NVDT Random – Another Book Review

Scam! By Stevie Turner

Five Stars

Another cover-to-cover indie. This one because I said I would, and I needed something to read to get out from under some seemingly unending epics. I was not let down.

This is a well-crafted story and, though called a “novella,” it is an appropriate length for a modern fiction work weighing in with a 23.5k word count. It starts out as the story of a young woman who wants her own home so she can get out from under her in-laws and gets scammed out of her down payment savings. At this point it could go moralistic about the consequences of greed and impatience but does not. Instead, once we meet everyone and the scene is set, readers are taken on a surprise ride of consequence(s) far more dire than pissed off and embarrassed over identity theft. I’m going to stop there as far as the story line. Read it and you’ll see.

Any technical issues? Considering the material and the commercial quality of the work, I would say none that got in the way except several pages of a contract I could have done without. I see that stuff, my eyes glaze over I and skip ahead to story. I had issues with certain aspects of the work as regards the character dynamics as well, but to call them out would give the story away, and those issues do not reflect on the quality of the work, but on my preferences. Overall, this is a damn good book, regardless of whether I agree with the characters behavior(s). To get bumped out of my comfort zone and still feel like I read something that was a professionally written, solid story is a good thing.

I said surprised, but I shouldn’t be. And here’s an honest bit of prejudice on my part—I see the author’s subject matter and many of her covers and I think “Wasn’t this an episode of Law and Order? Or maybe a redux of this or that movie?” But they never are. Because the author can take everyday people (characters) and imbue them with humanity and freshness even when treading on what would outwardly appear to be worn ground. No easy feat. Stereotypes and cloning are easy. Believable characters and situations of the everyday world are not. Even Stevie’s bit players ring true. The protagonist’s discomfort with mother-in-law, husband’s laissez-faire assumption of comfort on his home turf—in fact, both sets of family are believable enough to live down the street. Because they aren’t over or under written cartoons.

Technical stuff—This book was edited by Denna Holm. Having read Stevie’s earlier self-edited or beta reader efforts, it was obvious. At least for the first 18% where I don’t recall being ejected, coerced or seduced by substituted dialog tags or adverbs. In fact, it seems all the “getting to it” portion of the book was pretty flawless. After that the adverbs and “replied” “asked” etc. tags kick in, but the structure and dialogue remain sound. There are readers in the world and styles of writing that require some of that, so again, as it wasn’t egregious, no fault, no foul.

The ending made me feel a little pulled up short, like a wedgie. But it was a slice of time novella. An episode. This would make great fodder for a 90-minute pick your Brit detective serial, or better yet, that Welsh thing Thirty-Five Days.

Postscript – There are lines I wish authors would not write, or stop writing, or edit out at the end of chapters or books, but that’s a whole other post.

NVDT Random – Jim kicks Bill – A Book Review

The Ballad of Mrs. Malony – C.S. Boyack

I recently read an Indie from cover to cover. Something I haven’t done in ages. What’s more, I gave it five stars on Amazon. Not because an Indie author made it all the way through but for how he made it through. That’s right. The author STFU and let the story talk.

One of the few blogs I subscribe to is Roberta Writes. Truth? I shy away from her most of the time because of her professional relationship with someone I consider (personal opinion only) one of the major frauds in the Indie publishing biz. But Robbie is everywhere, all the time. I mean like a rash. She’s promoting and interviewing and being interviewed by other Indies. A real hustler in the Indie domain. I think the majority of those things are circle jerks, but she “had on the show” this Boyack guy and his Hat books. I didn’t read the entire interview or review, only enough to get that a hat was a main character.

What?

How the hell did I sign off on a Cat in the Hat style hat that assists an ingenue Danger Barbie in vampire hunting?

I opened the book and wasn’t offered a choice. Chew on that for a minute. First point in author’s favor. No bullshit. No sales pitch. No (listen carefully) authorial ‘splaining nonsense. No in-depth history of vampires. No super queen of the night how bad ass Danger Barbie is descriptions. This book is an exercise in STFU and let the story roll. We find out all about the hat and the DB, whose name is Lizzie, by listening and following them around doing their thing(s). How righteous is that for an Indie?

Pros – Consistent voice. Very few useless tags. Sensible dialogue. You know, the kind that sounds like people only it’s moving the story forward or solving the usual Indie author problem of POV and head time with dialog. Not bunny chasing, ‘splainin’ and author insertion.

Cons – the author’s language only kicked me off the page maybe three times, and all three involved to “sit upon”. Completely out of tone. Like he had an English Teacher moment.

Suggestion – Lizzie, who plays upright bass (with the Hat’s help) in a cover band always “keys” her damn mic before talking. I was 42% of the way through when I learned she was wireless, and a little later headset wireless. “Keying” a mic is ancient broadcast, CB/short wave, and Pilot terminology. I did the pro audio industry for a living, so even something as generic as switched would sit better in the mix.

The book weighs in at 33.4k word count. Not long. Like a Laura Levine. Even some shorter Leonard. I would quibble with the slow spot on their stake-out (hey, a pun!) in the middle as a missed opportunity for some sudden monster in the car window moments, but hey, that’s me.

I don’t read vampire books, or horror or fantasy. But I read this. To me Mrs. Malony was a good, old fashioned character driven caper romp. Even in the minor slow spot the author never veered off course into author land and to me that’s five-star territory. Anyone who wants to see a modern version of how it’s done as applicable short form technique should pick this up.

I’ll read the next one to find out if the Hat gets his fog machine.