I Don’t Do Book Reviews

I don’t do book reviews. I might tout a book I really like, as I have from time to time in this blog. I’ll talk to the buyers at Indie bookstores, suggest books to my local library and talk my friends into at least considering the purchase of books I really like. But I don’t do book reviews.

I think the primary reason for this is that I’m a writer and regardless of how tightly I bind and gag my internal editor, he’s always there picking apart the plot, critiquing the characters, studying the storyline or alternately complementing or condemning the author on their use or abuse of language. I’ve grown used to this and it doesn’t really affect my reading pleasure. I’d be in trouble if it did as it’s a rare book that evades that damned internal editor. The only book I can think of in the last year that did was Water For Elephants. Me and that editor read it cover to cover and I don’t think he piped up once.

Having that little devil sitting on my shoulder while I read is oft times a blessing, occasionally a curse. It’s a curse when I run into a book so poorly written that however hard I try, I can’t get past the cries of anguish and scorn heaped on the author by my critic. It’s a blessing when I read a well written book in which I can simultaneously enjoy the read while analyzing the intricate weaving of the author’s hand.

Having that little devil sitting on my shoulder also makes it nearly impossible for me to review a book. Critique it, yes. Review it, no. A critique is from the writer’s point of view while a review is more a reader’s point of view with maybe just a sprinkling of the writer’s point of view tossed in like fresh ground pepper over a salad.

Overall, though, the former will quite often differ from the latter. A case in point would be the fabulously popular Da Vinci Code. Obviously millions of readers loved this book, finding the storyline compelling enough to endure what I consider to be some of the most horrific writing imaginable. I couldn’t get past the second chapter despite how hard I tried. Considering the sales figures for DVC, that certainly puts me in the minority.

So, I don’t review books. I don’t feel comfortable doing it, I’m not sure I know how to do it, I don’t believe I’d be very good at it and, considering the point above about DVC, I doubt I’d see a book in the same way someone who is strictly a reader would.

Fortune in H.E.L.L.Having said all that, let me introduce you to Fortune In H.E.L.L. by H. Jean Bushnell. Though Jean and I have never met in person, we go back a ways in cybertime, having met while ‘attending’ a joke of an online writing class. Later we were involved in an online writing forum called Prose6 and later still in a small break-away group that several Prose6ers started amongst themselves. She has recently joined Backspace after a good deal of prodding on my part.

During our Prose6 time, Jean was working on a little cozy mystery called Fortune In H.E.L.L. Briefly, the story revolves around Abbie Tartingale, one half of a mystery writing team with her husband Matt. When Matt dies of cancer, she finds she can no longer write. She moves in with her sister in Denver and, through some manipulation on her sister’s part, ends up working for a Denver law firm with the unfortunate acronym HEL&L. One of the lawyers is murdered, not always a bad thing in my opinion, and suddenly Abbie is thrust into one of those life imitates art situations.

Jean and I have kept in touch over the years. She kept at Fortune and finally got it published through Prong Horn Press. I haven’t asked Jean yet whether she has an agent or if this book was pitched to any larger publishers but I have to say I’m dumbfounded that someone like St. Martin’s Press didn’t snatch this thing up in a heartbeat. I’m a big fan of M. C. Beaton (St. Martin’s Press). Her writing is tight and clean, always with a touch of humor and her mysteries are top notch.

Fortune In H.E.L.L. is every bit as good as anything I’ve ever read by Ms Beaton, and I’ve read most of them.

This is a first rate mystery with all the elements you’d expect in a cozy, polished to a high shine. The characters are highly believable and so individual in voice that you never get them confused. The flow of the story is even and well paced, nothing happens that shouldn’t and everything that should, does. There is a good dose of humor, just the right touch of romance and a compelling mystery with plenty of clues to guide, and misguide, you along the way.

Abbie herself, the star of the show, is an intricate character that you can’t help but like as she moves through the trials and tribulations of finding herself caught up in what easily could have been one of the plots her and her dead husband might have written, all the while grieving his loss and coming to terms with the idea of moving on with her own life.

If you like cozy mysteries, you’ll love this book. If you don’t, this one will change your mind. If you’ve never been exposed to them, Fortune In H.E.L.L. will win you over. Personally, I can’t wait until her next one comes out.

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2 Comments to I Don’t Do Book Reviews

  1. That book definitely sounds like something I’d enjoy, so I’ll hunt it down. Thank you for the recommendation.

    The more I write and more time I spend with other writers, the less I feel I should review. I’m not going to trash a colleague’s book because I don’t like the person, nor do I feel like I should have to overpraise a piece because it’s a colleague.

    So it’s best to pass on the whole reviewing thing, at this point. Too may conflicts of interest.

  2. EJ says:

    I’m not sure what kind of reach Pronghorn Press has but it’s not in any of the bookstores here in Albuquerque. Something I plan to remedy as soon as possible. Amazon has it though and, I think, B&N.

    I feel the same way about reviewing, especially if I don’t like something. I’d rather stay nothing about those. But sometimes, when something really strikes you, you have to say something about it. That was the case here. I really enjoyed this book.

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