It’s time for another assortment of critiques. I’m surprised that it’s such a long time since the last one. Mea culpa. Anyway, the need for fellowship among writers is as great as it ever was. There’s nothing that boosts an author like an honest review. In a way, it doesn’t matter whether it’s good or bad. Mind you, there is a big difference between a critical and a malicious review. In my opinion, a severe review can show as much interest in the book as a placid one, provided it clarifies the reasons why the reader didn’t enjoy what he or she read.
We can learn from harsh critiques, but we enjoy the agreeable ones. Perhaps we also learn something from benevolent reviews, but we shouldn’t dismiss unfavourable opinions. After all, we can’t please everybody. We shouldn’t even try. For any author, the main issue is that we touched a nerve. Writers get fired up when somebody communicates their thoughts about what they’ve written.
In other words: read our books. If they awaken feelings, good or bad? Tell us about it.
Personally, I believe that short reviews make more sense than longwinded ones. For instance, I see little reason to give an outline of the book: most authors don’t want their readers to know every twist and turn before they immerse themselves in their story. So, if you want to give an idea of the plot: beware of giving away too much. In other words, don’t hesitate to write one sentence and leave it at that. Sometimes, that might sum up your judgement better than many words.
Without further ado: here are my latest reviews.
Sue Shepherd, Can’t Get You Out of my Head
Wonderful and surprising
Can’t get who out of your mind? My first reaction to Can’t Get You out of My Mind was incredulity — my second — being intrigued. Shepherd has written a beautiful and thoughtful novel that remains with the reader for a long time. The concept is simple: the result is a speculative narrative. Shepherd engages her readers and makes them root for her heroine. A highly enjoyable book.
Karen Eisenbrey, Daughter of Magic
A coming of age tale.
Dreams and reality compete for the central character’s attention. Daughter of a sorcerer and a sensitive healer with magic ability, Luskell is unwilling to take up her inheritance. From here the narrative develops. Unfortunately, the first part is unclear through the author’s handling of a complex concept but, towards the middle of the book, things fall into place and the mosaic becomes a clear picture. Once the scene is set, the main character and her helpers take over and show their merit, their thoughts and emotions. Would it have been better if the protagonist had been in focus throughout? This is a moot question. All in all: an engaging journey.
Jacqueline Pirtle, 365 Days of Happiness
Happiness is a Piece of Cake
We’re all born to win, but it is only too easy to get bogged down by life. Pirtle has written a book to help weary men and women to get the sparkle back. The author insists that a course of 365 exercises will make miracles happen. It is a wholehearted and passionate effort to help people help themselves. Whether it will help is up to the individual reader. For my own part, I can only add that singing and dancing certainly help people lay off their worries, at least, for a time. Is there any miracle treatment for unhappiness? Only if one accepts and comes to term with living in a world fraught with misery. The upside is that this earth still is a beautiful place. Five stars for the author’s enthusiasm.
Keith Dixon, Storey
Hard-boiled criminals take centre stage in this dramatic caper. This is a page turner, entertaining and modern. I felt in good hands: Dixon knows his craft and takes the reader through the plot with conviction and — charisma. Highly recommended for everybody who likes to sit at the edge of their chair while they read.
Lisa Hofmann, Trading Darkness
High fantasy, a compelling fairy-tale
Here we have a classic German fairy tale, in the style of Grimm and Hoffmann. A quest, deception, and lack of knowledge. Slow advance towards better understanding and a final battle. L Hoffmann’s use of multiple point-of-view may cause some confusion at the beginning of the narrative. It is necessary back-story that sets the scene for the protagonist’s journey from living with half-truths to identifying reality. Through that journey, she learns to forgive, to love, and to redeem old evils. This is a must read for fantasy lovers.
Raymond St Elmo, The Origin of Birds in the Footprints of Writing
A Book of Imagination and Wit
This made me smile and laugh from the beginning to the end
The Origin of Birds in the Footprints of Writing: what an unusual book. Just finished reading it. Here’s a book of magic realism if ever there was one. The birds and books intermingle as metaphors for one another. True, St Elmo owes a heavy debt to Calvino, Poe, Chesterton, and Lewis Carroll. But his work is its own, funny, thoughtful and mesmerizing. Dream sequences intermingle with economic worries and workplace policy. The balance between workaday trouble and weird, wonderful scenarios could tumble any moment, but we (the readers) are safe in the hands of a master plotter, a programmer extraordinaire, and a court jester turned magician all in one.
Wendy H Jones, Killer’s Countdown
Written with knowledge and expertise.
Jones presents ‘Killer’s countdown’ in elegant prose. The narrative presents the reader with two protagonists: the killer and the (female) police officer. This way, we get confronted with the chilling thoughts and arrogance of a serial killer. Policework must be meticulous, and hence the detective can appear somewhat dry. This clash makes the contest between the characters all the more spine-tingling. We’re a long way from Agatha Christie: this has a far tougher substance. Jones handles the dual point of view with great skill.
Tina-Marie Miller, Everything Happens for a Reason
Touching and surprising
Miller takes on a difficult subject in ‘Everything Happens for a Reason’. This is a narrative about bereavement and learning to live again. She analyses family ties, conflicts, and deep affection in a thoughtful narrative that touches the reader and opens for discussions. On top of this, Miller’s prose flows artlessly. A poignant book that’s well worth reading. Highly recommended.
Ellie Midwood, A Motherland’s Daughter, A Fatherland’s Son
War makes us suffer needlessly. And Midwood makes a clear case for conscious objectors. How does she do this? Through showing the misery two young people go through, especially how easy it is to become debased through forced actions. At the same time, A Motherland’s Daughter, A Fatherland’s Son is a heartachingly beautiful Romeo and Juliet story. Here we aren’t confronted with two families in Verona, but with a world at war. Strongly written and utterly convincing. Highly recommended.
© HMH, 2018