Wednesday, 30 December 2015


3 out of 5 stars

Family Drama

On Amazon UK HERE
On Amazon US HERE

Reviewed by me as part of Rosie Amber's Review Team 

This is a complex, emotional family drama set in America's Deep South, in the 'Magnolia State', Mississippi.  I believe this is the author's debut novel, and 10% of royalties go the the Polycystic Kidney Foundation.

Kate Thayer is a thirty year old widow who runs a horse farm that belongs to the family, and lives in the family mansion along with her grandmother, Katherine.  Early on in the book she begins to unravel the lies she has been told all her life, about her parents and grandparents, and the servants who live and work on the estate.

I am interested in American social history and the stark differences between the states in this vast continent, and do like a bit of family intrigue.  I cannot say much, as it would give the plot away, but I did find the age-old prejudices that still exist between races in this part of the world, interesting to read about.

At first I couldn't connect with the characters at all, but they began to emerge from one dimension as the novel progressed.  I found it a bit heavy going, with little to suggest a life for any of the characters outside the drama; if it wasn't for people using their cell phones and a few references to Obama, the story could have been set at any time over the past forty or so years.  The other downside, for me, was the curious punctuation; for some reason, the author has used two small en dashes (--) in place of semicolons, brackets, em dashes, ellipses, and some commas.  There is a certain amount of 'telling not showing', ie, the omniscient narrator stating what a character's personality is like rather than letting the reader assess it for him or herself, via dialogue, expression and action.

The plot is an unusual and unexpected one; it made me think of those 1980s American blockbuster mini-series.  That isn't a complaint—I loved them!  It's certainly thought-provoking, and provided a good insight into the North-South divide that, clearly, still exists.


  1. Thanks for the fair and honest review. As I did say in my email to you, you were provided with an Advance Reviewer's copy and not a final, polished copy now available for sale. Apologies for any confusion the "curious punctuation" caused you. That does occur in ARC's. Thanks for reading and reviewing Shattered Lies. It is greatly appreciated.

  2. Thanks for your most gracious comment. As I think I explained to you in my reply, it is best to provide reviewers with a copy as close to the finished product as possible; one cannot review that which one cannot see. It is beneficial for a writer to have a basic understanding of punctuation (there is no such punctuation mark as --); everyone makes the odd error but to have it consistently incorrect throughout the book is distracting to the reader and can, in the end, only harm the writer.

    I am a writer too and would never send out a review copy that had not been proofread, or I would expect reviewers to complain about the missing words - I usually leave out around 300 per novel. Everyone has their own weak point, but it is best to keep it between writer and proofreader. I hope that helps.

  3. Hello again, Terry!
    I just wanted to write back and say thanks.
    With so much involved in getting books out, writers involved in getting books out, writers follow advice of publishers and I did read and correct my ARCs before sending out, which made your comment very curious to me. I’ve found that sometimes the best writing advice often comes from other writers. I shall be more aware for the next book not to listen to my publisher about sending out ARCs. I guess the problem lies in the fact that unlike PDF copies, mobi copies aren’t marked ARC and I didn’t think to say so because I didn’t notice that fact myself until now. I’ve definitely learned something. Thanks for the pointers, Terry. Much appreciated. Not to mention that because of your comment I went back and looked at the mobi ARC I sent you and guess what? It’s different than the galley copies and PDF ARC final versions I reviewed and approved for release. Worse, the errors of “curious punctuation” are also in the Nook version. Now I have to go back to my publisher to correct them. Thanks for noticing. I wish you were around when I needed you. If not for you, I wouldn’t have gone back out of curiosity to investigate since as an English professor, I’m quite adept with English punctuation. I didn’t think to go back and forth over and over, and over again at approving all the ARC versions. I shouldn’t have to. I guess from now I will have to. Always, even when I don’t have the time. Thank you, Terry. You definitely opened my eyes. It just goes to show that one never stops learning.
    S.J. Francis
    Have a great weekend! Keep writing!

  4. I'm so sorry you've had such a difficult experience! Your publisher needs their wrists slapping, don't they? I do hope you get all this sorted - it's perhaps easier just to wait until you get the final version before sending out review copies! What I do is just stick all drafts and pre-proofread copies in a folder and have one marked FINAL DRAFT, and get the mobi copies for review done from that. It's easier when you self-pub, though, because you only have yourself to rely on/answer to/moan at! The debut novel is always such a minefield - I would certainly love to have the time again and do it all right, too ;)

    One never stops learning, indeed! Can't agree more.

    Perhaps American education is different; I'd have thought that, as an English professor, you would know that there is no such punctuation mark as a double en dash and that pauses are indicated by commas, semi-colons and em dashes, depending on the circumstance. In England (well, in my generation, anyway!) we have punctuation drilled into us from an early age (I think I was doing it correctly and automatically by the time I was 12!)but I do understand that in other countries the emphasis might be on different aspects. I do wonder if you just had a bad proofreader and it wasn't your error at all! If so, I sympathise greatly.

    Anyway, I wish you all luck in your future career :)

  5. Hello again, Terry!
    You misunderstand me here, Terry. I never placed double en dashes in my manuscript in the first place, which is my point. They weren't in the PDF version either. Why would they be? They're incorrect. We agree on that. The double en dashes or hyphens wound up there after I reviewed and approved the final draft. I spend my summers in Europe. Most in England, so I'm a bit familiar with the Queen's English, too. It wasn't my error at all. Now trying to fix it is going to be another matter....We shall see what we shall see.
    Thanks again..
    S.J. Francis

    1. Oh dear, now I understand! In that case you need to get yourself out of that publishing contract immediately - I'm so sorry you've got yourself into this mess. Unfortunately, anyone can set themselves up as a small publisher these days, and it often means that you get someone 'proofreading' your draft who has no idea what they are doing. Clearly, whoever published and altered your book has no idea what they are doing and no right to call themselves a publisher. I do hope you get this all sorted. You have my sympathies!