Category Archives: Reviews and Reviewing

Rather a Rave Review for Goddess of the Devil

The South African print version of the book is now available directly from myself to reduce costs.

I’ll let this up-to-date review, from highly respected USA screenplay consultant, journalist, critic and writer Nick Clement, speak for itself:

Book review:

‘. . . all of the classic ingredients in what has driven popular best-selling sensations . . .’

Mart Sander’s Evocative Novel The Goddess of the Devil Takes Readers On A Thrilling Journey

Nick Clement

Mart Sander’s hugely detailed and incredibly conceived historical novel, The Goddess of the Devil, which expertly blends startling fact with clever fiction, is one of those compulsively readable works that demands your attention and respect. Spanning nearly 40 years of world history, during a most turbulent period of social and governmental unrest, this epic yet intimate narrative is set against the German- European backdrop of World War II, and peels back the curtain on one particular story, which sets off a chain of dramatic events that can never be stopped. Sander’s robust writing style perfectly complements the ambitious nature of the material, and his sense for artistic flair within numerous passages feels inherently cinematic; this sprawling text is begging for the mini-series treatment from a premium outlet looking for their next water-cooler-buzz-worthy project.

Combining elements of science-fiction, occult-fantasy, and military-drama, The Goddess of the Devil hinges on the controversial life of Maria Orsic, who in actuality was a disarmingly beautiful member of the shadowy Vril Society, which prospered during the formation and rise of Germany’s Third Reich. Her interactions with Adolf Hitler begin to inform his already-burgeoning interest in the occult, and which helps to set the stage for events that of course changed the world forever. Orsic, a woman of great power, could never have fathomed what might have come of her dealings with members of the Nazi party, and Sander’s gripping storytelling methods help to craft a morally complex heroine/lead protagonist, a woman who felt compelled to act because of what she believed was buried deep within her, potentially emanating from another realm.

Sander takes the core items from Orsic’s over-sized life and gives them a fresh creative coating of sweeping adventure, weaving in events that have been documented by history, with exciting embellishment that takes the story into directions you can never predict. And that’s one of the other things about The Goddess of the Devil that’s so much fun – you can’t truly prepare for the twists and turns that Sander so effortlessly serves up for your reading pleasure, and it’s a testament to his belief in the story that he allows his creative energies to move back and forth between multiple genres, and is yet able to craft something that feels like a cohesive whole.

The Goddess of the Devil has all of the classic ingredients in what has driven popular best-selling sensations: a sense of true adventure, dangerous romance, volatile locale, and dynamic characters who all but urge you to keep turning the pages. Orsic’s telepathic claims were and continue to be explosive, especially when all of the information is fully considered. And because Sander fully understands – and then completely exploits – his fully-loaded premise, the final outcome is something that feels cut from a tangible space, and yet, there’s something otherworldly about all of it that brings about an added layer of storytelling dimension. It’s also just flat-out entertaining in a moment-to-moment fashion; you can never say that Sander isn’t a showman on the page.

© Nick Clement 2019


Nick Clement is a motion picture screenplay consultant and journalist for Variety Magazine, as well as a film critic for the websites We Are Cult and Back to the Movies, in addition to being a contributor at Hollywood-Elsewhere, Taste of Cinema, and Awards Daily. He wrote the introduction to the book Double Features: Big Ideas in Film, which was published by The Great Books Foundation. He lives in Connecticut, USA, with his wife and three year old son.

With My Mother, in a Ship, on a Trip, Another!

The whole family went to see the film last night. We had heard from young R’s godfather in England that when he saw the show shortly after the movie opened the audience clapped at the end. I found it hard to imagine a staid British audience doing such a thing after a movie. Well, it happened again, here. Never mind what critics may bleat about the movie; audiences love it.  Younger children may tend to become a bit bored, but for all teenagers and beyond it is ideal.
Be warned, though. It is awfully confusing to someone who hasn’t seen the first one, and even then if one doesn’t realise that the film is made up of jumps in time between the original young Meryl Streep character Donna (played by Amanda Seyfried) and her now-grown-up daughter Sophie (Lily James). These two are similar enough for one at first to think it is the same person in different scenes, and later to think they are sisters or something in different places. IF one goes to see the film fully prepared for jumps from past to present and back again it will be so less confusing and more enjoyable!
The two main characters are, both of them, stunning and charming and sing really well. The scenery is beautiful, the dances are spectacular, the Abba songs remain timeless,  and the entertainment is there in great quantities.
As my first big screen movie in nearly ten years, as far as I can recall, it was definitely worth the effort of driving across to far reaches of the Berea. It almost eclipsed that moon eclipse for which we had clear skies and perfect views. Pity I lack the photographic equipment to have captured that.

© July 2018 Colonialist

Reviewing Responses to Reviews

Novels

(I wrote this some while back, and then vacillated about posting it for fear of giving offence.  However, on re-reading, I don’t see why it should.)

A question for any writer, obscure or world-famous, relates to responses to reviews.  What would you assume the consensus on policy is?  Respond?  Argue? Remain aloof?

I had always believed that it was ‘bad form’ to reply in any way.

Recently expressed opinions, however, reflect that this is not so, but nevertheless the most frequently offered ‘definite no-no’ is responding in any way to awful reviews. There, the argument goes, one cannot convince anyone who is heavily bigoted, and will merely come out of the exchange looking petulant. One-star on Amazon?  Ignore. ‘The most putrid lump of garbage I have ever read’ ? Ignore. Of course, with such reviews, it is a good idea to pretend something like a handy pillow or punch-bag is that reviewer, and treat it accordingly …

Amazon actually encourages writers to respond to all reviews, though, and some comments there indicate that it is even possible to turn around the unreasonable one-starrer. ‘My book took two months to get to me’ given as a reason – as if that is the writer’s fault, or has anything to do with the book content? If you don’t choose to ignore it, rather not give that response, though. ‘Can I send you the next one free by courier?’ is an expensive way of building goodwill, but one that seems to work!

As another general rule, I can now see no good reason for writers being ‘above’ responding with thanks to a mainly approving, good, or glowing review. One is happy the book has been read and enjoyed. One is happy that the reviewer has announced the fact. So why not say so?

A trickier decision comes where there are aspects of a review which reflect a certain point of view, and where one is tempted to add one’s own to balance it – and to test a more general opinion.  A case in point was a review I had from BestChickLit (Young Adult Reviews) on Forest Circle Quest in June 2014, which was gratifyingly complimentary on the whole.  I had no problem with the fact that it was assumed that I was a female writer (maybe I wouldn’t have been reviewed, otherwise!) but I was slightly disappointed at less complimentary comments relating to complexity of plot, length, and the novel’s constant reference to the girth of the protagonists. I looked carefully at all three aspects with a view to changing them in need, but found myself not in agreement. Still, I held my peace.

Perhaps I can now use this as a cavy inserted into a pond – er, I mean, as a guinea-pig to test the water – toward giving a more proactive reaction?

Firstly, I would have responded by mentioning that the plot needed some complexity, development and red herrings if the mystery was to be maintained. Those on the quest know they’re on a quest, but it takes them ages to work out what they are actually questing for. That, I thought, was a large part of the fun of it. If one provides a number of real surprises during the course of a story, one needs some convolutions in the plot to bring it off.

The book also goes into some deeper levels of philosophical analogy, if one chooses to follow them. Even if taken only at face value, I think they do add to the substance.

The second point, on length. This is a hot potato, which I should perhaps drop lest I get burnt. Instead, I propose sticking a fork into it and hanging on:
Sorry, but the idea of getting a decent read at forty to eighty thousand words just doesn’t gel with me.  It does need more than that if a tale is to be fleshed out decently. (The exception is where it is expanded or dealt with further in sequels.) Otherwise, it leads to these ghastly habits of pruning anything that isn’t absolutely necessary for the plot.

‘The food at the banquet was all perfectly presented and delicious,’? Doesn’t matter one way or the other to the story, so leave it out.

Why?  It adds flavour!

‘”I think I’m falling in love with you,” he murmured hesitantly,’? Oh, horrors!  Adverb!  Chop it! ‘Murmured’? No, no, no! Just keep an unending string of ‘he (or she) said’. You can do without the ‘I think’, too. Throw it away. Now we have: ”‘I’m falling in love with you,’ he said.” Perfect.

Why? All of the rest adds another dimension to the declaration. And if ‘murmur’ perfectly describes the tone, who cares if it has become clichéd?

My latest fantasy is even longer and contains all the above sins. Perhaps I am committing writers’ hara-kiri that way.

The third point:  (I am surprised the reason wasn’t obvious.)
Part of the momentum of this novel comes from concern at a generation of unnecessarily overweight children in the more privileged parts of the world, and the idea was to plant ideas in young minds about going on strenuous and hideously dangerous fantasy adventures – or, at least, moderating food intake and getting some exercise – to combat that!

What are your thoughts on the subject of review responses, and on these three specific points?

© February 2016 Leslie Hyla Winton Noble (WordPress)