later, in a different context) with the title Time Period, which reads:

A rescue recovery centre is deluged with a cascade of HUNDREDS of Irish CLADDAGH RINGS recovered from the collapsed World Trade Center, at ground Zero.

Is this part of the setup information or has the screenplay begun? Despite it reading like a scene description, I have to assume that it is part of the setup, because the pages which follow contain character lists and locations. Page numbering then begins again, and we have a montage set before us which includes the following quotes:

An unforgettable stark landscape of inferno, pandemonium and death is broadcasted on TELEVISION and RADIOS across a horrified nation and to the shocked world.

ASH-MOLTEN ROADS are creased with GRIEF-STRICKEN FACES, engulfed with sorrowful CRIES of the CLADDAGH ring as a frame of reference to help find and identify love ones.

On this page alone I found fourteen mistakes. I already had more than enough to base this review upon, but something compelled me to read on. The screenplay continues to page five; then on page six we have this:

V

Time Period

CLADDAGH VILLAGE 17TH CENTURY

Fishermen leave the safety of the stony shores, love of family and comfort of home to set out to sea to make a living, in spite of the danger of abduction by seafaring pirates and treacherous weather.

Hence, to live in Claddagh is to be a fisherman, or starve.

Or to be abducted by treacherous weather, perhaps.

Some of you might notice that the conclusion there does not follow on from the paragraph which precedes it; so this is a fallacious argument. It’s not part of the action of the screenplay so what’s it doing here? And why is it followed by a list of characters and locations? We have five more pages of such setup before the screenplay begins again.

I’ll admit: I’ve read on through this, to try to make sense of it: but I failed. It’s jumbled, confusing, and at times cringingly badly written. All of the segments I’ve read show a sentimental affection for a non-existent, stereotypical, Hollywood kind of Irish; and what little I’ve read of the historical sections are very ill-informed. In addition, stage directions are used to fill in the plot’s back story and background: it’s bad enough encountering information dumps on the page, but how is this information meant to be conveyed to the audience if this play is ever performed?

I’m very concerned that the Lejen Literary Consultancy has told Ms Dominguez that this book shows promise, because in its current form, it isn’t good at all. Based on its judgement of this book, I strongly urge all writers to avoid the Lejen Literary Consultancy and if you’re still not convinced, read this thread at Absolute Write. I read four pages out of a possible 130 and if I’d observed my “fifteen strikes and you’re out” rule strictly I would have not read even that far.

The Peruke Maker: Ruby Dominguez

September 17, 2009 12 comments

The Peruke Maker: Ruby Dominguez

Fiction/Romance/Mystery/Horror/Drama/History

Salem 17th century — a bizarre and deadly detour in history!

The witch hunt hits feverish peak! Fear of the devil is as real as God. Witchcraft is a heinous crime a person could commit and is punishable by death at Gallows Hill for the victims accused of sorcery.

River reflections of Bridget’s scantily clad youthful beauty with long, wild, flowing, red hair, is frozen in fear amidst the overture of the Banshee’s foreboding and bloodcurdling wails of imminent death, that of her own.

THE PERUKE MAKER’S vengeful curse hastens chase for the innocent and is carried off by a whirl of ill-omened wind that transgresses all natural laws of time and space.

The Salem Witch Hunt Curse unearthed from necromancy, violates the course of natural events in a modern day world, relentlessly in quest for the avenger of innocent blood.

Sarah, a product of the 21st Century is inextricably caught in a fateful journey that comes full circle. But Michael’s abiding love for her triumphs over evil, transcending the grave in a magical and symbolic act of rebirth at the stroke of midnight of the Autumnal Equinox.

The Author, Ruby Dominguez is challenged by the conflicting complexities of the past and future. Undeterred, she strokes with pen the somber and bright hues of her visions.

A screenplay THE PERUKE MAKER was professionally reviewed by Lejen Literary Consultants and has attained a GOOD SCRIPT COVERAGE ANALYSIS.

“Visually compelling, provocative, suspenseful, memorable characters, smooth pace with excellent twists and turns!” — By Lee Levinson

A Curse Trilogy, she also penned screenplays:
• ROMANCING THE CLADDAGH — The Curse of Macha —
• THE RED DRAGON’S TRIANGLE — Boudicca’s Curse — COMING SOON!

She also exhibits a nifty double play of romance and comedy in the screenplay, “IT’S OVER MICHAEL, BUT…”

As I don’t have much experience in evaluating screenplays I showed The Peruke Maker: The Salem Witch Hunt Curse to a screenwriting friend of mine who has just a little expertise in the field: he’s won a handful of BAFTAs and a couple of Emmys, and although he hasn’t yet managed to grab himself an Oscar I’m sure it’s only a matter of time. You’re very likely to recognise his name if I give it: but he only agreed to comment on this book if I would allow him to do so anonymously. Here’s what he had to say:

This is a confused and confusing script. The prologue makes no sense, and what is it there for? I don’t think it’s a part of the script — it doesn’t seem to be spoken by a narrator, and that last paragraph is stunningly bad. The “time period” page makes no sense either. The lists of characters and locations don’t work. Does the movie’s action began on page 6? It’s not made clear. Is the paragraph which begins “legend has it” spoken by narrator? It isn’t attributed to any character, but it can’t be a stage direction either as it contains backstory. Two pages of this confusion then on page 8 we find the first real dialogue, and it’s awful: “I sense it behind me! It hinders my escape!” A lot of the dialogue doesn’t make sense: “Thou not let the devil take your soul away from your body!” The writer doesn’t seem to know what “thou” actually means.

The problem with scripts like this is that if the dialogue isn’t believable then the script has no chance of working when it’s filmed, or played on stage. I flicked through it and it’s consistently dull, confusing, and wooden. There’s a torture scene in it which reads like particularly badly thought-out porn, and God knows most porn is pretty badly thought out to begin with. I wouldn’t have looked any further than the cover were I not reading it as a favour for you, and can only suggest that if this writer is determined to continue writing, she either treats writing as a hobby or finds herself some good, professional tuition. Because this just isn’t good enough if she wants to get anywhere at all in the professional field.

I read up to page six before I found my fifteen errors, and I agree with all my friend has written: this is a dreadful book which contains misused words, clichés, misspellings, and errors in formatting, layout, grammar and logic.

What I don’t understand is how the Lejen Literary Consultants could have honestly given Ms Dominguez’s screenplay such a glowing reference. A little investigation led me to this thread on Absolute Write: based on the comments I read there, and the yawning gap between the Lejen Literary Consultants’ glowing praise and the reality of this book, I cannot recommend that anyone uses their services. And if you are in any doubt, and are considering paying the Lejen Literary consultants to evaluate your work, here is a direct quote from this book to give you an idea of what they consider good. I can’t reproduce the exact formatting so you’re denied that particular pleasure, but the text alone should be enough to give you an idea of what this is like.

INT. SALEM VILLAGE – JACOB’S BEDROOM – NIGHT

A naked young and enchanting lass by the name of BRIDGET CANE (SEVENTEEN), is with a married couple in bed, seemingly intoxicated.

They engage and indulge in forbidden lusty sexual desires and positions.

MOANS of pleasure reverberate the room.

MR. JACOB
(craving)
Hmmmm… Drops of pleasure between your mounds drive me wild!

BRIDGET
(teasingly TIPSY)

Such explicit bliss is hard to forget?

MRS. JACOB (EARLY THIRTIES)
(excitedly to husband)
Thy kiss is much sweeter and every thrust much harder since Bridget! I am encouraged by such performance! I crave for more!

MR. JACOB
(horny)

A feast fit for a king! Grasps my throbbing manhood as it gorges towards deep chasms of ecstasy!

I hope that makes it quite clear why I strongly suggest that writers avoid using the services of the Lejen Literary Consultancy, which praised this dreadful book.

Iman’s Isle: S A Davis

September 10, 2009 3 comments

Some treasures cannot be stolen, only lost. And if lost, may be impossible to recover.

Journey to an island paradise, the heavenly city of Casilda, and the hideous pit called Marheon and observe the creatures that dwell there and in between. Explore the struggle of good against evil, with humanity caught in the middle, and know that some unseen forces desire the destruction of humans, while others strive for their salvation.

S A Davis, the author of Iman’s Isle – A Tale of Lost Treasures seems to be yet another self-published author who is determined to present his or her book as badly as possible. I can’t be sure of Davis’s gender, as he or she has omitted to include any information about the author in the book.

The back cover copy (reproduced in full above) is full of clichés and nonsensical statements. It gives me just one clue about the genre this book fits into: those odd place-names imply that this book’s genre is probably fantasy or SF. But the back cover copy doesn’t give me any idea of what this story is about, or why it should interest me: and so it fails in the task it has, which is to inform and intrigue the book’s potential readers.

The jacket illustration is another big problem (and before you protest that this blog is meant to review books, not criticise illustrations, despite the numerous issues I have with the illustration I’ve only counted it as one strike of the fifteen I allow each book). What is that big white thing? Some sort of fruit? Perhaps it’s half a radish; but it appears to be bleeding where that creature’s claws are digging into it; and what’s with the six hands, each with six fingers? Do they all belong to one animal? Or to three two-handed creatures? Or perhaps to two animals with three hands each? And while six fingers might come in handy for back-scratching if I were this creature I would willingly trade in half of them for a single opposable thumb. To make the worst of a bad illustration, part of the creature’s furry green tail has been cropped off over on the left-hand side. This surely wasn’t done intentionally, but it makes the whole front cover look even more slapdash.

Inside the book things are little better. I found several inconsistencies in punctuation, some run-on sentences, and a few very confusing lapses in logic. The text was dull and rather confusing. The three men who appear in the opening scene all share exactly the same speech patterns: they all report their dreams in the present tense, but fall back to oddly-formal and rather archaic phrasing in past-tense for everything else; and this lack of characterisation makes it just about impossible to distinguish between them.

There was a paragraph on the very first page which was unintentionally stiff with double entendres, a large and unattributed quote facing the table of contents, and some nonsense about “revised versions” on the copyright page (either the book is a new edition or it’s not): not surprising, then, that I read only two pages of this and will now never know what that creature on the cover was really meant to be. Somehow, that doesn’t feel like a loss.

The Whittaker Family Reunion: Shirley A Roe

July 16, 2009 Comments off

We were introduced to the Whittaker family in Of Dreams and Nightmares. The Whittaker Family Reunion takes readers back to 1881 and the family is reunited once again. Martha and Jeremy await the arrival of their two sons, Abraham from Mississippi and Ezekiel, from England. The third son Isaac lives near St. Louis And is anxious to see his brothers again. Daughter Anna is spoiled and nothing but trouble. Abraham arrives with a woman, much to the family’s surprise. Ezekiel makes a narrow escape in England. Will the reunion be a happy one? Who will leave St Louis in disgrace? Will Martha get to spend time with her entire family before tragedy strikes? The reunion is shadowed by another man, one seeking revenge; will he get what he wants? Will he kill one or all of them?

Oh, dear.

The Whittaker Family Reunion has a clunky text which is confusing, and full of punctuation errors. There are a few issues with perception (pelicans flying across the sun do not “silhouette the sun”, they are silhouetted against it); the grammar is sometimes very strangely skewed; and the dialogue from the non-white character is an embarrassing pastiche. I read just one page, I’m afraid.