Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Writing Book Reviews: Post One

Earlier this year, my friend Gina Conroy asked me to write a post or two on writing book reviews for her to use over at Writer Interrupted. This seems like a good time to post them here since I have a line up of reviews that I'll start posting later this week. There are some great books coming out this spring! And I'll be giving away many of them, so stay tuned!

I've never taken a course on book reviews, and actually fell into writing them almost by accident. I LOVE spreading the word about books I enjoy. LOVE it. So after I started a blog two years ago, it made sense to have books be a large part of that blog.

About the same time I joined ACFW. Through it's e-loop, I got to know many authors. Often they ask for influencers -- people who will read a book and if they like it tell people about it. I love to connect people. If you've read The Tipping Point, I fall clearly into that category. I am enthusiastic about anything I can do to connect people with a person or product I love.

That's how I started, and now I can't imagine not doing it. So, here's a review I wrote recently and I'm going to insert explanation throughout to explain why I wrote what I did....

ADAM by Ted Dekker

I signed up – reluctantly – to read Ted Dekker. You see, I enjoyed some of his earlier books, then hit a point where they just weren’t my thing. Plenty of other people love them, but I had more than enough other books to invest my time in. (This beginning was important to me -- I wanted to let readers understand that I used to like Dekker and then stopped. His plots became the same in a way that was important to me. I think knowing my frame of mind when I started reading the book lends credibility to what I will say about it next) Then ADAM arrived in yesterday’s mail. 8 hours later, I had consumed the book after some careful ribbing from my husband. That’s okay, he’ll consume it just as quickly on his next flight. (How much does a book grip me? Is it easy to put down? Do I read it almost obsessively? There are many books I enjoy, but can read over a week or more. Then there are others that I HAVE to read. If you read enough of my reviews, you quickly get a sense which category a book falls into)

ADAM: the story of an elusive serial killer whose victims die of unknown causes and the psychologist obsessed with catching him.

Daniel Clark is a FBI behavioral scientist who is famous for his well-reasoned arguments that religion is one of society’s greatest antagonists. He’s killed by a serial killer but resuscitated. He and a fellow FBI agent go to extremes to try to recapture his memories of the moments prior to death. (These two short paragraphs give a sneak look at the plot. Especially with suspense, I am EXTREMELY careful not to give away key plots. I try to use the synopsis as a's a bit about the main character and the you want to know more?)

The book has marvelous pacing – I literally couldn’t put it down. The only good news was I didn’t have anything else I had to get done last night! And the characters have great conflict. The plot is filled with twists that I didn’t anticipate, yet fit the classic Dekker book mold. (This sentence lets current Dekker readers know he hasn't changed his stripes, ala John Grisham. But it also lets you know that it kept me, a suspense writer, guessing.)

Dekker uses magazine articles interspersed between chapters to fill in the gaps and make the serial killer more than a shadow. From page one you are learning the tragedy of his early years. It reminded me of the technique Brandilyn Collins used extremely well in her Kanner Lake series. (This is a unique plot device that is showing up more often in books. Some use it very well. Others not so much. This let's readers know that it's there -- so if it really bugs you, this book may not be for you. But it also compares it to another author who uses this technique very effectively.)

The book also deals with the reality of the supernatural realm and the American viewpoint that it doesn’t really exist. The Catholic church is the main religion highlighted, and it is handled in a positive light. (Because it branches into some controversial religious topics I highlight them quickly without giving away the take and twists. I usually highlight the spiritual or some other aspect of growth in the characters.)

While I wouldn’t recommend this book for young teens, due to content, if you like a thriller with plenty of supernatural twists thrown in, then you will enjoy this book. (I included this because I think it is my duty to let others know if there is a reason I wouldn't want someone to unknowingly hand it to a young person. I very rarely put caveats like this on a book, but I want people to trust my reviews. For example, right now I don't think I would let Abigail read this when she's 14. She's 7 now. But that may change. Other young teens may be able to handle the material, but parents need to know it could be an issue.)

So that's how I write book reviews. I'll post one more review with similar analysis. Only this book is from a completely different genre. And it's a book I loved equally only for very different reasons!

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