Friday, 26 June 2009

Fiction Book Review - Constant Reader

It probably says something about me that my book to review this week is another independently published work. That's what two weeks out of five or six?

Once again this review of Constant Reader by Jennifer Reeve originally appeared on under the name of Shutsumon (that's me).


Quick soundbite review: A wonderful story for any writer who has ever thought that their muse was getting away from them.

Indepth Review: "Constant Reader" by Jennifer Reeve is a very slim book weighing in at just 104 pages. But then I knew that before I bought it, so I'm not complaining. It's a novella at about 30,000 words. That's one of the joys of POD. The ability to create and produce non-standard length work. I do have some strong issues with the layout of the book but I'll come to them later.

First the story. "Constant Reader" is an even faster read than it is slim - and I mean that as a compliment. It's a clever, fun tale that keeps you turning the pages until you're done. The book is written from the perspective of the main character - Claudia Danvers - and she has a compelling voice. I could hear her in my head while reading.

And it has an interesting premise - especially if you're a writer. So many times when reading authors' blogs its like 'and the muse did this' or 'and the muse won't let me write it that way' or some other version of the muse being obstreperous. I even know authors who post whole sections of 'conversations' with their muses. I think Jennifer Reeves must be aware of this phenomenon as well because the big idea at the core of "Constant Reader" is what if a writer woke up one day and realised that the muse isn't just the creative facet of their own mind but a demonic entity that they'd accidentally sold their soul to.

It's a good question. My muse and I were both cracking up throughout because this book is funny. Jennifer claims it as a tribute to Stephen King, but I think it's just as much a tribute to the pain, the joy and the absolute weirdness of the writing process.

So that's the good and the good is the story and plot well written and crafted. The cover's not bad either.

The bad is the internal layout. And it is - to be blunt - terrible. It's not the worst I've seen in a Lulu book, true. The paragraphs are justified and the page numbers suppressed until the start of the story.

But the rest of it screams self-published. The left and right margins are too narrow, the line spacing is too wide and the paragraphs aren't indented but separated by a blank line instead. That is to say that it doesn't look like the inside of a book at all. It looks like a short pod book where the author was padding for page count - except that she would have made wider margins if that were the case. The correct choices of font, spacing and margin width would have retained (or even boosted) the page count without looking padded.

It's a sad fact that some people are going to think that the amateur layout means amateur writing and this is still a very good story. I'd suggest that the author fix this but they've paid for an isbn now and it'd cost then a fortune to revise it. (One of the banes of POD is revision costs).

If I can sum up - please don't let the shortness or the poor layout discourage you from buying this book. It's a fun read.


The book has "look inside" active on Amazon so you can see before you leap, and a video trailer featuring the entire prologue is available on Youtube for your perusal before deciding if this book is for you.

No comments: