Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Boo Humbug

As much as I love reviewing books, there's always a time when it's hard to do so. Sometimes I read a book I just don't like and didn't move me. Most of the time, I don't review them. It's also a dangerous path to walk as a reviewer who isn't paid and doesn't work for a publication. Especially, because I want to be published myself someday. A lot of book reviewers (at least online) are working on a book of their own. The book I've been working on for four years is Christian fiction. Christian fiction is a small community where you often encounter the same people again and again. The authors are absolutely fantastic when it comes to supporting their fans. So it's doubly hard to review a book I don't like: first, I don't want to upset someone I like as a person, and second, I don't want to shoot myself in the foot by making enemies in the very community I'm hoping to become a bigger part of. Ultimately, I think it's important to post the occasional review of a book I don't care for. It tells you as a reader that I'm honest, and you can trust what I have to say. Whether you agree with me or not, I'm just telling it like I see it.

Today I did something I've never done before: I returned a book to the library unread because of bad reviews. I'm a big Patricia Cornwell fan, and I've been on the reserve list for her new Kay Scarpetta novel, Book of the Dead, since March! I read the first couple of pages and was disgusted by the comparison of a poor nameless woman's nipples to pencil erasers the killer used to chew off of his childhood pencils. Ick! I put it down and thought I'd try again later, but checking out the reviews on Amazon, it has been almost universally panned. There are too many good books I'd rather read out there to waste my time reading something purely for loyalty's sake. I'm certainly glad I didn't buy it!

Boo Humbug by Rene Gutteridge is the new holiday book in the ongoing Boo series about former horror writer Wolfe Boone and the denizens of Skary, Indiana. First off, let me say that I love Rene Gutteridge. I've read most of her other books and they are fantastic (read my reviews, I really mean it!). But I was very disappointed in this addition to the series. Wolfe and his wife Ainsley have had their first child, as has his friend Ollie and wife Melba. The two mothers' obsessions with their babies send the men into a ill-conceived version of Dickens' Christmas Carol directed by Lois Stepaphanopolis, one of the town's many kooks. Skary is populated with quirkly, hilarious characters who through their actions teach about the presence and love of God. Gutteridge has used them to great effect in previous titles. But here they move from quirky precious to annoying. Ainsley and Melba are paranoid about their children past humor into psychosis, and I found myself completely sympathizing with Wolfe. Maybe because of the few pages allowed in a novella, the story had to be compressed, but I missed larger appearances by other characters, and if you haven't read the previous books, I think you would be completely lost. Gutteridge pulls it back together for a satisfying conclusion about forgiveness and thankfulness and the true meaning of Christmas.

Today is the first day of my contest to win a copy of James Scott Bell's Try Dying (review tomorrow). All you need to do is email me at: clockstein at centurytel.net, and I'll enter you. Entries can be received through midnight Friday; I'll do the drawing on Saturday and announce the winner Monday.