A brief but energetic guide that makes good use of sample passages to turn readers into practitioners of clear, effective...

A common-sense approach to turning inspiration into a novel.

In this how-to guide for aspiring writers, London (Virginia’s War, 2009) offers a series of simple recommendations for writers looking for help in researching a topic, suggestions for maintaining motivation and advice on avoiding grammatical errors. London draws heavily on his own experience writing military historical fiction, but to illustrate his points, he also makes use of numerous excerpts from well-known books: e.g., Girl with a Pearl Earring is an example of deft research; A Scandal in Bohemia opens an exploration of the character-driven story. A discussion of pacing uses Debt to Pleasure and The Da Vinci Code as particularly effective examples of the extremes plots may reach. A concluding section addresses polishing and revising the completed manuscript—London recommends hiring an editor—and the importance of book reviews. The book’s approach to fiction writing, particularly historical fiction, is on the whole reasonable, urging readers to develop literary skills by reading widely and evaluating other works. The tone is encouraging but not given to cheerleading; it’s directed at the reader who prefers a tutor to a support group. The book’s brevity, also one of its assets, allows targeted analysis with a clear, incisive point regarding a scene from, say, Gone with the Wind. London doesn’t get bogged down in extended literary criticism, and his book has its limitations. Some will find the dogmatic tone excessive—“Your first commitment is to write one thousand words a day. Every day”—while descriptivists will bristle at the depiction of Eats, Shoots, and Leaves as the modern authority on grammar. Minor but notable mistakes may catch the reader’s eye: London treats “Strunk and White” as a title instead of a pair of authors, and Jane Austen fans will cringe at multiple references to “Elizabeth Bennett.”

A brief but energetic guide that makes good use of sample passages to turn readers into practitioners of clear, effective writing.

Pub Date: Sept. 2, 2014

ISBN: 978-0990612100

Page Count: 98

Publisher: Vire Press, LLC

Review Posted Online: Oct. 23, 2014



This is not the Nutcracker sweet, as passed on by Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa. No, this is the original Hoffmann tale of 1816, in which the froth of Christmas revelry occasionally parts to let the dark underside of childhood fantasies and fears peek through. The boundaries between dream and reality fade, just as Godfather Drosselmeier, the Nutcracker's creator, is seen as alternately sinister and jolly. And Italian artist Roberto Innocenti gives an errily realistic air to Marie's dreams, in richly detailed illustrations touched by a mysterious light. A beautiful version of this classic tale, which will captivate adults and children alike. (Nutcracker; $35.00; Oct. 28, 1996; 136 pp.; 0-15-100227-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100227-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996




An extravaganza in Bemelmans' inimitable vein, but written almost dead pan, with sly, amusing, sometimes biting undertones, breaking through. For Bemelmans was "the man who came to cocktails". And his hostess was Lady Mendl (Elsie de Wolfe), arbiter of American decorating taste over a generation. Lady Mendl was an incredible person,- self-made in proper American tradition on the one hand, for she had been haunted by the poverty of her childhood, and the years of struggle up from its ugliness,- until she became synonymous with the exotic, exquisite, worshipper at beauty's whrine. Bemelmans draws a portrait in extremes, through apt descriptions, through hilarious anecdote, through surprisingly sympathetic and understanding bits of appreciation. The scene shifts from Hollywood to the home she loved the best in Versailles. One meets in passing a vast roster of famous figures of the international and artistic set. And always one feels Bemelmans, slightly offstage, observing, recording, commenting, illustrated.

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 1955

ISBN: 0670717797

Page Count: -

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1955

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