Book Reviews

Closer Than You Think by Lee Maguire – A Review

As far as I’m aware, I don’t think I’ve ever read a published debut novel. I mean, being an editor and all, I’ve come across my fair share of first novels, but a published debut just isn’t something I come across very often. I usually stick by the well-known authors, the well-known type with a history of popular reads, so this was a little bit out of my comfort zone. However, the promise of an exciting crime drama with a psychological crime thriller undertone swayed me, and I’m glad it did.

Closer Than You Think is the first novel in a developing crime series featuring Doctor Bryce Davidson, a psychologist at a ‘Children’s Agency’. When a strange set of threatening messages arise, it’s up to Davidson to use his wits, intuition and psychological expertise to find the culprit. But with relationship drama getting heavier, work getting tougher and threats getting more and more terrifying by the day, can he catch them in the act before it’s too late?

So, what’s the verdict? Well, as far as debut novels go, Lee Maguire’s Closer Than You Think was surprisingly good. With drama on every page, a frightening stalker and a search for answers, I just couldn’t put the damn book down! For a first-time author, Maguire does a brilliant job at keeping descriptions short and drama central, making it a breeze to read – the perfect ‘air-port read’, so to speak.

That isn’t to say this book doesn’t have it’s flaws, of course. With quite a few noticeable spelling errors, clunky dialogue that seemed a little too formal for normal human conversation and a main character who’s just that little bit too perfect, there’s a lot for Maguire to improve on. The first few chapters were chocked full of strange exposition and description that really could’ve been cut out. But the more I read, the more I found the writing flowed. If it found it’s rhythm earlier on, it could’ve been an excellent read, but from an author with no public writing-style developed and a little experience in the published world of books, I have to give Maguire the benefit of the doubt here. It takes a lot to be a good writer and, as many people say, a first novel is never going to be a great novel. Luckily for Maguire, his ability to keep intrigue saved the day.

Sure, there are going to be people who tear apart this book, but for a debut author and a small publishing team, I have to say, it’s a good start. It did keep me on edge, which is everything in a crime-thriller, and (although it dragged on a bit at the start) its brief, punchy style of writing kept me glued to each page. With a few more improvements, some guidance and a tad more experience, Maguire really could have what it takes to pull off a successful crime series. 

Grab your copy of Closer Than You Think now!:
http://geni.us/closerthanyouthinkm

 

Follow Lee Maguire at:
https://www.facebook.com/Dr-Bryce-Davison-Thriller-Series-1497309670567574/

Find TCK Publishing at their site:
https://www.tckpublishing.com/

TCK Publishing’s Facebook:
https://www.facebook.com/tckpublishing/

TCK Publishing’s Twitter:
https://twitter.com/TCKPublishing

 

Book Reviews

The Passage by Justin Cronin – A review

I’ve got to admit, I never really planned on picking this book up, but the moment I set eyes on it, I knew I had to read it. With its silver, almost holographic cover design, I couldn’t not pick it up. It wasn’t until I held the book in my hand and felt the weight of its epic 963 pages that I realised just how much of a committment I was getting myself into.

Justin Cronin’s The Passage is an epic sci-fi novel, centring around a devastating plague that begins to take over humanity, turning people into violent, vampire-zombie hybrids with a taste for – you guessed it – blood. Throw in an odd young child with an unknown ‘power’ and a ragtag group of youth with a taste for answers, justice and adventure, and you’ve got yourself a prime sci-fi read. But just how readable is Cronin’s novel?

Well, in all honesty, I have to say, I expected more from this book. The first few hundred pages were incredibly captivating. With a cast of intriguing personalities, each one with a well fleshed-out background, motive and voice. The plot was perfectly comprehendible – although a little wild, but nothing out of the ordinary for a sci-fi epic – and Cronin’s writing was the perfect cross between fast-paced, simple and descriptive.

However, as the book continued, I found myself getting more and more bored with the story. Sure, it had some interesting plot points and settings, but overall I found that the major let-down was the characters. As much as I read on, the less I began to care for each of the characters laid out before me. Although there was the occasional attempt to flesh-out characters, there just wasn’t enough characterisation to pull me in. No matter who the characters were or what was happening, every character seemed to have the same voice, speaking the same tone and using the same words (including a particularly frustrating over-use of the word ‘flyers’ as an expletive). In a novel that clearly outlines its central characters, having different language and personality traits was something that should’ve been vital, but there just didn’t appear to be any attempt at setting the characters appart in any means but their personal interests.

Plot, too, became jumbled the more I read on. Characters were introduced, developed, and then completely disregarded in later chapters. Action scenes were incredibly sudden in comparison to the resting phases of the novel, comprising of a series of long, relatively mundane descriptions, which could easily have been cut from the novel without affecting the story. Not to mention, there was a strange amount of cuts between letters, third-person narrations and military reports. In the end, I found it difficult to tell which character was which, what they were meant to be doing and what the purposes of each of the plot points were.

So, was it worth the read? Well, for me, the novel taught me a very valuable lesson: don’t judge a book by its cover. Sure, if you’re into science fiction and post-apocalyptic drama, I wouldn’t be one to stop you. The premise is interesting and it did drag me along long enough for me to finish the novel. However, if you’re after something with a little more depth and characterisation, I’d probably recommend Stephen King’s similar novel The Stand instead.

writing advice

The Epidemic of Showing AND Telling, and How You Can Avoid it

As a newbie editor, I’ve come across my fair share of errors and faults in writing. Usually, when I pick up a piece of writing, I’m on the look out for grammatical errors: spelling mistakes or words used in the wrong context. Sometimes I’ll pull up on a sentence that could be structured differently to make it easier to read, or a paragraph that doesn’t make much sense within the story. But there’s something I’ve been coming across recently that’s been bugging me a lot, something that I just can’t help but notice in most of the first-drafts I read, a little something called the ‘Epidemic of Showing AND Telling’.

What Does ‘Show DON’T Tell’ Mean?

Well, to put it straight, it means that instead of simply telling the audience something that’s occurring in your story, you describe it. That might be describing the actual events, or it could mean describing the effects of the events. Lets start with this basic example:

‘Sarah was afraid.’ 

     Sure, this sentence does the job. Anybody who reads it is going to know immediately how Sarah feels, but it’s vague. Simply telling readers how a character feels probably isn’t going to resonate with them. It’s a ‘blank statement’; something people read and attach virtually no feeling to, akin to reading a fact. So how can you make it resonate? Show!

‘Sarah’s legs began to tremor. A tingling sensation crawled up her spine.’

     Again, it’s short, but rather than telling readers exactly how the character ‘Sarah’ feels, readers are asked to work it out for themselves. It adds an element of trust between the reader and the author; the author trusting in the reader to put two and two together rather than spoon-feeding them everything, and the reader trusting the author to put together a description comprehensively enough for them to be able to put two and two together. Although both examples mean the same thing, one tells the reader what the character feels, and the other allows the reader to connect to the character through a description of feelings that they too have probably experienced before and can therefore relate to. And, as every author knows, relatability is everything.

What is ‘Showing AND Telling’?

To be fair, there is a lot more ‘showing’ these days than there used to be. Ever since the ‘show don’t tell’ phrase got attention, people have been taking notice and adapting their writing to fit the rule. However, although people have started to take the ‘showing’ aspect into account, there’s been quite a few that haven’t wrapped their head around the ‘don’t tell’ part of the phrase. Instead of just showing, they’re both showing AND telling. Here’s our example again, this time showing AND telling:

‘Sarah was afraid. Her legs began to tremor and a tingling sensation crawled up her spine.’

      It doesn’t take a genius to see the author’s lack of trust on this piece. They’re showing the reader that the character of Sarah is afraid, but they add the ‘telling’ in fear the reader won’t get the picture. As pretty much any reader will notice, it’s not necessary. Everyone knows what it feels like to be afraid. Readers know that wobbly knees and a tingle along the spine mean fear and, with the context of the story’s events added in, it doubles the reader’s awareness. They know what your describing, so there’s no need to tell them.

Curing the Epidemic

So, how exactly does an author cure the ‘Showing AND Telling’ epidemic? Well, it’s pretty easy: if you find yourself using both, get rid of one. Sure, telling is still an important part of writing. There will be times when telling is necessary for your story, but for the most part, showing should always take priority, especially when it comes to vital emotionally-driven scenes (which should be a pretty big majority of your writing if your novel is fiction). If telling is necessary, such as in a fast-paced fight scene, make sure you aren’t including any long, droning descriptions or ‘showing’ that might slow down the scene’s pace.

The best way to deal with the issue is to look at each event, page or paragraph, and look at how certain elements are described. If there’s a ‘show’ and a ‘tell’ describing the same element of the story and the ‘show’ suits the story’s pace, get rid of the ‘tell’. Not only will it make your story ten times less demanding to read, but it’ll cut down your word-count, too.

Last but not least, if you’re still not sure, consult a beta reader, editor, or (come on, you saw this coming), myself. Using the ‘contact me’ page, any author who’s still confused can send a message through requesting a free five-page trial edit on their writing, meaning I can pick up on all those ‘showing and telling’ moments and give some advice on how to fix it up.

Book Reviews, Uncategorized

‘The Dry’ by Jane Harper – A Review

I’m going to be honest about this one: I never really wanted to read this book. Marketed as more of a piece about the Australian landscape than a book with a story line, I was always hesitant to read it. Sure, I find Australia interesting (I do live in Australia, after all)… but a book that’s main theme focuses around how beautiful the Australian outback is? Yeah, not so much.

But a few months ago my mother told me she’d booked tickets to see Miss Harper in person promoting her newest novel The Lost Man, and I knew I’d have to read it. I mean, you can’t just go to an author’s book release without reading any of the books they’ve written, right? With a sigh of defeat, I opened the first page and let me just say… Jane Harper truly surprised me.

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The Plot: When a young couple and their son are found dead on their property in the rural Australian town of Kiewarra, it’s originally passed off as a murder-suicide. However, former Kiewarra inhabitant and police investigator Aaron Falk begins to suspect there’s more than meets the eye to this tragic case.

Verdict: Jane Harper’s debut novel The Dry is nothing short of magnificent. With it’s fast-paced narration, it’s beautiful characterisation and actively intriguing storyline, it’s nearly impossible to put down.
From the very first chapter to the very last, Harper’s experience with writing and editing process (working previously as a journalist) shines through. With short and snappy narration and realistic dialogue – cutting out that long-winded description a lot of debut authors fall into the trap of writing – The Dry was nothing short of a breeze to read.
Sure, this book isn’t exactly the ‘game changer’ of all crime novels. It’s probably not going to go down as the ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ of our generation and it certainly does have its faults (especially in terms of a particular typography and style choice, which is quickly changed for the rest of Harper’s series) but it’s a fun, solid and creative crime novel set in a time where unique and readable crime novels can be few and far between.

Overall, yeah, Jane Harper’s The Dry was a great read! For anyone who’s a fan of a good crime story, pick it up. Trust me, you won’t regret it!

Purchase Harper’s novel here: https://www.panmacmillan.com.au/9781925481372/

Or visit Jane Harper’s site at: http://janeharper.com.au/Books/The-Dry