Tag Archives: book reviews

Writing Honest Book Reviews

10 Sep

There is a lot of criticism these days about biased book reviews and writers reviewing each others books in order to post glowing reviews. I write reviews for Suspense Magazine, and I also occasionally read a book by a fellow writer and post the review on Amazon and GoodReads. I never write a negative review. And I have read some books that I did not enjoy at all.

Even if I don’t like a book, there is probably someone out there who will. There is no reason to trash someone hard work. I describe the plot and characters in the novel, and try to place to story in a category. If it is a story of zombie aliens rampaging the countryside, I make that clear. It’s not a story that appeals to me, but it appeals to some readers.

If I really believe some parts of the book are badly written, I may just question those aspects and try to put it in perspective. If a writer uses an expression that is regional, but doesn’t fit the character, I will mention it. If a writer makes a small error, as in a recent example when I reviewed a book in which the “French press was whistling in the kitchen,” my antenna for errors goes up, but I won’t mention it. Everyone makes mistakes.

I  have seen reviews that criticized the use of swear words in a novel, and either too many sex scenes or too few. As a reviewer, I want to be as honest as possible without dwelling on the weaknesses of the book or the author.

As a reader, I want to read reviews that tell me what to expect, but I always take extremely negative reviews (of anything, not just books) with a grain of salt. Long, negative rants just sound like the reviewer had a bad day, or dislikes the book or author for some other reason.

Check out some of my reviews on Amazon or GoodReads and tell me what you think. See if you can tell if I liked or dislike the books.

Life Gets in the Way

7 Aug

My week suddenly became very busy and blogging time cut down to zero. I am posting a review of The Lost Ones by Ace Atkins that I wrote for Suspense Magazine. I am always happy to celebrate another author’s writing.

The principal characters in The Lost Ones are soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan to rural Mississippi, soldiers who have not yet learned to put their guns down. One of them, Sheriff Quinn Colson, has become the chief law enforcement officer of Tebbehah County. Another, Donnie Varner, runs a gun shop and shooting range, and is not averse to making a sale to buyers on the wrong side of the law, a dangerous business, especially when he becomes involved with members of a Mexican drug cartel.

At the same time, Quinn and his deputy, Lillie Virgil, are on the trail of another group of unsavory characters who are in the business of selling Mexican babies.  Their crimes become even more serious when one of the babies dies, and the couple last seen with the child have disappeared along with several other children. They have left a filthy trailer, clear evidence of the treatment the children received, as well as abused dogs penned outside in even worse filth. The sheriff seems to just miss this notorious group every time they reach a new hideout.

The characters in The Lost Ones are as real as your next door neighbors. They live in an economically depressed region of the South, where poverty and political corruption are a way of life. But a novel populated with as many unsavory characters as this one only becomes a great novel when it is clear that even the best characters have their weaknesses, and the worst just may have a “good” quality or two.

Author Ace Atkins takes the reader through many twists and turns as the plot barrels to its dramatic conclusion. The Lost Ones will keep you up until the last page is turned, and leave you satisfied and waiting for the next novel in the Quinn Colson series.

This is Not a Book Review

3 Jul

I am currently caught up in reading The Lost Ones, a new novel by Ace Atkins. It was not a book I picked up by choice; I am reading it to review for Suspense Magazine. After the first couple of pages I was sure I wouldn’t like it. It’s set in rural Mississippi. The main characters are veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan. The first scene deals with a possible sale of guns headed for Mexico. Not my kind of book.

But I got caught up in it. The characters are human, compassionate people. They have their baggage, like everyone does, and even more so because of their combat experience. The story is well-written, with a balance of strong female as well as male characters. Atkins shows what “character driven” means. Even while I am thinking how happy I am to not live in the rural South, I admire the people who have come to life in this novel. 

This book is just another reason why I enjoy reviewing novels. I am often sent books that I would not have picked up on my own. I gravitate toward British or historical mysteries and prefer female protagonists. But it is always good to step out of the familiar comfort zone and try something new. I had the same experience with Jaden Terrell‘s mysteries, another author I recommend.

Do you tend to read the same types of books? Have you been surprised by one that was not your usual choice?