Sunday, December 11, 2011

Book Review: Surviving Beauty

Title of Book: Surviving Beauty
Author: David Rory O'Neill
Publisher: Bookbaby, 2nd Edition (Oct. 19, 2011)
Available: Amazon

Regan was just seven years old when her mystical beauty became a curse rather than a gift. That was when her father began to ruthlessly profit by selling her image. The exploitation of youthful beauty is an eternal struggle of good and evil. A stubborn non-conformist Detective Inspector of the Garda has pledged himself to that struggle. DI Jim Burrows plays a critical role in Regan’s ability to survive and recover from her exploitation. Regan’s journey from childhood to womanhood is thrilling and dangerous but ultimately becomes a warm and inspiring story of a young girl’s brave journey to adulthood, her struggle to survive the exploitation of her innocence, and above all - the healing power of love.

The novel is divided into three books: Surviving Beauty (chapters 1-6), Rescue (chapters 7-16) and Adulthood (chapters 13-15). I found a significant difference in the writing in each book, and will relate to this in my review.

The first book, Surviving Beauty, is very well written. The characters are distinct and believable, and their interaction is skilfully crafted. The author tackles a very problematic subject - the exploitation of children and adulation of beauty - and does so with taste, subtle insight and understanding. The character of young Regan, around which everything else develops, allows us to view this world through the eyes of a child. She is not only extremely beautiful, but is still evidently quite naive as to how this beauty is being sold.  Perhaps it is not so much naivety, but rather the need to still believe in her parents. But as the book progresses, we see how her innocence is being stolen by the people closest to her.

In the second book: Rescue - I found the writing to be much less compelling. The subtle balance in the first book, illustrated in the dialogue, the interaction between the characters and the development of events - was lost in the second. Suddenly, the dialogue turned into lengthy speeches by the characters, rather than any real discussion. And when the characters were not preaching out loud to others, they did so by speaking to their inner consciousness. I struggled through this part of the novel, not truly feeling the characters , nor was I caught up in the plot. We also no longer experienced much of the action through the eyes of Regan. We began to view her only from the outside, much like the other characters viewed her. This, however, may have been purposely done by the author in order to accentuate her confusing teenage years.

The third book: Adulthood - brought us back somewhat to what was lost in the second book. The dialogue appeared much more realistic again, except for the odd rantings, and we experienced the development of the plot much more instead of simply being told about it. The exploration of the inner conflicts in Regan and those close to her, was quite poignant in parts. I did feel that this inner conflict could have been developed more, rather than sweeping over it towards a quite idyllic ending, but then I am by nature a cynic and pessimist and don’t do as well with happy ending as do many others. The ending definitely was meant to be an inspiring testament to the triumph of good over evil, and I congratulate the author in believing that such things are still possible.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Book review: The Speed of Darkness

Title of Book:  The Speed of Darkness
Author:  Sarah Baethge
Genre:  Fiction > Young adult or teen > Sci-Fi & fantasy
Published:  September 13, 2011
Available:  Amazon

Sam Omlup, a computer teacher and web design consultant, tries to live a normal life, despite having to continually hide the fact that he is a werewolf. However, his secret is discovered when, after transforming into a wolf,  he tries to save a complete stranger from attack. To his surprise, the two attackers immediately recognize him as a werewolf and are happy with their discovery. Sam is then horrified to learn that he has exposed himself to members of The Eclipse,  a company of cruel scientists who seek to capture near-human 'supernatural' creatures for use in questionable medical experiments. They can do so because there are no laws to protect such creatures, as such creatures do not legally exist.

Now Sam and Nigel Hunter (the man he saved) must try to remain outside of the clutches of The Eclipse as their pursuers quietly, yet persistently tear bit by bit away from the safety and secrecy Sam has so endeavored to maintain.

The Speed of Darkness is an entertaining novel about the battle between “good” and “evil”. Entertaining, because things are never exactly what they seem and we discover that there really is no black and white, but rather a myriad of greys. This is enhanced by the subtle poke at so-called “good-doers”, who claim to champion the cause of social awareness without completely thinking things through. I found that the development of the plot and nature of the writing carried me effortlessly through the first half of the book. I was intrigued by the concept of “shadow shifting” and wanted to see where this would lead.

My problems began with a number of  discrepancies in the characterization which became more apparent as we reached the second half of the book. Hillary, who promised to be an enticing character at first, never really carried through with this promise. It wasn’t quite clear how someone, with enough “street-smarts” to pick locks and circumvent computer firewalls, could so easily be swayed by a rather awkward explanation to switch sides.  Nor why Sam, who was constantly guarding his secret from others, would so willingly and without any thought or suspicion,  pick up a total stranger coming into town at the height of his dangerous situation - a man who quickly turned out to be his arch enemy. And why Nigel, apparently a very clever scientist, who came all the way to the town to seek out The Solar Flare organization, would give up first trying to contact them because he couldn’t find them listed in a phone book, and only think of contacting them by email when Sam suggested this to him.

It was because of these types of discrepancies that I found myself struggling at times through the second half of the book, finding the development of the plot to be rather sporadic at times.

I think that Sarah 
Baethge shows great promise as a writer and hope that in her future books she will invest more of her writing skill in ensuring that the characters are more true to character and compelling throughout the book.