Thursday, August 2, 2012

Book Review: Murder on the Boulevard by Kori Donahue

Okay, here's a confession: I really, really don't want to write this review.

Why, you ask? Well, because this is a self-published first novel by a fellow blogger. Being in the throes of writing my own novel - and considering how I've been struggling with my writing lately - I really hate to write a distinctly negative opinion of this book, knowing the courage it probably took for the author to put her own money down and publish it.

But.

It has several glowing reviews on Amazon, and I've seen reviews of it on other blogs as well - all of which simply gushed and gushed about how awesome the story was...and I just don't understand how any sane person could say such a thing. I'm sorry but here it is, the dirty truth: this book should never have gone into print in its current form. It reads like a really, really terrible first/rough draft, and I just can't wrap my head around how anyone could enjoy it.

First things first - the ridiculous number of grammatical errors. Normally I would blame this on a bad or outright botched editing job, because admittedly it's obvious that some of them are probably just typos...but by "some" I mean maybe 30%, 40% max. The rest is simply downright incorrect grammar - more often than not comma usage (or the lack of it) - and this I simply cannot abide, considering the author is apparently a high school English teacher. I certainly don't claim to have perfect grammar (especially when it comes to this blog), but as I turned page after page to find the same distinct and easily correctable errors over and over and over again I became almost horrified at the consistency with which these errors were repeated. By someone who published a book, but even more so, by someone who teaches grammar lessons to teenagers.

As for the story itself, I lost sight of where this was going within the first few chapters. The writing style appears to be geared toward a young adult readership at best, while the actual plot and themes are, well, too mature for that audience. Of course, while I say that the plot - the idea of a serial killer who tortures, rapes and kills women - is too mature, its development and the characters it features are the exact opposite. I'm not sure if it is the author being naive or if she was simply trying - and failing - to immerse the reader in the mid-1950s era in which the novel is set. Characters fall in and out of love every other day and every couple resorts to calling each other "honey" or "baby" every time they speak to each other (to the point of being ridiculous and far beyond any sort of stylized dialogue that would fit into a 1950s setting).

Another issue is that not one of the characters is likable and in fact they are mostly unbelievable. This goes beyond the constant usage of words like honey and baby; it goes beyond the fact that in the course of 219 pages the main character, Bobbi, falls hard and fast for three different men. I understand that she is meant to be an "independent woman" who doesn't fit in the world of the 1950s, but her actions and reactions not only don't fit in that decade, they don't fit the character she is originally described to be. This is a problem that also crops up with the original picture we are given of the detective, Charlie, but at no point are there details given that would help the reader understand whether these are action-driven changes or whether the author simply does not know how to introduce characters, period.

In conclusion, I will say that I can safely rate this novel 2/5 stars (rather than the 1/5 it may deserve) because there are a handful of decent surprises thrown into the mystery aspect of the plot. I feel that if the author had spent less time trying to create cheesy relationships and ridiculous characters and more time on the technical aspects of the mystery, the book as a whole would have been far better for it. As a side note, the last few chapters - which introduce yet another new character - were a bad idea as a whole and not only the story but the idea of it being continued in a second book would have been better set up by a brief epilogue introducing the general idea put forth in the last few chapters. I would honestly love to see the author revisit and revamp this story in a second edition, hopefully using a proper editor, because there *is* some potential there. Pin It

2 comments:

  1. Wow thanks for the fabulous review honey...like you said, it takes courage to write a novel you know people are going to say negative things about, no matter how well-received it is. Maybe that was too many comments for you? Can't wait to read yours and give you an "honest" critique. Sometimes, as my mama taught me, if you don't have something nice to say, don't say anything at all. One reason I do know I have a very successful blog is because I try to focus on positivity rather than negativity. I notice you're lacking a few followers here, maybe try to incorporate that same philosophy? Good luck to you and much success. Kori Donahue

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    1. I have to be up front here and simply say that I've always been taught, "if you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen". I'm not the only one who has given your book a less than stellar rating, but what I did give was an honest critique that also praised your hard work and the courage it took to self publish it, period. I even noted that the general idea has potential. I didn't bash you as a person; I know nothing about you. I don't even follow your blog, because as you can probably tell by glancing at *my* blog, yours isn't my cup of tea. Again, nothing against you, it's just a fact of life...not everyone is always going to like everything you do. I wasn't mean or cruel in my review. I was honest...which is something you should hope for in reviews.

      I must say though, are we really playing some "I'm more popular than you" game? Is this high school? I can't hide my networked blog followers like I've hidden my RSS followers, so in all actuality you have no idea exactly how many followers I have. Admittedly, having checked out your blog, it's less followers than you, but perhaps the difference between you and I is that I do this for fun and I don't care how many followers I have ::shrug:: I write about what appeals to me and to the people who I want to attract to my life, and I simply don't care if it attracts 7 people or 80 people or 2,000 people. Again, I gave an honest review of a badly written book here, and made no personal attacks. For such a supposedly "positive" person, I would have thought you wouldn't have stooped so low as to play said "I'm more popular than you" game.

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