|Matty Dalrymple’s The Sense of Reckoning is apparently the second in a series featuring main character Anne Kinnear, a woman who is quickly developing psychic powers. I purchased this on a recent trip to Bar Harbor, Maine, in my quest to read books from local authors wherever I go. Turns out I didn’t read the author bio carefully, for Dalrymple is from Pennsylvania, but this novel is set on Mount Desert Island where Bar Harbor sits, and Dalymple, I believe, is a frequent visitor there. The book is billed as a suspense novel, and I suppose it is, but it more a psychological examination of Kinnear and another character Chip Lynam, who appears mostly in flashbacks. It is the flashbacks that are the most interesting, for they are set in and explore the total devastation of the fire that destroyed most of Bar Harbor and MDI in 1947. Having been a visitor to BH twice, these sections of the novel interested me more than the “today” sections. And I found the story told in the flashbacks more compelling than the more modern tale. That being said, any reader who likes tales involving spirits will most likely enjoy this one. Dalrymple’s stories are straightforward and told simply in good, solid writing. Because her flashbacks are contained in separate chapters and clearly labeled with designations of the year they take place, there is no confusion. Unlike what seems to me to be a current fad in TV series, where suddenly we are in flashback mode and have to discern that from the yellow filtering of the camera lens, here we know exactly what is happening. Two editing glitches bothered me a bit: two characters drive to Bar Harbor, one driving a car that ultimately needs repairs. The other arrives in the couple’s second car. Yet there is a statement that they explore the island in a rental car because of the repair of the first car. Why would they need a rental when the second character arrived in a car in perfect condition? The second editing glitch is perhaps nothing. Perhaps it’s my own prejudice. Five or six times, Dalrymple used “all right,” yet the term is spelled “alright.” The preferred, accepted usage is to spell two words. Yes, a secondary usage is the one word spelling, but I find it jarring whenever I see it, for the secondary spelling is just an outgrowth of users not knowing how to spell the word correctly. But I don’t blame Dalrymple for that. Her editor should have caught that mistake, as the editor should have caught the “car” thing. But why quibble over such minor transgressions? The Sense of Reckoning is a pleasant way to spend a few hours while learning a bit about the history of Maine’s Mount Desert Island. Good writing should entertain and inform. This does both.
I love this review. Why?
- Russell wrote 476 words about my book. Even if he had hated it, I would still have loved him for writing 476 words about it.
- He read my bio closely enough to find out that I live in Pennsylvania but spend a lot of time on Mount Desert Island, which is where The Sense of Reckoning is set.
- The categorization of the book as a “psychological examination” is spot-on. Amazon, can you add that as a category?
- He appreciates that “we know exactly what is happening.” There are many times when an author wants the reader to be mystified; the timeframe of when a scene takes place is probably not one of them.
- The rental car discrepancy … yikes!! I’m going to try to contact Russell to see if he will be a beta reader for any upcoming books.
- I checked my editor’s editing guide and found “Alright becomes all right.” Even Grammar Girl, my source for all things grammatical, says “all right” is preferable. I take full responsibility for all occurrences of “alright” in The Sense of Reckoning (and just fixed a bunch in the manuscript of Snakes and Ladders) and I love Russell even more for caring enough to point it out.
- And who can’t love, “But why quibble over such minor transgressions? The Sense of Reckoning is a pleasant way to spend a few hours while learning a bit about the history of Maine’s Mount Desert Island. Good writing should entertain and inform. This does both.”
I haven’t loved all my readers’ reviews as much as I love Russell’s, so below are a few points of “author etiquette” that I continually revisit for myself, and thought I’d share with you.
- Despite my goal of contacting Russell to see if he will be a beta reader for future books, it’s almost never a good idea to respond to readers’ online reviews, except perhaps to thank them for good ones. There’s far too great a chance of it deteriorating into the worst kind of social media name-calling, and the author will always come out looking the worst. (The only other time I attempted to contact a reader about a review was to respond to someone who had complained about what she thought was an excessive use of the f-bomb in The Sense of Death; I revisited those instances and decided I concurred with her, and removed some–but not all–occurrences of the offending word.)
- Don’t let criticism get you down. Assess it as objectively as you can–sometimes this takes a few days, or even longer–and then decide if there’s any validity to the complaint, as I did with the reader’s complaint about profanity. Then, if it’s something you can act on, do so and move on.
- See what readers like–like the historical backstory of Reckoning–and, if it’s feasible within your creative vision, give them more of that.
- Bask in the praise! Print out a good review and hang it next to your favorite writing space! I still have my first Amazon review hanging on the inside of my medicine cabinet door.
And for those among you who are readers as well as writers … don’t let Russell’s epic review stand in the way of you posting a review if you’ve enjoyed one of my books–a sentence or two is fine! Reviews are the lifeblood of a book, and one of the best ways to get it into the hands of readers who will love it. At the end of each year, I give $1 to the Animal Welfare Institute for every review–good or bad–posted on Amazon or Goodreads. Click the links to go to the Amazon pages for Rock Paper Scissors, The Sense of Death, The Sense of Reckoning, and Close These Eyes.
If you haven’t yet read The Sense of Reckoning and are looking for a book that “entertains and informs” with “good, solid writing,” check it out and Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other fine online retailers!
All right! : )