Review: The Beekeeper by Juliet Moore

First the good news: the story is - for the most part - very fluid and consistent, the characters quite well developed.
Its a good, relatively fast read book that I would recommend to anyone as an entertainment read. Don't expect deeply twisted plotlines, just enjoy.

The negative side is twofold. For one thing, the book seems to be financed by advertising. I've never read a book that has so many references to real-life products and brands - this one is chuck full of them. Perhaps that is the new model of Kindle publishing: give away the book and finance it by "commercials" that are part of the story. I found it a bit annoying, to be quite honest - I'd prefer to pay for a novel and not be inundated by advertising.
The second issue is one of continuity - there were several pretty serious errors as the book went on. To me, this was more of a "whoops, someone didn't pay attention". As an author myself, I know how difficult it is to catch this type of error if you don't have a professional editor going through the text for you. Perhaps the result of self-publishing will be to get book updates as errors are removed, much like software updates...

Again, quite a good read for entertainment purposes, some interesting facts about beekeeping. I'll be looking for the next Elizabeth Stratton story to come out.

Here is the Amazon link:

Review: Death of a Maid: A Hamish Macbeth Murder Mystery *

I’m a big fan of Amazon’s 0,99€ Kindle daily special, and I’ve bough quite a few Kindle books this way.

One of them was
Death of a Maid: A Hamish Macbeth Murder Mystery, mainly because of the many relatively good reviews and the sheer number of times a Hamish Macbeth mystery has been on the daily special.

The author of these books is a well-established british writer, Marion Chesney, who writes under the pseudonym “M.C. Beaton”. Now there are several reasons for an established author to use a pseudonym - even Steven King uses at least one. The prime reason is likely to keep their real name “in the clear” for more serious work - much like many major product brands will also sell white-label items cheaper, to keep their well-established brand from being cannibalized.

In the case of the Hamish Macbeth series - at least this one book that I’ve read in the series - I have a different theory: seeing the sheer number of books that Mrs. Chesney has written (78 as per the Wikipedia site), I personally believe she is paying creative writing students to write the books for her, perhaps by a general plot outline she sets forth.

Whatever the case - and perhaps all her books are like this one, in which case my theory would pop like a soap bubble - the book was a real chore to read.

The language is excessively simplistic, with the exception of a word in every hundred that you absolutely need to look up, because it just isn’t in regular use anymore (some - according to the Kindle English language dictionary haven’t been in use for a couple of 100 years).

Scenes are hardly detailed at all, the book seems to consist of 90% dialog (of the kind described) and 10% repeated descriptions of the countryside, the car PC Hamish drives, his animals, etc. The story gets ridiculous at times (as in not believable at all) with incredible coincidences thrown in to - at least it appears as such to me - pull the poor writer out of the corner they’ve texted themselves into. As a side note, the editor probably felt as much pain as I did reading it, as I noticed a major continuity error (hint: PC Hamish goes out in Snowshoes to see a “client” and, after an encounter that couldn’t have taken more than a minute - would one hike for half an hour for that? - , went back in his vehicle).

I certainly can’t recommend this book - to anyone. Not even if all you’re looking for is a fast, easy read at the beach. Because it just isn’t a book to relax to, but for all the wrong reasons.

You can also find my review on Amazon here.

"Odd Hours" by Dean Koontz

I thoroughly enjoyed the first Odd Thomas book, the 2nd and 3rd were also quite ok. After reading the 4th book, there is some criticism to be put to paper. Something that has annoyed me throughout the series, but especially in the 4th book, has been the blatant placement of advertising.

I'm quite certain Mr. Koontz earns more than a generous living; why he has to defile his writing with adverts for a variety of brands is beyond me. Okay, perhaps he didn't notice the small-print clause in the publisher's contract when he signed it that would permit a fiendish editor to change every reference to Cola to a well-known soft drink brand, every mention of an antacid to a specific reference to that yucky pink stuff you see in commercials.

I've noticed this trend in some other books, but generally, you'll only get one or two "sponsored words" in a novel. I haven't read much other material from Mr. Koontz, but it seems to me its gone from mildly annoying in "Odd Thomas" to absolutely unacceptable in "Odd Hours". 

The use of advertising in novels annoys me on several levels. For one, a brand is hardly going to spend money on sponsored words with an unknown author (who could probably really use the money) - rather, they have a benefit from broad distribution through books by the top 20.

I'm not sure what the cost of a sponsored word in a bestseller novel is, but it must be huge for someone with a beachside mansion to allow the prostitution of his work. Another reason I get irked is: it distracts me. Okay, this might be a personal issue, but whenever I come across branding in a story, it pulls me out of the "magic moment", which is the reason I'm reading the book in the first place. Thirdly, I get annoyed because, folks, I've PAID for the book.

We're not talking about private television that has its sole income via commercial advertising sales. Books aren't cheap these days, and for the premium paid, absolutely expect advertising-free literature!

On the book itself, the story is entertaining enough. A factor that I found enjoyable especially in the first book, the ardent use of linguistic tools such as alliteration, metaphor, etc., to add an unusual twist to the books language and flow, has increasingly become overpowering.

In this fourth book, I find some passages difficult to read as the language is so intwined within itself that you need to fully concentrate on the language itself, which causes the story to suffer. It gives the impression of the author going through the manuscript several times, looking for ways to convolute the language. 

"Written in Bone" by Simon Beckett

Two stars for this book, no more. Where do they come from? Well, one star is for a good story idea; based on the old "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" concept (here a "double whammy"), it has quite a bit of potential. The other star is for a fluid read.

From a technical viewpoint, the book is well written; the characters feel well developed and, for the most part quite believable. Towards the end of the book, this feeling is successfully removed beyond redemption, of course.

Unfortunately, the buck stops here. Mr. Beckett takes the concept of overstatement to a new level. Without wanting to mention too many details, the story contains too much ridiculous plot to warrant more than two stars.

A large portion of the plot takes place during an Atlantic storm; having experienced one of these first-hand, I can tell you that the central characters of the novel must likely be superheroes to physically do what is described - any normal person, even a physically fit one, would be drenched to the bone after 15 minutes and rendered a shivering nincompoop after 30 in this type of weather, wearing the type of clothes described. Conversation during a pounding rain with 70km/h winds? Not in real life - in the book, this doesn't seem to be a problem. The list goes on.

Furthermore, you get the idea that the author learned only a few facts about the anthropological aspects of fire death, as he beats you around the head with them repeatedly, almost like a mantra. If you're expecting an entertaining and interesting medical discourse of the likes of "Kay Scarpetta" et al, look elsewhere.

The story could have been made into an excellent book, unfortunately Beckett uses the plot as a blunt instrument, with which he tries to pound reading enjoyment into your head.

The story becomes more unbelievable as it nears the end, with two final twists that are so badly put together it hurts. You get the feeling that after reading the first half of his manuscript, Mr. Beckett - or more likely his editor - felt that more zest was needed to keep the story alive. A bad decision - the story would have been fine without all the gore and superfluous action.

The last chapter is the final straw. It is completely ridiculous and utterly superfluous. If you've received this book as a gift or actually purchased it, do yourself a favor: tear the pages of the last chapter carefully out of the book and either deposit them in that happily crackling fire in your hearth or put them in the recycling bin. You'll give that paper a purpose that way and save yourself some pretty painful reading. Am I exaggerating just a bit here? No I'm not.

To summarize, if you're looking for good, believable forensic anthropology fiction, don't buy this book. There are other authors that do a much better job. I certainly won't be reading any more books by this author, I can tell you. If you're looking to give this book as a gift, then please do so only to people you'd like to annoy.

"Odd Thomas" by Dean Koontz

This book is stylistically so different from others I've read of Koontz that it really surprised me.

It is a highly recommended read. The language is not one of "run-of-the-mill" bestsellers but more like the classical American authors - I guess the best word I have for it is "eloquent".

I was bothered once in a while by the way Odd communicates - on the one hand Koontz is successful in making him seem like his age (20), at other times he speaks and thinks about topics in a way that even a twen with a talent like his likely would not. It isn't enough of a bother to warrant a downgrade to a four-star book, though.


"Along Came Trouble" by Sherryl Woods

To put it plainly, the book is simple entertainment and nothing more. On the minus side, it is full of coincidences that just don't happen in real life -- without these coincidences, the story would have held fine, but it just wouldn't have been as "cute".

On the plus side, the writing style is very fluid and entertaining, the characters mostly very realistic. The style keeps you going on the next chapter, even though you should have been asleep half an hour ago. It's easy reading, great for lounging by the pool or ocean. Don't expect too much, and you'll be entertained.

This book has a headliner (I believe that's what they call one-line "reviews" from popular newspapers or critics, that are printed on the back cover) that is about a different book by the same author -- which I find totally ridiculous. Had I noticed it before starting to read, I probably would have put the book aside...