Tim Stutler: Hillari’s Head (review)

17841547Sigh. I really wanted to like this novel. It had so much going for it and yet … I am left with a very annoyed and disappointed feeling after having finished it. Anyone who read my review of Det syvende barn will know that one of the things I hate the most, is novels with lots of potential but which doesn’t live up it.
Kristina is a young paralegal with a past. She moves to San Diego after her father’s death and leaves her past completely behind – or so she thinks. But pasts have a way of popping up again when you least expect it and when Kristina meets a kind judge who introduces her to a nice and funny single lawyer who not only offers her a job but becomes her boyfriend, Kristina suddenly realizes that she has to face down her demons for a chance at happiness. And on top of that, Kristina and her new boyfriend ‘Duck’ have to deal with some really tricky court cases – and stay in shape by riding ultra long rides on their special bikes…
So before I start saying what’s wrong with the novel, let me say this. I don’t normally read crime fiction, court room drama or anything of the kind. So this book is a bit outside of what I normally read but not much since there’s no murder to solve and the court room parts are not the most important parts of the book.
I also couldn’t quite get that her childhood was all that bad. And it did feel a bit unrealistic that she starts a blog, writes 5 posts or so – and then gives it up because she hadn’t completely thought it through. This feels too much like the author had to find a way to tell the story of her childhood and wanted to do something more clever than using flashbacks – and the thought was good, but the execution lacked.
He might also have had to big ambitions and wanted to do so much. We have a troubled main character, we have a love story, trial cases, the whole bike thing, the rare diseases – it felt like too much. Or maybe an author with more books under his belt could have pulled it off. Parts of it does get to feel a bit cliché, like a rather poor reworking of the Cinderella story. Add to this that Kristina as a character didn’t feel quite convincing, she didn’t feel true. Of course it’s always difficult to judge how people become after having lived through traumas, but Kristina didn’t feel right.
Oh and then there’s sentences like this: ‘It would be eight in Smethport. But her dad was dead now.’ Really? Right now at eight, he died? Or too much description and stage setting – hard biscuit … bleach-spotted sweater … cold coffee … chipped suacer … All these in just 5 lines. That quickly gets to be too much!
My biggest critique of this novel is, that it lacks an editor. It actually has so much potential. The story could have been really good and Tim Stutler is a great writer. I actually really enjoyed reading it – but then something jars, something is overdone or doesn’t make sense and I’m torn out of the reading experience and left wondering what happened. Like when the characters walk into the kitchen, one of them hands the other a glass of juice – and then she turns on the shower. Combined kitchen and bath room? Or when he suddenly refers to his main protagonist as ‘the paralegal’ instead of Kristina or she. It made me stop and wonder who he was talking about. And when you use typography to show when a character starts speaking, you have to remember to also show when that character stops! It’s pretty basic stuff and it’s the kind of stuff a good editor would catch. Without these types of flaws, I would probably have given it 4 stars – but these errors dragged it down.
And then the ending … Oh, the ending. The ending was so bad that it removed another star from my rating. It felt like the author couldn’t decide if he wanted a good or bad ending for his characters – so he just gave us both. And both are so unrealistic, they just didn’t make any sense.
I really hope that a good publisher will give Tim Stutler a chance with a new book because the guy can write. But he needs an editor to help him get the errors and flaws out of the novel – and to tell him to pick one ending and then stick to it!
Sigh. I’m really sad to write such a sour review but I just get so annoyed with books that could have been so much better. But that is the danger of self-publishing and Millcity Press seems to be a sort of self-publishing press but unfortunately it seems to have more focus on the technical aspects of publishing – like converting to e-books – than on editing…

I received this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

  • Title: Hillari’s Head
  • Author: Tim Stutler
  • Publisher: Millcity Press
  • Year: 2013
  • Pages: 275 pages
  • Source: Own collection
  • Stars: 2 stars out of 5

Review: The Safety Factor. The Use of Power

Jerry Travis and Josephine Mayes: The Safety Factor. The Use of Power (BookSurge, 2009)

I will begin this review with an apology. I received this as a first reads on Goodreads and I was very excited to read it. Unfortunately, I haven’t gotten around to reading and reviewing it until now. Or maybe it’s for the best since I’m not going to write a very positive review. Even though I started this book with a very positive attitude, it didn’t take long before my positivity was gone and was replaced by annoyance and I in fact started taking notes to some of all the things that were wrong with this book.
Let’s start with the most positive aspect first – the story itself.
Maria escapes from her abusive father by hiding away on a ship. Here, she meet Lady Farrell and her handmaiden Ellen who is on their way to Venice where Lady Farrell is to be married. But the ship is attacked by pirates and the three women try their luck on the sea instead of with their pirates. The women are saved by a submarine from the future.
This is all there is to the book – and you can read all this on the back cover… I’m not sure if this was written to cover all three parts of the trilogy but that’s the only way it makes sense to reveal this much on the back.
The future the women are taken back to is 2080. Unfortunately, most of their technology feels like our day technology with just a few advancements – mostly in weaponry. So the sci-fi parts of the book don’t feel advanced enough to be 70 years in the future.
And then, unfortunately, the writing let the story down. One problem was a lot of spelling mistakes and sentences with missing words – enough mistakes to interrupt the reading rather regularly. And the writers need to learn to show how the characters are and how they feel and not just tell it. It kind of also felt strange that one of the characters were almost always referred to as The Lady – even when two of her close friends talked about her. Or – in one case – they started saying The Lady, switched one time to Eileen and then back to The Lady. But that was just a minor quibble.
A couple of times, the author inserted their own opinions into the thoughts of the characters (like this: “And in her heart she (erroneously) felt it was her fault” (p. 27) – either she feels it’s her fault or not, this doesn’t work). And how can you quietly exclaim something (p. 18)?
My biggest issue was with the conversations between the characters. I’m not sure they felt real at any point. On the contrary. Not only were the conversations long-winded and nothing a real person would say, they occurred at the weirdest points. For instance, when lying in a boat alone and lost, the three women have discussions about how Aristotle and others viewed the universe, what they thought about the stars, how philosophy and science has evolved etc – and I like philosophy (having a university degree in Philosophy, I better like it!), but it just doesn’t make sense to have such a conversation at that point. Or – when you’ve learned that you have left your world, life and everything you’ve ever known behind – then you of course have a conversation about whether God is a finite or infinite being and if the Greek philosophers could possibly be wrong… Again – it doesn’t make sense to have such a conversation at such a time! At one point – while still being on the ocean with no rescue in sight – they even have discussions with formulas … And instead of feeling sorrow about never seeing your fiancé again, one of our main characters feel sorry for the world for loosing her and her friend because they are so educated…! Really?! Oh yes really!
Let me just mention the title as well. The idea behind the title is that there is a safety factor built into the Universe so that there is no chance of paradoxes when time traveling. So if things are to be used in any way in their own time, then travelers from the future can’t touch them – very simply put. Or – well – this is actually all there is to the idea. Even though I appreciate the idea, it isn’t presented in a convincing way.
In the end, the story let it all down as well. I know this is a trilogy but I don’t see myself reading the next two books in it. Actually, I haven’t even spared a passing thought to the characters since I closed the book and it was a task to finish it in the first place.
It’s a shame because Jerry Travis, the author I had some dealings with when receiving the book, seemed to be a really nice person – and therefore, I’m sad to write such a harsh review. But even when – or maybe especially when – you receive a book to review, you have to be honest and tell it like you see it. And that is what I’ve done – to the best of my abilities. This is a book that would have benefitted greatly from a very harsh editor – maybe something good would have come of it then.

ARC: Not Easily Washed Away

Brian Arthur Levene: Not Easily Washed Away: Memoirs of a Muslim’s Daughter

I just received this today from the author and it sounds like a very interesting – and thought-provoking! – book. Especially since this is a true story!

Here’s a description of it:

Not Easily Washed Away is the true story of Laila Hassan. Born to a Muslim family in Pakistan, she suffers sexual, mental and physical abuse for fifteen years by her father, Abdulla Hassan. Laila decides to take advantage of her father’s incestuous addiction by having him acquire a visa for her to the United States, where she feels as if she can rid herself of a putrid past. The book is written from a psychological perspective in first person, as Laila shares her painful past with the reader, sparing no details of her ordeal as a child, teenager and young adult.

After she realizes her father’s diabolical plan is to keep her in Pakistan for himself, Laila decides to take fate into her own hands. Her new attitude helps her to turn the tables on her father, now living in America, and manipulate him into marrying an American woman to get Laila’s visa to the United States.

A visa to America is not the end of her struggle. Laila arrives in Seattle, Washington, in 2004 to start a new life away from her father, but end up being unable to stop the incestuous relationship with him and later on, with her stepmother. Things get even worse for Laila, as she is now twenty years old, depressed, and worried that her family’s fate back in Pakistan might be jeopardized if she leaves home. In the spring of 2007 Laila’s life changes when she meets an interesting, Christian, Jamaican man at school. The young man confronts Laila about the abuse, and when she realizes she has feelings for him, she tells him everything. The young man then tries convinces Laila that she can free herself of her abusive father and stepmother by running away with him.

It’s available now as an e-book here and tomorrow in paperback as well.

ARC: The Virtual Life of Fizzy Oceans

A couple of days ago I received an advanced reading copy of David A. Ross’ book The Virtual Life of Fizzy Oceans from Open Books and I’m really looking forward to reading it! Besides sounding like a great read, it has an amazing cover that would immediately have caught my attention if I had seen it in a store.

Here’s some information about it – from Open Books:


The Virtual Life of Fizzy Oceans by David A. Ross

Meet Fizzy Oceans—archivist, researcher, environmentalist and adventurer. On her travels she witnesses The Exodus, the Battle of Gettysburg and Hurricane Katrina, as well as many other historical and real time events. She meets notable individuals including Gandhi, Mark Twain, Jacques Cousteau, The Dalai Lama, Saddam Hussein and even a new species called the Quinngen.

Such unique experiences and encounters spanning the world and time as we know them would not be possible for a single individual—especially not for a woman named Amy Birkenstock who works as a medical clerk in Seattle, Washington—but Fizzy Oceans, Amy’s digital alter ego, is not in Physical Life. She lives, works and travels in the virtual world where the dead are very much alive, places like ancient Babylon and Pompeii have been reconstructed, and with the click of a button—WHOOSH!—one is transported throughout the Ages to events and destinations that make up our human history.

Even as Amy’s physical life existence is challenged by encroaching environmental disaster, economic instability, and societal breakdown, Fizzy’s virtual world offers instant realization of vision and inspiration. The Virtual Life of Fizzy Oceans imagines the bridging of two worlds—the literal and the metaphorical—and questions what it is we have created, what has been lost, and what might be possible for us as individuals and for the Human Race.

Available now from Amazon.com at http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B004HO69QE?ie=UTF8&tag=httpwwwgoodco-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B004HO69QE&SubscriptionId=1MGPYB6YW3HWK55XCGG2

Also available in .ePub format, .prc format (for Kindle) and PDF format at Open Books Direct at http://open-bks.com/library/moderns/the-virtual-life-of-fizzy-oceans/fizzy-cover.html