Sunday, September 21, 2008

Sunday Salon: Reading review books to the bitter end.

I am regularly given books to review.  They cost me nothing, which is quite a saving when you consider the cost of books here in Australia. 

There is a dilemma though. What is the right thing to do when you don't like the book?  Do you struggle on and finish it or do you stop when you know it's not going to work for you?

I'm in the former camp.  I have been given a copy and in order to do it justice I feel I should read it right though.  There is one friend who wrote a review saying she was simply unable to finish it.
That hasn't happened to me yet.

So which is better?  Write a review saying you couldn't finish it because you didn't like it? Or read it all and perhaps colour your opinion of it even more?

There is a school of thought that feels if you can't write a positive review, don't write anything at all, but I think that's being dishonest to a degree. I'd much prefer to read a negative review of a book than none at all. I think that negative reviews are just as useful, if not more so than positive ones. At least you know the reviewer is probably being honest.

What do others think?

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Review: GOSPEL by Sydney Bauer

Publisher: Pan Macmillan
This edition published: July 2007
ISBN: 978140503802
Price: $32.95 (Aust)
487 pages
Tom Bradshaw is the perfect Vice-Presidential candidate. He had a difficult time in college, but overcame drug addiction and now leads the fight against illegal drugs. The nation is stunned when he is found dead in a hotel room of an apparent self-administered drug overdose after being clean for over twenty years. Just as the public is coming to terms with the death of the much-respected politician, it is announced that it wasn’t an accidental death, but murder.

Police very quickly charge Stuart Montgomery with Bradshaw’s murder. Montgomery is Bradshaw’s doctor and is touted as one of the front-runners for Surgeon General should there be a change of administration in the upcoming election. The pair have had a falling out and the evidence points to Montgomery. Attorney David Cavanaugh has never liked Montgomery. He is arrogant and pompous and more than that, he is the reason David’s ex-wife left him all those years ago. When Cavanaugh is asked to represent Montgomery at his murder trial, he hesitates. He doesn’t want to have emotions of the past dredged up again, and there is his current partner, Sara to consider. Despite his misgivings Cavanaugh accepts and quickly discovers that there is a lot more going on than meets the eye. He begins to uncovers a conspiracy that reaches far and wide in the halls of power, putting his life and those around him in danger.

Sydney Bauer’s first book, UNDERTOW was a fast paced thriller and GOSPEL is promoted in the same way. It doesn’t seem to have quite the same pace and I think it suffers for that. The first couple of chapters introduce a so many characters that I found it confusing for quite a while. Bauer’s use of adjectives seemed at times a little unnecessary: ‘She took two of the upturned glasses standing on the crisp white towel on the black marble counter and poured them both a drink before gliding across the room, extending her long slender arm and handing him his water.’ It was a very minor detail. She gave him a glass of water would have sufficed. I found numerous examples of this. These unnecessary descriptions detracted from the pace of the book considerably. When a book is 487 pages long, details like this can become annoying.

Most of the plot was predictable. There were a few very clever little twists, but they didn’t arrive until after 400 pages and seemed to come too late. A large part of the ending involved a dramatic overblown court scene. “’Cavanaugh is a liar,’ he yelled, his voice rising over an astonished crowd. ‘A simple-minded show pony who, in his desperation to win exoneration for his murderous client, has rallied this group of geriatrics, has-beens, teenagers and drug addicts in a pathetic attempt to sully my good name,’”. Speeches like this abounded and I felt that any resemblance to a real courtroom situation was purely coincidental.

It’s a shame that GOSPEL was so overdone because there was a good idea in the basic plot premise.

Monday, September 8, 2008


Execution Lullaby

My review

rating: 5 of 5 stars
Simon Chase is on death row for the murder of seven teenage girls. Execution Lullaby is told from his point of view. It quickly become apparent that Simon didn't murder the girls, but he is complicit.

The story follows Simon's blissfully happy marriage to his wife, until he discovers a terrible secret.

The blurb for the book asks the question "how far would you go for the one you love?" and gives Simon's answer.

Nigel Latta is a clinical psychologist who specialises in assessing and treating sex offenders. It's dark place he has to visit on a regular basis and EXECUTION LULLABY reflects that. It's a compelling read if you have the stomach for it, with a very clever twist at the end. I found EXECUTION LULLABY unputdownable.