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The Random House Readers' Group: Reading The YouWriteOn Top Ten << Back

 The Random House Group is one of the largest general publishing companies in the UK, with bestselling authors such as John Grisham, Bill Bryson and Ian McEwan.

As part of the Group’s commitment to new writing talent, a Readers’ Group comprising of Random House Group Editors, E-Book Managers and Marketing staff will read the YouWriteOn Top Ten as listed on the first of every month, from April to September this year.  

The group will then give their feedback to new writers, drawing on their industry experience and their own enthusiasm for writing. If a story really grabs them, they will let us and the writers know, however the primary aim of the group is to assist and encourage new writers.  

Please see below for their feedback for new Top Ten stories each month. This Top Ten was rated in order by YouWriteOn members.



  April 2008 - The Random House Readers' Group Views on the YouWriteOn Top Ten

 
Vlad the Inhaler
by Lorraine Mace Adventure, Children's Fiction 15 Feb 2008
  Vlad is a vegetarian, asthmatic, half-human vampire who has to overcome cowardice, battle with his evil relatives and find his missing parents. A novel aimed at the 8-12 age range. Cover artwork courtesy of Lawrence Poole

More Details | Read Sample Chapters | Review Book

          
   Random House Readers' Group Feedback on Vlad The Inhaler
 
Vlad’s story is a compelling and driven narrative with moments of clarity and high energy that captivate and involve the reader. The main character, Vlad, as an Asthmatic ‘Hupyre’ (Half man, half Vampire) is an interesting proposition that I think young readers will really want to find out about. Young readers often need strong and colourful characters to relate to when they read, and  ....  Read Full Review

 

The Gift of the Raven
by Catriona Troth Literary Fiction, Novel, Teenage Fiction 28 Jan 2008
 No one will ever know how close Terry came to murdering his abusive stepfather. But then life took a different turn. This was not originally written as teen fiction, but my own children’s choice of reading taught me this could be the right market for it.

More Details | Read Sample Chapters | Review Book

Random House Readers' Group Feedback on The Gift of the Raven                                     

Your young narrator’s voice was extremely powerful and, in the main, very convincing and even in the opening pages I could see that you’d really worked to create a well rounded, plausible character. There are some very strong images in your writing that beautifully captured his sense of confusion and paranoia; the description of the veins in Ed’s leaf shaped belt buckle sticking up as if it were angry and the fear that it is angry at him, has really ... Read Full Review
 

 

 
Ibarajo Road
by Harry Allen Adventure, Novel, Teenage Fiction 12 Feb 2008
 Charlie leads a sheltered and privileged life as an expatriate teenager in West Africa. After a bar brawl that leaves one of his friends badly injured, his world is turned upside down when, to avoid expulsion from school, he volunteers at the Ilakaye refuge centre.

More Details | Read Sample Chapters | Review Book


Random House Readers' Group Feedback on Ibarajo Road

This gritty, coming-of-age tale, set in the harsh bleakness of the post-colonial style west-African city of Ilaju, is as inspiring as it is thought provoking. 

The clear, focused narrative style, mixing rich environments, plausible characters and realistic dialog, should be seen as a testament to the author’s skill and imagination. I found this highly enjoyable to read, and from the opening sentence I was driven to read it until the end of the sample. A sure sign of a good novel is the way that 
 
...  Read Full Review 


 
 
Coastlines
by Tommi Short Story, Literary Fiction, Romance 18 Feb 2008
 A Spanish civil servant plans to build a Chinese car factory to help save his home town. Part of a collection of short stories about love and identity in the New Europe.

More Details | Read Sample Chapters | Review Book


Random House Readers' Group Feedback on Coastlines

There were times when the description here made me want to cheer – your writing is very special and I really liked this. I wasn’t quite sure what I had in store when I saw the blurb on the site – a Spanish civil servant? A Chinese car factory? – and I certainly wasn’t expecting such tender story of attraction and the delicate blending of cultures. 

Ignacio feels wonderfully real, and the way he is torn between a deep love for his silver-haired wife Nieves and an attraction to Yang, the younger Chinese woman, is ...
Read Full Review 


 
 
Bwci-bo
by Kit Habianic Literary Fiction 12 Dec 2007
 Trehiraeth, South Wales, 1984. Trouble is brewing at Maesdwfn Colliery, as the miners square up to the Tory government. The overman, Gwyn Pritchard, wants to keep the coal flowing and to protect his daugher Helen from the young miner, Scrapper Jones. A story of love, sexual jealousy and betrayal set during the upheaval of the Miners' Strike.

More Details | Read Sample Chapters | Review Book


Random House Readers' Group Feedback on Bwci-bo

Congratulations on your entry in the Top Ten and in the Bestseller Chart! I am very happy to have read Bwci-bo myself - I thoroughly enjoyed the storyline! 

Featuring the beginning of the story from two different angles provides an interesting twist: the reader is introduced to both social and political issues and to the love story between Helen and Scrapper. The miners’ dissatisfaction and anger becomes evident as their life is endangered whilst working in the tunnels due to management neglecting health and safety matters to cut costs. 

The reader gets a glimpse of Scrapper’s and Helen’s relationship and Gwyn’s disapproval during the tunnel scenes, a storyline which brilliantly unfolds in the second chapter.

These two different angels perfectly intertwine with each other and 
 
 
...  Read Full Review 


 
The Light from Stars
by Perry Iles Short Story, Historical, Romance 04 Jan 2008
The Australian Outback, 1952. Gavin Renshaw's fiancee, Ruth, has travelled across the world to work in the UK. As Gavin considers his options, the loneliness begins to sink in.

More Details | Read Sample Chapters | Review Book


Random House Readers' Group Feedback on The Light from Stars

A great achievement to be rated into April’s Top Ten – congratulations on a successful story! 

In my opinion,The Light from Stars lives from beautifully crafted metaphors and comparisons:

 “Her words come like light from a star; a capsule from the past, feelings that might have blinked out by now.”
 
“The photo’s already gone curly at the edges, like a memory that’s fading and taking on a shape on its own.”
 
They brilliantly reflect Gavin’s feelings and ...  Read Full Review

 

 

 
 
The Lonely Tree
by Yael P Historical, Novel, Romance, Saga 15 Dec 2007
Tonia lives in a kibbutz and commutes to high school in Jerusalem. She is torn between love for her family and desire to flee the hardship of life under the British Mandate and in the State of Israel. Determined to seek a better life in America, she turns her back on her love for Amos, a stalwart Zionist and member of the Jewish underground.

More Details | Read Sample Chapters | Review Book


Random House Readers' Group Feedback on The Lonely Tree

You’ve chosen a really interesting setting for this story and it feels fresh, intriguing and original. Tonia’s a feisty and appealing heroine and the scene where her bus is attacked and she’s hit by a rock has good dramatic impact.  I also think you’ve succeeded in sowing the seeds well for a touching relationship (or whatever it might become) with the young Italian boy. The family set-up is also ...  Read Full Review

 

 
 
Ocean Boulevard
by John Robert Schmierer Mystery, Novel, Thriller 28 Jan 2008
Although it starts out with a man on the run, the story belongs to Christine Blake, the woman who unwittingly framed him for the brutal murder of his daughter.

More Details | Read Sample Chapters | Review Book


Random House Readers' Group Feedback on Ocean Boulevard

 The Thriller genre is really tough to break into, many locations and set-ups are common place, so I was delighted that your lead character is not a forensic detective, ex military, FBI type. I’d consider bringing this fact up even sooner, as it would make the rough treatment of him more shocking. You have used a lot of detail about the boats and location that felt very realistic. The possible incest twist is compelling- well done. 


Not knowing anything about our leading man in the opening moments makes it ...  Read Full Review 

 

 

 
 
Ladder to the Moon
by Wendy Wynde Teenage Fiction 02 Feb 2008
Caring for his increasingly sick single parent Father and younger brother is hard enough, but when Jed is falsely accused of stealing a mobile phone, the attention it brings threatens to blow his life apart.

More Details | Read Sample Chapters | Review Book


Random House Readers' Group Feedback on Ladder to the Moon

Jed’s voice has very genuine ring to it, I enjoyed his teen cynicism. Luigi is equally engaging.  It’s an excellent premise for a story. The pace and tone were very strong. I’d have been happy to read another sample chapter. 

The letter home from Mr Badger felt ...  Read Full Review

 

 

 
 
A Gift of the Gods
by Gordon Knight Short Story, Literary Fiction 22 Feb 2008
Eddie Frowd's fascination with a lady's corset results in an encounter he will never forget

More Details | Read Sample Chapters | Review Book


Random House Readers' Group Feedback on A Gift of the Gods

What a wonderful story, and how fascinating to read that it was inspired by a real woman! Eddie is a charming character and I was genuinely saddened when I thought of how easily his young life was lost, and for such little gain. 

I was pleased to see that you didn’t labour his stammer; the short conversation with Hammerstein made your point beautifully and the dark humour in Eddie’s fear that he may be bayoneted before he could shout a warning was a lovely touch. There is a very strong sense of
London as a place in your story and with a few more details as to what the city smelt or sounded like, in addition to the physical description you provide, you’ll 
...  Read Full Review  

 

 

 

 

 

 

April 2008 - The Random House Readers' Group Views on the YouWriteOn Top Ten

 
Vlad the Inhaler
by Lorraine Mace Adventure, Children's Fiction 15 Feb 2008
  Vlad is a vegetarian, asthmatic, half-human vampire who has to overcome cowardice, battle with his evil relatives and find his missing parents. A novel aimed at the 8-12 age range. Cover artwork courtesy of Lawrence Poole

More Details | Read Sample Chapters | Review Book

          

Random House Readers' Group Feedback on Vlad the Inhaler
                                     

Vlad’s story is a compelling and driven narrative with moments of clarity and high energy that captivate and involve the reader. The main character, Vlad, as an Asthmatic ‘Hupyre’ (Half man, half Vampire) is an interesting proposition that I think young readers will really want to find out about. Young readers often need strong and colourful characters to relate to when they read, and Vlad provides that. His comical introduction with the fruit flesh parallel, tragic back story and adventurous scenes are clear and inviting. I ended the submission interested in Vlad’s outcome, and that of his parents. 

Some of the supporting characters have potential as well. Our brief introduction to Mary and Joe shows a classic husband and wife combination that kids can identify with – the over loving mother and the distant husband more interested in his garden – left me wanting to see them developed and involved further still. 

I felt that the consistency of the descriptive elements, however, needs further attention.
Lorraine
’s ability to describe is not in question, and indeed in places is exquisite! But it is patchy. For example: In the first scene I get no sense of his room, which I would have liked, leaving the reader to find out about it later on, when it slows the pace of that scene. Other scenes left no impression at all and even now I can not visualise what Castle Malign and its area actually looks like, and yet the library is well visualised, as is the look and feel of the woods. A better balance of scene setting would greatly benefit 

Victor, Valentya and the cousins appear only an hour from the parents leaving seems a little early and broke with the pace of the story at this point. If this is deliberate then I feel that it should be highlighted in some way. 

There was one or two occasions when the word ‘then’ started to get repeated in the same paragraph as a sentence joiner. Avoid this as it weakens the credibility of the piece. 

As a personal preference I found it difficult to follow when the lawyer was speaking, and believe that the young readers would also struggle with this. It is fine to convey fear with a few stammers. But its excessive use feels wrong. And the choice to make Rexus a half-werewolf devalues Vlad’s uniqueness in my view. I understand that Rexus and Vlad having this in common acts as a bond, but it seems to fly in the face of how rare being a half-breed is placed in the rest of the story. 

Overall this is a great story, with huge potential. And I look forward to seeing this story develop further still.
Feedback from Gary, Random House Readers' Group 

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The Gift of the Raven
by Catriona Troth Literary Fiction, Novel, Teenage Fiction 28 Jan 2008
 No one will ever know how close Terry came to murdering his abusive stepfather. But then life took a different turn. This was not originally written as teen fiction, but my own children’s choice of reading taught me this could be the right market for it.

More Details | Read Sample Chapters | Review Book

    

Random House Readers' Group Feedback on The Gift of the Raven                                    
Your young narrator’s voice was extremely powerful and, in the main, very convincing and even in the opening pages I could see that you’d really worked to create a well rounded, plausible character. There are some very strong images in your writing that beautifully captured his sense of confusion and paranoia; the description of the veins in Ed’s leaf shaped belt buckle sticking up as if it were angry and the fear that it is angry at him, has really lingered in my mind and was an impressive piece of imaginative writing. 

There was a lovely sense of menace in Ed’s arrival at the cookout, and I was pleased to see how you were careful to keep that menace understated so that it was sensed but never explicitly spelled out. Although the story of a young child in peril isn’t unusual in publishing, by opening with our narrator hidden in the woods you open up expectations that this will be a fresh new take on the story and made me want to read more.

Although, as I mentioned, your character’s voice is distinctive and believable, remember to always bear in mind what the character would know and be wary of slipping into a writer’s voice, rather than that of your character. There was an occasional sense for me that you were trying a little too hard to create poetic images in a reader’s mind that didn’t match my reading of the character and could occasionally distract from the story itself. In the second paragraph, for example, I felt that it would have been more successful to focus on just one key image, whether it be the feeling of breaking into pieces with pain, or the fretwork of roof fronds, as too many carefully considered images and structured sentences jarred with the feeling of panic and pain you should have been trying to create. A similar situation happens when you are describing the school children’s attack on him and you describe the red-haired girl sitting on his chest but without giving us any insight into what this must feel like, both physically and emotionally. When the children do then leave him alone you mention the marks on his arm that resulted from the pinching, but not any pain in his chest which surprised with me as surely he would be have been left in some pain? It’s a relatively minor point in this instance but it’s very important when writing that you do always consider the consequences of each action. Really try and picture each scene that you are describing and look closely at every detail, not just those that are necessary to move the action on.

I’d also suggest that you don’t explain too much for your readers – writers often worry that they may not be understood but in the sixth paragraph I felt it was stronger to end with ‘But dad had to go away. I had to teach myself’ as the last line – ‘Make him proud of me, so he’d come back’ – seemed to overstate the case. 

Congratulations on reaching the YouWriteOn Top Ten. I hope you take this as testament to your obvious skills and continue to develop your story for readers.

Feedback from Alison, Random House Readers' Group

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Ibarajo Road
by Harry Allen Adventure, Novel, Teenage Fiction 12 Feb 2008
Charlie leads a sheltered and privileged life as an expatriate teenager in West Africa. After a bar brawl that leaves one of his friends badly injured, his world is turned upside down when, to avoid expulsion from school, he volunteers at the Ilakaye refuge centre.

More Details | Read Sample Chapters | Review Book

Random House Readers' Group Feedback on Ibarajo Road                                     
This gritty, coming-of-age tale, set in the harsh bleakness of the post-colonial style west-African city of Ilaju, is as inspiring as it is thought provoking.

 
The clear, focused narrative style, mixing rich environments, plausible characters and realistic dialog, should be seen as a testament to the author’s skill and imagination. I found this highly enjoyable to read, and from the opening sentence I was driven to read it until the end of the sample. A sure sign of a good novel is the way that it transports the reader away, and there were a couple of moments when I could almost sense and smell the environs. I found myself wanting for more…
 
I was also impressed with the character realisation. Every character had a personality that I could identify with and relate to.
 
There is a humbling contrast between the lives of the privileged few teenagers living in this microcosmic version of an urban American culture, and the violent, and terrifying city of mob violence and lawless justice; two worlds separated only by steel walls and a horde of nameless servants.
 
In terms of target audience, at its simplest level the story currently revolves around a core group of teenagers living an average western lifestyle and starting adventures into adulthood, lending itself to an older teenage audience.
 
However, the themes covered in this story so far are very adult, and my view is that, in that lies its main strength. The two worlds depicted in this story starkly highlight the differences in the two cultures living along side each other. I don’t know the author’s plans for this story, but I believe that seeing the two worlds merge would expose the readers to the reality of the constant human tragedy in the city. This would make for an addictive and evocative novel indeed!
 
In places the stories pace is slowed fractionally by some minor grammatical issues, but these points would be picked up and polished during the editorial/proof reading processes anyway, so I won’t focus on them here.
 
My last point, one that I draw no firm conclusion from, but may be the most important for me of all, is this: When I first read this submission, I believed Charlie to be a woman. All the way until the last scenes in fact, as there was nothing to denote the characters sex until then. I then re-read the submission knowing that it was a man and found it less enjoyable. I believe this is because I sensed a greater vulnerability in the character in the opening scene as she (As I thought then) looked out upon a world of death and poverty within her car. Currently there are no main female characters mentioned, and I was thinking how clever it was to have the lead as a woman and the supporting characters to be men. Once I knew Charlie was a man it started to feel like yet another boys-adventure rather than a mature socio-political piece that it has the potential to be.
 
To expand on this point: When I think of Charlie as a girl reaching womanhood, with a strong, fiery nature, preferring to hang out with her male friends (Maybe acting as the boy her parents never had, or maybe rebelling against her parents over protective nature etc…) I get a sense of greater possibilities for character dynamics in the group; dynamics that would drive the reader to be just as interested in the group as in the events and world around them. It also leads to so many possibilities for sexual tensions and personal tragedies that it gives me goose bumps! It would also firmly move it more into the adult category and away from the label of teenage adventure, which I feel is the author’s original intent.
 
To conclude, it has been a pleasure to read this submission, and, whatever direction the author decides to take with the story, I will watch upon this its progress with great interest, and I hope my comments are of use to the author.

Feedback from Gary, Random House Readers' Group 

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Coastlines
by Tommi Short Story, Literary Fiction, Romance 18 Feb 2008
A Spanish civil servant plans to build a Chinese car factory to help save his home town. Part of a collection of short stories about love and identity in the New Europe.

More Details | Read Sample Chapters | Review Book

Random House Readers' Group Feedback on Coastlines
                                     
There were times when the description here made me want to cheer – your writing is very special and I really liked this. I wasn’t quite sure what I had in store when I saw the blurb on the site – a Spanish civil servant? A Chinese car factory? – and I certainly wasn’t expecting such tender story of attraction and the delicate blending of cultures.

 
Ignacio feels wonderfully real, and the way he is torn between a deep love for his silver-haired wife Nieves and an attraction to Yang, the younger Chinese woman, is very convincing. In terms of room for improvement I would have liked to see Yang jump off the page a little more and to have more of a sense of what it is about her that prompts Ignacio to risk all that he has in order to be with her.      
           
As you acknowledge in your brief note you have a tendency to ‘dart about’ between times and locations, and this short story is ambitious and adventurous in many ways. The characters, settings and themes are all unexpected and challenging, and then the sections are broken up by intriguing subheadings. But then somewhere underneath is a charming simplicity. Personally, without wanting to take away what makes this different, I would have liked that simplicity to sing out a little more. I’d be tempted to pare this story back to a simpler narrative, find a way to integrate the headings and let the relationships and cultural differences be the main focus. I think less could be more here.
 
Wherever you decide to go with this I think you’ve got enormous potential as a writer and I look forward to reading more … Congratulations on your success so far. 
Feedback from Vanessa, Random House Readers' Group


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Bwci-bo
by Kit Habianic Literary Fiction 12 Dec 2007
 Trehiraeth, South Wales, 1984. Trouble is brewing at Maesdwfn Colliery, as the miners square up to the Tory government. The overman, Gwyn Pritchard, wants to keep the coal flowing and to protect his daugher Helen from the young miner, Scrapper Jones. A story of love, sexual jealousy and betrayal set during the upheaval of the Miners' Strike.

More Details | Read Sample Chapters | Review Book


Random House Readers' Group Feedback on Bwci-bo                                     
Congratulations on your entry in the Top Ten and in the Bestseller Chart! I am very happy to have read Bwci-bo myself - I thoroughly enjoyed the storyline!

 
Featuring the beginning of the story from two different angles provides an interesting twist: the reader is introduced to both social and political issues and to the love story between Helen and Scrapper. The miners’ dissatisfaction and anger becomes evident as their life is endangered whilst working in the tunnels due to management neglecting health and safety matters to cut costs.
 
The reader gets a glimpse of Scrapper’s and Helen’s relationship and Gwyn’s disapproval during the tunnel scenes, a storyline which brilliantly unfolds in the second chapter.
 
These two different angels perfectly intertwine with each other and establish an appealing setting.
 
The plot is beautifully summarised

“Every tunnel had its own ambience, its acoustic quirks...Tunnels offered sanctuary and danger...And the difference between a tunnel and a woman? He smiled. Tunnels got depth.”
 
The language used wonderfully reflects the social life of the miners, though sometimes it was a bit exhausting to read the workers' slang.
 
Some scenes would benefit from a more detailed description of the characters’ thoughts and feelings:
 
The fall of the roof would be more dramatic if the reader learnt more about what is going through the miners’ minds:

  • How frightened are they?
  • Are they thinking of their families?
  • Are there any family scenes rushing through their thoughts?
 
The same applies to the scene when Helen hears the noise of the falling roof in her class room:
 
  • How scared is she?
  • Which images of her father and Scrapper run through her mind?
  • How relieved is she when she finds out that both her father and Scrapper are fine?
 
Finally, I would go a bit more into detail when Scrapper first doesn’t want to reveal his anger against Helen’s father, then realizes that Helen and himself share the same feelings towards Gwyn.
 
You set up a great story that made me want to read on! I am sure other readers would like to know, too, how the social situation and the love story develop. Well done!
Feedback from Nicole, Random House Readers' Group

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The Light from Stars
by Perry Iles Short Story, Historical, Romance 04 Jan 2008
The Australian Outback, 1952. Gavin Renshaw's fiancee, Ruth, has travelled across the world to work in the UK. As Gavin considers his options, the loneliness begins to sink in.

More Details | Read Sample Chapters | Review Book

Random House Readers' Group Feedback on The Light from Stars
                                
A great achievement to be rated into April’s Top Ten – congratulations on a successful story!

 
In my opinion,The Light from Stars lives from beautifully crafted metaphors and comparisons:
 
“Her words come like light from a star; a capsule from the past, feelings that might have blinked out by now.”
 
“The photo’s already gone curly at the edges, like a memory that’s fading and taking on a shape on its own.”
 
They brilliantly reflect Gavin’s feelings and thoughts: He misses Ruth and longs to see her again.
 
The first part ends with a comic element that makes the reader want to continue to read. I thought this was a beautiful way of linking to the next chapter.
 
The story is nicely set up, however, doesn’t flow sometimes. Gavin’s and Neil’s conversation seem to break the story up; the reader is a bit torn between Gavin’s thoughts and the conversation between him and Neil.
 
If these two scenes were kept a bit more separate, the reader would engage with the story more comfortably. The story could begin with Ruth’s letter, followed by Gavin’s thoughts. Gavin’s and Neil’s conversation could eventually be tied in to the end of this part.
 
I also suggest describing Ruth in more detail:

  • How does she look like?
  • What exactly does Gavin miss about her?

I very much enjoyed reading The Light from Stars: If you hold up the beautiful imagery and organise the storylines a bit, this will develop into a perfect read!
Feedback from Nicole, Random House Readers' Group

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The Lonely Tree
by Yael P Historical, Novel, Romance, Saga 15 Dec 2007
Tonia lives in a kibbutz and commutes to high school in Jerusalem. She is torn between love for her family and desire to flee the hardship of life under the British Mandate and in the State of Israel. Determined to seek a better life in America, she turns her back on her love for Amos, a stalwart Zionist and member of the Jewish underground.

More Details | Read Sample Chapters | Review Book

Random House Readers' Group Feedback on The Lonely Tree                              
You’ve chosen a really interesting setting for this story and it feels fresh, intriguing and original. Tonia’s a feisty and appealing heroine and the scene where her bus is attacked and she’s hit by a rock has good dramatic impact.  I also think you’ve succeeded in sowing the seeds well for a touching relationship (or whatever it might become) with the young Italian boy. The family set-up is also well realised. 

          I do feel that there’s some room to expand and improve the sense of period and place here. The place and date (May 1946, Jerusalem, British Mandate Palestine) are given at the start, and I felt that without the date I would have felt it difficult to know when this was set – there were points when it felt like it could have been modern-day. It’s so crucial to appreciate the when and where that I think there’s potential in building up the descriptive side of this novel with a focus on these. 

          Another area that I think could benefit from further work is the accessibility of the story to an average reader with limited/no background knowledge of the culture. Tonia gives us a lovely way in, but perhaps you could keep more in mind that the culture and politics here are likely to be completely new to a lot of readers. At a couple of points I felt that there was a lot of details about Jewish culture, politics and history that came very close together without (for me at least!) sufficient explanation. Of course you’ll want to avoid over-explaining and talking down to the reader for whom these will be familiar, but I think there’s space to give a bit more explanation without losing the subtleties of the storytelling. It seems like a lot happens in a very short space of time here and that ideally you’d want to look at taking your time with the writing a little more – but that might well be the result of only being able to submit a limited chunk here. 

          When I finished this I was definitely keen to read more – I feel sure that you have a fascinating story to tell and that you’re equipped to tell it well. Congratulations on what you’ve written so far and on reaching the Top Ten! 

Feedback from Vanessa, Random House Readers' Group

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Ocean Boulevard
by John Robert Schmierer Mystery, Novel, Thriller 28 Jan 2008
Although it starts out with a man on the run, the story belongs to Christine Blake, the woman who unwittingly framed him for the brutal murder of his daughter.

More Details | Read Sample Chapters | Review Book

Random House Readers' Group Feedback on Ocean Boulevard
                                  
The Thriller genre is really tough to break into, many locations and set-ups are common place, so I was delighted that your lead character is not a forensic detective, ex military, FBI type. I’d consider bringing this fact up even sooner, as it would make the rough treatment of him more shocking. You have used a lot of detail about the boats and location that felt very realistic. The possible incest twist is compelling- well done. 


Not knowing anything about our leading man in the opening moments makes it hard to empathise for him instantly. Although shown that he is repulsed by the blood and atrocity, I’m not confident that he isn’t a psycho, so I’m not emotionally involved in his getaway. Simon Kernick uses the ‘waking up with a dead girlfriend’ opener in Severed, but by paragraph 4 has slipped in enough back story to let us know we can probably root for him.
 
Some personal information about the character I found confusing was: ‘Wes Marshall was the husband of Kathleen Marshall, whose body was found last year near their Corona del Mar home.’ - as I understood it, Wes is currently married to Debra, making Kathleen his first wife, in which case I’d recommend adding ‘former’ to the above sentence. It is possible that Wes remarried after his wife’s death, but it seems a bit unlikely given the time frame. 
Also the description of the residents coming out in their bathrobes and slippers, jarred with my idea of the privileged community described.
 
Your language is very descriptive, but it would be interesting to see a pared down version, for example ‘loud neon tape’, seems to be overdoing it, as neon is already loud. The sentence; ‘oozed with enough wealth and privilege to form a protective barrier against the outside world’ conjures an excellent visual picture, but you could afford to lose ‘with’ ‘protective’ and ‘outside’ without damaging the reader’s impression of a moneyed, insular, community. Less verbosity may add pace to the narrative which I think would improve it.
  
Congratulations on your story entering the YouWriteOn Top Ten, readers including myself have really enjoyed your writing. This is a promising start. Your natural grasp of descriptive writing makes me ask if you have considered writing this as a screenplay.
Feedback from Penny, Random House Readers' Group

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Ladder to the Moon
by Wendy Wynde Teenage Fiction 02 Feb 2008
Caring for his increasingly sick single parent Father and younger brother is hard enough, but when Jed is falsely accused of stealing a mobile phone, the attention it brings threatens to blow his life apart.

More Details | Read Sample Chapters | Review Book

Random House Readers' Group Feedback on Ladder to the Moon
                                   
Jed’s voice has very genuine ring to it, I enjoyed his teen cynicism. Luigi is equally engaging.  It’s an excellent premise for a story. The pace and tone were very strong. I’d have been happy to read another sample chapter. 


The letter home from Mr Badger felt unnatural to me. The use of language was not quite strong enough or PC enough to have been from a modern head teacher. 

The hippy mum and oddball teen boy characters are going to invite comparison to those in ‘About a Boy’. The burger argument is very similar to a plot point in that title, although I did really enjoy Jed’s adverse reaction meat, but enjoying the chips. I’d welcome seeing that reworked.
 
 An excellent start, I’m sure many other YouWriteOn Readers have enjoyed reading you work. Keep at it.
Feedback from Penny, Random House Readers' Group

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A Gift of the Gods
by Gordon Knight Short Story, Literary Fiction 22 Feb 2008
Eddie Frowd's fascination with a lady's corset results in an encounter he will never forget

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Random House Readers' Group Feedback on A Gift of the Gods                               
What a wonderful story, and how fascinating to read that it was inspired by a real woman! Eddie is a charming character and I was genuinely saddened when I thought of how easily his young life was lost, and for such little gain.

I was pleased to see that you didn’t labour his stammer; the short conversation with Hammerstein made your point beautifully and the dark humour in Eddie’s fear that he may be bayoneted before he could shout a warning was a lovely touch. There is a very strong sense of
London as a place in your story and with a few more details as to what the city smelt or sounded like, in addition to the physical description you provide, you’ll have a marvellously atmospheric piece of writing. Polaire was an intriguing character and I’m glad you resisted the temptation to make her too real a character for your readers, it’s important that your readers feel the same air of mystery around her as Eddie did. 

I was slightly concerned that the story itself is perhaps a little conventional to stand out among a sea of submissions – although of course, other people will feel differently. It’s an unfortunate fact that when you read so many submissions, the moment you pick one up featuring a young soldier fighting in a war you suspect it will end badly. But of course, if your interest is the short story then you will no doubt currently be hard at work on a collection, and this will allow you to explore some more unexpected tales and showcase different strengths.

I did have a few queries that you may want to consider if you are revising your story. When Eddie is examining the corset you describe him as totally enthralled but then write that ‘He was beginning to attract stares’ and I wasn’t convinced that he’d have noticed the stares if he was so entranced. I was also a little surprised that Eddie felt he was often under suspicious scrutiny from strangers wondering why he wasn’t fighting when their loved ones were. I had assumed that at this stage there would be many people who were not yet fighting as conscription wasn’t introduced until Jan 1916, and so there wouldn’t be any hostility at this stage but perhaps that was more an indication of Eddie’s paranoia, than how people were genuinely behaving? 

I felt that your writing could benefit from a little clarity when it came to that moment when you describe how ‘Hammerstein surveyed him quickly, looking for signs of injury.’ As you don’t then follow this with any description of injuries received I presumed that Eddie had been sent home because of some sort of un-seen psychological damage and was then very surprised to read a page later of ‘the carelessly dropped ammunition box breaking his hand’. Surely a broken hand wouldn’t require much examination from Hammerstein? And I’d also encourage you to make sure that anything you include in your story is there for a reason – when Eddie recalls that some cabs were reportedly driven by suffragettes, rather than then just moving straight on in your narrative it would have been lovely if he’d had a quick peer into those cabs to see if he could spot a female driver! 

I also jotted down some general comments as I read that I hope will also be of assistance in other pieces. I would always recommend that you avoid just stating dates, as you do in your second paragraph (May 1915) and instead try and work that information into the narrative itself in a more natural form. Could someone in the foyer comment on the unusually wet weather for May perhaps, or mention how so much had happened in the eight months or so since the war had begun to give us those details? 

Try also to be as varied and interesting as possible in the vocabulary that you use as it makes for a much more exciting read – you describe Polaire as ‘Arabian’ twice within a fairly short period and as they enter the hotel on the strand, you use ‘led’ and ‘leading’ within a few lines of one another, which I think could do with changing. I’d also suggest that you include something – perhaps a row of stars? – so that we have a sense of time passing. It’s not a very important factor but I think on your final page it’s important to mark the time between Eddie’s death and the commander packing his belongings. Not only does it help the reader to understand the timescale, it gives them a moment to reflect on what has happened to Eddie before they are plunged into the next scene. 

However, these are all very minor queries and don’t detract from the overall resonance and appeal of your story. I was very impressed with what I read today and I hope you continue to develop your talent with the help of the YouWriteOn community.

Feedback from Alison, Random House Readers' Group

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