Welcome to my self-indulgent location for the stories (good and bad) that I can't prevent myself from writing. All comments and criticisms welcome. I post on Tuesdays and Saturdays.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Review: Murder Most Trivial

A few months ago, I won this on Goodreads. I don't normally read mysteries, but this one touted itself as a YA mystery. With fond memories of Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys, I though, why not? Upgrade the mystery (I'm pretty sure Nancy never investigated serial murderers), and it should be a pretty good read, right? Ideally...

The Blurb (from Goodreads): Murder, is that your final answer? High school senior Jason Greevey seems to think so. When winning contestants from a local restaurant's trivia contest begin turning up dead, runner-up Jason worries that he will be the next weakest link!

Now, I'm not one to look down on self-published novels. In fact, I've read my fair share (by Michelle Davidson Argyle, Allen Russell, Carol Riggs, among others). They generally have to be judged within their own category, and not in comparison with books edited by agents and publishers who rip books to pieces (for the betterment of the book, of course) for a living.

And, yes, I checked. This book was published by DPL Books in VA. I found their blog, and their listing on a self-publishing consortium. Honestly, I didn't even find a company website. Beyond those, it was mostly links for Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. I find this odd.

But I digress...

Unfortunately for L. K. Ellwood, all those other self-pub'ed books left this one in the dust. Overwrought with typos and factual errors, this book floundered on its way to finding the end-game--which I had difficulty believing. I found myself skimming way too often as I had to read random bits of backstory about minor characters who hardly play a role (e.g., I don't need to know that Mrs. Rice somehow managed to run all of the volunteer committees at church while raising 5 kids when she only appears in a phone call and the final scene of the book). What this story needed was a good editor, and I don't necessarily mean from the publishing house. The author needed a solid, tooth-and-nails critique partner or set of critique partners who weren't afraid to rip the story apart. It's really too bad that this author didn't have have one (or several) to point out that, for example, a morning newspaper goes to press well after the 11pm news, or that a person who has designated herself as an organ donor would not have anything taken from her if she died from an allergic reaction to drugs administered in the hospital.These are only a couple of several examples of factual errors, not to mention the list of typos and awkward turns of phrase that appeared on almost every page.

Oh, and did I mention the constant head-jumping? At one point, the POV changed so frequently between father and son that I no longer knew who the "he" was. Even mid paragraph the shift in POV would occur. Extremely disconcerting.

The bottom line: Don't bother unless you're sending a heavy list of edits to the author. And since the pub date is from 2002, I doubt she wants to see any.

By the way, I'm not only planning on complaining. Stop back on Saturday for some of my thoughts on the temptations involved in self-publishing.


salarsenッ said...

Thanks for your honestly. It's always hard to write a review that's not favorable to the author. It sounds like this book had a good story. It was the way the story was constructed (i.e. tool box) that got in its way. Self-publishing is definitely on the rise, and in many cases that's a good thing. But Indie publishing doesn't mean less quality. It's important for a writer to have those CPs and hire a professional editor prior to publishing. We are definitely in charge of our destinies here. (But this book was pubbed in 2002. I think the seriousness of self-publishing has changed, too.)

Jan Morrison said...

I'm with the last commenter - if you are going to self-publish you must be meticulous with peer reviews and professional editing. Yikes! I'm surprised you read it through. I'd have given it the old 37 page test.

RosieC said...

This was definitely a case in which the toolbox needed to come back out, or at least get cleaned up and reorganized. I definitely believe in self-publishing, but it's not something to be taken lightly. That's not to say that the author did, but this story needed more work before hitting print.

To be honest, I almost stopped reading. However, when one registers for a Goodreads contest, the agreement for winning includes providing a review. I didn't think it was fair to provide a review on only, say, 50 pages (which is about when I gave up), so I continued reading. There are other books that I've stopped after one chapter (I actually removed one from my list of to-be-reviewed on my reviews page here), but since I had agreed to write this review, I felt obliged to read the entire thing to give a well-informed review.

Tyrean Martinson said...

I had an interesting conversation the other day about my writing. A new friend of mine discovered that I've written 3 books, and she wanted to know why I hadn't self-published any of them yet. I told her that none of them were truly ready - they need more editing and more polish. She seemed surprised, and I was surprised and her surprise. Self-publishing has become so popular that I don't think non-writers realize how much work goes into a self-publishing venture - or how much work "should" go into it.

Paul Tobin said...

I thought you offered a very balanced review, I thought you were very respectful and honest when offering constructive feedback.

Andrea Franco-Cook said...

Thanks for the head's up. I will be sure to avoid the book. Although I'm sure it stung the author, your review was honest and professional.

It has taken me two years to get to the third draft of my work-in-progress, and I still don't think it's ready to query. There have been times throughout the writing process where I grew impatient and considered submitting the piece before it was ready. Thank goodness for my pragmatic hubby. He talked me off the ledge.

FWIW, I am so glad I took the time to do this right. In fact, after I'm done with the edit of my third draft, it's going to an editor. I want my book to be pristine before sending it off. This way, if I cannot find a publisher to accept my MS., then I can self-publish it.

May as well try to do it right the first time out. After all, reviews are everything in this business.

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