Reflection: Vardin Village by Maggie Spence

Vardin Village - Maggie Spence

Pre-read of sample: I'm actually reading through the Kindle sample of this now and I'll give my two cents on this once I finish, but the thing that jumped out at me is that this book really needs a thorough editing. There are many, many issues with it, even from the first several pages.

Post-read of sample: Oh man. So I ended up reading seven chapters of this. I think I'll leave my comments for the review of what I read of this.

Full reflection:

Some of you guys might be wondering what prompted me to pick up this book. Part of it was seeing discussions about it in my friend feed in various communities (namely Goodreads and BookLikes) and I was curious to see if this narrative was any bit as good as it was purported to be from its "marketing." And if you knew what I thought about said "marketing" practices, I'd be on a soapbox tangent that could best be summed up with the phrase "I'm so tired of people not getting how this is wrong." I think others have articulated about the matter better than I could, but I'm going to isolate my comments here specific to the writing.

Seven chapters in (I glanced at the Kindle sample, also ended up finding 7 chapters on Authonomy), I'm not impressed personally. Matter in point, I think it comes across as both lazy writing and editing for the story presented and the respective audience as well. I'd probably read this book to the end if I could to see where it took the narrative, but I don't know if my impressions would change because of the method of presentation given from the get-go. There are a lot of problems with this that can be gleaned from even the initial parts of the story.

First problem: the multitude of characters and their static presentation.

George is the main character of this narrative, but you wouldn't think that with the way it chooses to present the characters in a "head-hopping" fashion with little to no rhyme or reason for it. The first chapter nearly threw me out because I kept trying to find some kind of central focus for conflict or story or some deep POV experiences that would help me understand George at least in some way beyond just the conversation with his friends. Didn't happen.

I read a lot of slice of life narratives (some of my favorite books are in that genre) which delve into the everyday lives of the characters those narratives choose to depict, but usually you get a strong sense of who that central character is, what they're doing and what values they have. You can write a paragraph with a deeper POV set than what Spence did in the first chapter for this book. It kept jumping around, trying to show very static quirks from these characters that were supposed to be funny or defining, but never really got off the ground. It felt cheaply executed and forced.

Second chapter went a little more into George's concerns, but it was still hard to follow because of the way the narratives organized: tells all details, doesn't show, doesn't allow the emotion of the character to come through on its own. It depicts physical reactions, but the reactions feel static with the description, plus the meandering depictions about the environment don't make proper use of place or even George's associations with the other characters. A teen reading this probably would get bored because they would think "I don't see anything in George's experiences that mirror mine," what with ramblings of "moneyed urbanites" (what 16-year-old thinks this?). Into Chapter 3, when it split to Reginald's perspective - that was awkward. I did not care to hear about the construction or history of the mansion interwoven in infodumps in spaces through the narrative - get back to the characters or at least find some way to make it relevant to the characters depicted in a way that streamlines the narrative better. This continues through the rest of the sample of seven chapters as it continues headhopping characters and dumping information not pertinent to the immediate narrative in places. It failed to create a scenario where it's possible to care about the motivations or situations the characters find themselves within.

*sighs* A lot of these problems really boil down to a lack of narrative focus and character vetting. I remember reading through to the miscellaneous cast of characters, but I honestly couldn't care anything about them because they didn't have a pound of flesh or realism to pinch from.

Second major problem: Lack of editing.

If so many people love (or claim to love) the written word, why is it that it's such a labor for people to not want to edit their works the right way? To think that grammar or spelling doesn't matter or somehow can be circumvented or ignored? That to criticize a lack of using it well is somehow "harmful" to the art?

Literacy matters, as does consistency and quality. Doing things the right way MATTER and it shows you care about the work you're presenting. Some mistakes I can overlook, but it gets annoying quickly if it bogs down the narrative I'm reading. I may be something of a grammar stickler (I make mistakes from time to time, I'm not perfect. You may find some in this review as I'm typing. I'll probably go back through this and say "D'oh."), but there were many errors here that I couldn't overlook.

Misplaced commas (or lack of punctuation entirely), run on sentences, dangling phrases, repetitious phrasing, odd uses of passive voice, awkward dialogue tags, uneven formatting with chapter headings - basic things that made the read more cumbersome than it should've been. I could imagine one of my AP teachers in high school drawing big green Xs in places of the narrative here for mistakes. (He actually didn't like using red ink for correcting errors or pointing out things that were problematic. He used to say that green was a more soothing color than red bleeding all over the page. :P)

This is not the kind of work you should be promoting to someone if you're asking them to pay money for it.

Also, judicious use of caps lock is a good thing.


/done on purpose. Seriously though, it can be annoying to read this and I think for the coach's character in this narrative, it was overkill.

Third problem: lack of research/expansion/exposition based on assumption. One of the things that I noticed when the narrative focused on George's so called hamstring injury (some people wouldn't know what was meant by "hammies") was that it was very vague on the treatment.

RICE method: 20 second search on Google. Rest. Ice. Compression. Elevation. Specificity doesn't hurt. Knowing when and where to use it shows you know your subject matter.

Some people don't know Chipotle is a restaurant. We all don't live in places where there's a Chipotle down the street. McDonald's might be more recognized because of global commercialization. But regionally, we differ. Some may know Krispy Kreme, others may know Duncan Donuts, some may know Carl's Jr., others may know Hardee's. Some may know Jack in the Box, and others...well, do not. This is why it's helpful to know your setting and being able to use it in a way that not only paints the picture of the place you're depicting, but also do it in a way that doesn't result in massive infodumping.

But I spent way too long on this narrative for its many problems. For seven chapters, that's too much. Especially since I really didn't learn or care anything about the characters or conflict. It could've been a lot better.

I'd give the narrative 1 star if I rated it thus far. It didn't do anything to pull me in.