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Shutsumon (Staffordshire, UK)

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by Jennifer Reeve
Edition: Paperback
Price: 5.79

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars When my muse gets out of hand I throw things at it, 27 Jun 2007
This review is from: CONSTANT READER (Paperback)
Quick soundbite review: A wonderful story for any writer who has ever thought that their muse was getting away from them.

Indepth Review: "Constant Reader" by Jennifer Reeve is a very slim book weighting in at just 104 pages. But then I knew that before I bought it so I'm not complaining. It's a short novella of about 30,000 words. That's one of the joys of POD. The ability to create and produce non-standard length work. I do have some strong issues with the layout of the book but I'll come to them later.

First the story. "Constant Reader" is an even faster read than it is slim - and I mean that as a compliment. It's a clever, fun tale that keeps you turning the pages until you're done. The book is written from the perspective of the main character - Claudia Danvers - and she has a compelling voice. I could hear her in my head while reading.

And it has an interesting premise - especially if you're a writer. So many times when reading authors' blogs its like 'and the muse did this' or 'and the muse won't let me write it that way' or some other version of the muse being obstreperous. I even know authors who post whole sections of 'conversations' with their muses. I think Jennifer Reeves must be aware of this phenemonenon as well because the big idea at the core of "Constant Reader" is what if a writer woke up one day and realised that the muse isn't just the creative facet of their own mind but a demonic entity that they'd accidentally sold their soul to.

It's a good question. My muse and I were both cracking up thoughout because this book is funny. Jennifer claims it as a tribute to Stephen King but I think it's just as much a tribute to the pain, the joy and the absolute weirdness of the writing process.

So that's the good and the good is the story and plot well written and crafted. The cover's not bad either.

The bad is the internal layout. And it is - to be blunt - terrible. It's not the worst I've seen in a Lulu book, true. The paragraphs are justified and the page numbers suppressed until the start of the story.

But the rest of it screams self-published. The left and right margins are too narrow, the line spacing is too wide and the paragraphs aren't indented but seperated by a blank line instead. That is to say that it doesn't look like the inside of a book at all. It looks like a short pod book where the author was padding for page count - except that she would have made wider margins if that were the case. The correct choices of font, spacing and margin width would have retained (or even boosted) the page count without looking padded.

It's a sad fact that some peple are going to think that the amateur layout means amateur writing and this is still a very good story. I'd suggest that the author fix this but they've paid for an isbn now and it'd cost then a fortune to revise it. (One of the banes of POD is revision costs).

If I can sum up - please don't let the shortness or the poor layout discourage you from buying this book. It's a fun read.

Raising the Past
Raising the Past
by Jeremy Robinson
Edition: Paperback

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sometimes I inhale books..., 28 Dec 2006
This review is from: Raising the Past (Paperback)
As in I read them superfast. This is one of those novels. It's so fast paced that I just kept reading after it arrived earlier this morning - even though I should have been packing for the train I'm catching to Scotland this afternoon.

Like I said it's a really fast paced read and a great deal of fun. I've read criticisms elsewhere that the characters are shallow and underdeveloped but in a relatively short and fast paced science fiction thriller like this character development will always take a back seat. Still there could perhaps have been a bit more three dimensionality in there, but it certainly did not ruin the book by any stretch. The plot took front seat and took me on a rollercoaster ride to rival the best any theme park has to offer.

And it does have it's deep side in it's theme of good, evil and free will. What they are and what it means to have the freedom to choose between them.

It's a well written action story that with a bit more character development could have been worth 5 stars. As it is I give it 4 and a recommendation to buy and read it unless you only like well developed character driven stories (in which case it's not for you).

Storm Front: The Dresden Files Book One
Storm Front: The Dresden Files Book One
by Jim Butcher
Edition: Paperback

16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good book for what it is, 15 Mar 2006
They may not inhabit the same universe but it would seem that there's more than one wizard named Harry out there in the world of modern urban fantasy fiction. In Storm Front - Book One of the Dresden Files Jim Butcher introduces us to Harry Dresden - Chicago's only professional wizard in the phone book.
It's an interesting concept. Dresden is a Wizard come Private Eye and this book plays to the conceits of both genres well. The story starts with a cash strapped Harry taking on two new cases. The first involves a very grisly double murder committed via magic while the vitims were doing the nasty together that he takes on for the police and the second is a missing persons case. They seem totally unconnected but if you know the genres you know things will get complicated very quickly.
It's not a book without flaws however (few books are). The villians are a little weak and and the PI side of the story can sometimes be a bit cliche and there is way too much backstory crammed into this first novel of the series. But unlike many series' starts it wraps up neatly and the style is good. Hopefully now all the back story is out of the way the pacing of the sequels will improve.
In spite of it's weaknesses I really enjoyed this novel. It's not high literature but it's entertaining and worth reading.

The Weirdstone of Brisingamen
The Weirdstone of Brisingamen
by Alan Garner
Edition: Paperback

18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Better than Harry could ever be, 6 Mar 2006
And don't get me wrong. I do like Harry Potter. But I LOVE The Weirdstone of Brisingamen and its sequel The Moon of Gomrath.
The novel tells the story of how the modern fallout of a century's old theft draws teenage brother and sister Colin and Susan inexorably into the otherworld and forces them to play a key part in the battle. Much to the distress of the wizard Cadellin Silverbrow who just wishes them to be safe and cannot initially figure out why the forces of darkness are apparently targetting them.
But this is no simple tale of good and evil or perhaps more correctly it is not just a simple tale of good and evil. Good and Evil are certainly there and recognisable but they exist at the extremes and most everybody else exists inbetween. There are times when you feel you would like to hit some of the forces of Light over the head with something large and heavy and tell them to stop being such assholes. And unlike in JKR's rather flat characterisations you are meant not to like these characters.(Note - while this is true of Weirdstone it is even truer of the sequel Moon which I will review another time.)
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 3, 2012 8:35 AM BST

The Pocket and the Pendant
The Pocket and the Pendant
by Mark Jeffrey
Edition: Paperback
Price: 13.24

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, enjoyable and in serious need of editing, 1 Feb 2006
Let me say at the outset that this is a very good story. I enjoyed it a lot.
I recognised his mythology as being based on Sitchin's wonderfully bizarre theories pretty quickly even though I haven't actually read his work. Which is fine they are a decent source of insiration and everyone needs that.
Yes definately interesting and exciting.
However, in the name of an honest review,I must comment on the flaws.
I'll leave out all comment on the grammar and italics except to say that I can forgive grammar errors (of which there were quite a lot) but the italics were annoying. He likes them a lot and it's a bit like being continually poked in the eye.
Now this next point isn't really a problem but I do feel the need to address it. This story is busy. There is a heck of a lot going on that in the first instance seems hard to relate to other stuff that's going on and in the end it takes a huge chunk of expositionary dialogue (well more correctly it's mostly monologue) by Enki to tie everything together in nice parcel. This would have been a major problem but it's handled quite well so doesn't create a sudden wall that impedes reading like exposition so often can. Still it would have been better to spread the exposition out a bit and not dumped it all on Enki. Huge chunks of explanation should be avoided where possible.
And finally a very minor issue - I found the British character, who has clearly never lived in Britain no matter what he says, mildly annoying. for one it generally doesn't snow in Britain at Christmas. In fact snow is a thing that lasts a day or two then melts. Trust me I'm 33 years old and British. I remember only 3 white Christmases in my lifetime and two of those were merely technical (we had snow showers but it only stuck for an hour or so). He also doesn't speak like any british person I know.
Still it is worth reading. It's a very good story and even as it stands it is a more than decent novel but with a bit of editing it could have been brilliant.
I gather he's learned a lot from writing and publishing Pocket and I'm really looking forward to the sequel because he's a good storyteller and his technical execution can only improve...

Amber Page and the Legend of the Coral Stone
Amber Page and the Legend of the Coral Stone
by Stacey Cochran
Edition: Paperback
Price: 13.24

4.0 out of 5 stars A good novel but with a few odd errors, 21 Jan 2006
I just received my copy of this last week and devoured it in one sitting. So you can tell that I really enjoyed it. It's a very engaging story that made me laugh in places, cry in others and left me satisfied at the end.
If I can make one criticism of the book it's that there is the odd error in grammar or spelling. The one that really grated is the use of "shined" instead of "shone" in places. There were other minor errors but only a few and I've seen worse things slip by in traditionally published works.
Still it is well worth reading and I do recommend it.
My only major gripe is that I have to wait until Winter 2007 for the next volume.

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