Monday, April 07, 2014

3 days left.

Notown by Tess Collins.  This is so close to greatness.  I thought the time jumps wouldn't work, but the character ages well (and realistically) section to section.  The narration and dialogue are super; the author really captures the sound and cadence.
What knocks the book down are the "that day" sections.  We don't need the added suspense to want to follow the characters; they are strong enough on their own.  It's also confusing to jump between past tense/first person and present tense/3rd person.  The character presented in these sections doesn't jive with the character we see grow through the rest of the book.  Take out these sections and you'd have a solid book.

Gus by Martin Vlain.  This is a solid title with few errors, realistic and steady dialogue, and characters who aren't bipolar.  It isn't exciting or emotionally engaging as some of the other top-ten contenders, but it is more technically correct.

Night Chill by Jeff Gunhus.  Technically correct with a good level of creepy-factor-- good intensity of suspense and good lulls in between.  Possibly top-10.

Zandra's Journey by Darron Contryman.  Sadly overly simplistic writing, both in style and content.  This is more suited for young teens than an adult audience.

The Children Who Time Lost by Marvin Amazon.  The first portion of the book is very good, but it gets a bit farther and farther "out there" as the story progresses.  The author does an excellent job of releasing details about the world in bits as the story unfurls.  The book is about the character, and why would she stop what she's doing to hash out in detail the minutiae of her life and the world she lives in?  She's not talking to us.  Well done on that.
This possible future is too close to be plausible-- only 8 years away and we'll have robots and time travel and access to alternate timelines and parallel universes?  Nope.  This is where the story lost my buy-in.

The Way They See by Evelyn Marshall.  Good characters and a good setting with excellent sense of time and place, but too many grammar and punctuation errors.  So close.

The Jigsaw Window by Cameron Kennedy.  I had to live-update my Facebook status as I began to look over this book: "editing errors on the cover do not portend good things;" "the author's name is misspelled on the interior title page! can i just quit now?" and "this book makes me want to use more than one exclamation points. I'm in trouble now."  Surprisingly, despite the disastrous errors on the cover and title page, the contents are good-- interesting mechanism for telling the story, enough characters with enough going on that this could be a good book club choice.  I just can't get past the author misspelling her own name.

A Year in the Life of Dr. Fox by Frederick L Malphurs.  The dialogue and narration both are incredibly formal, not natural-sounding at all.  A number of proof-read and punctuation errors also detract from the reading.
There are many characters, none of which achieve any meaningful depth. The author wants to use the novel to make a social/political point, but the reader can't care about the issues if we can't connect with the characters.

The Third Peril by L. P. Hoffman.  The writing isn't exactly gripping, although it is largely technically correct ( some proof-reading-type errors remain).  This will likely be of interest to a rather small subset of adult readers.
The 5-year-old character isn't quite right, but isn't as bad as many child characters; readers without a kindergartener at home are unlikely to notice.
The author does a good job of following a large handful of characters, giving enough time to follow each closely enough to give some depth to each character. 

From Finland with Love by Ellie Alanko.  Dear Ellie: please engage me (or, really, anyone) to edit your book and then release a second edition.  This is so close!  It hurts my feelings that I can't include this in the top-10, seriously.
This as good characters that are pretty realistic and interesting, but the writing errors undermine the story-- dialogue that doesn't make sense (not attributed and missed paragraph breaks so in several back-and-forth conversations, the reader needs to go back and count forward who is speaking at what times) and some almost black-out periods, where the reader and the character are transported through time and space but it's not clear why the author would do that or how we got to this new point.  Fix these largely organization and editing errors and you'd have a winner.

The Concealers by James J. Kaufman.  The writing is fair, mostly correct, but without a unique voice.  It sounds like the author has studies and worked very hard to get it "right."  Unfortunately, the voice lacks spark or emotional connectivity.
The back of the book says it's second in the series, but it seems like it doesn't rely heavily on the same characters; it's fine to jump in with this one without reading the first if you wanted to. 

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