Why I Did Not Love My Reviews

imagesO6QRVKDMWell. It today is February 10 and I have written ten book reviews. I don’t think I can do anymore, at least not in the format I have chosen. I love all the books I have reviewed but all my reviews say the same thing. “This is a great mystery.” “You should read this.” “It has charming characters, an intriguing plot, and a setting that makes it special.” I am boring myself.

I think if I do this again I will not make it about me. I don’t think anyone really cares what I think about a book. Would you really read a book because I told you it was good? I doubt it. I need a different way to convince people how good these books are.

Right now I have no idea what that is and I have many writing projects that I want to finish before Left Coast Crime in March. I think I will switch my focus from book reviews to short fiction, something that I enjoy much more.

I know ten reviews is far short of the original twenty-eight I planned to write but when I started this I had no idea how much I would dislike writing the same fluff over and over. I don’t need to do another eighteen to learn what I already know.

So back to the world of fiction. I am already more excited about writing so I don’t regret quitting. Stephen Dubner from Freakanomics says that quitting can be the most important thing a person does. I guess we’ll find out.

To help us understand quitting, we look at a couple of key economic concepts in this episode: sunk cost and opportunity cost. Sunk cost is about the past – it’s the time or money or sweat equity you’ve put into a job or relationship or a project, and which makes quitting hard. Opportunity cost is about the future. It means that for every hour or dollar you spend on one thing, you’re giving up the opportunity to spend that hour or dollar on something else – something that might make your life better. If only you weren’t so worried about the sunk cost. If only you could …. quit. Stephen Dubner Freakanomics, Season 1 Episode 5

I Love The Omega Network by Thomas Locke

One of my favorite things to do is wander the library shelves looking for new authors to read. Unlike bookstores that only keep the newest books on their shelves libraries have books that are dozens of years old. These are good books but once I move I often can’t find them anymore. This happened with the Thomas Locke mysteries. I kept looking for them but thought I was out of luck. Then one day I noticed they were in eBook form. I immediately ordered them and they are as good as I remember.

Who is Thomas Locke?

Well, he is not a 19th century politician and he not an epic fantasy author. Those Thomas Locke’s I can find information on. The Thomas Locke who wrote The Omega Network is a little more mysterious. In fact I know nothing about him except that he wrote a couple of wonderful books. I guess that is enough.

Why do I love this book?

I love characters who do the right thing even when it is hard to do so. I also love slimy politicians that I can enjoy hating. The Omega Network has both. The good guy has to make hard decisions but he does the right thing. In the process he is almost killed which is a good reason to stop doing the right thing. While I would call this book a Christian mystery I would say that is more about morals than religion. It is also about how people with lots of money can roll over the little guy, a great premise for a book.

No book is perfect. This is what bugs me…

In this case what bugs me is that no one knows about The Thomas Locke mysteries. They are really good, but when I used to borrow them from the library it seemed like I was the only one who ever checked them out. They were always on the shelf when I wanted to read them. That seemed a shame. I know there are a ton of books to read in the world but I wish more people would add The Omega Network and The Delta Factor  to their reading list.

Why should you read this book?

This is an intelligent, moral mystery filled with danger, and a little romance, set in the swamps and cities of Florida, both places where slimy creatures dwell. That must be why I picked it up all those years ago. I never regretted it and neither will you.

A Quote Worth Quoting

Rico took another step toward the desk, let the guy stare down into the barrel, the biggest blackest hole he would ever see. And the last one.

But still there was no fear. Thomas Locke The Omega Network

I Love the Nancy Drew/Hardy Boys Super Mysteries

Okay, here is another chance for me to go to Mystery Reader Hell – I am not a fan of the original Nancy Drew mysteries. They are obviously popular based on how many are sold each year but I found them old-fashioned and out-of-date. The Hardy Boys were a little better, but not much. That being said, I love the Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys characters. I enjoyed the TV shows and the movies. I just wished I could get through the books.

One day while browsing the library I found the newest Nancy Drew series and to my complete joy she works with the Hardy Boys. The series is called the Nancy Drew: Girl Detective and Hardy Boys: Undercover Brothers Super Mystery. They used modern gadgets and cell phones and travel all over the world solving crime. Awesome.

Who are Carolyn Keene and Frank Dixon?

Carolyn Keene is a pseudonym used by anyone who writes the Nancy Drew books. The original series was created by Edward Stratemeyer. He created over 150 book series including Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys, the Bobbsey Twins, and many others. Even though he thought up all these characters he did not write the books. He hired ghost writers to write the books under pen names. Over ten authors have written Nancy Drew novels under the name of Carolyn Keene.

The Hardy Boys stories are also written under a pseudonym. Several people have written under the name Franklin W. Dixon through the years.

I think this is an amazing concept. Imagine never getting credit for writing one of the most popular series of all times. They must really love writing for the sake of writing.

I do not know who actually writes this new Nancy Drew/Hardy Boys series but I bet it is just one author working on each book. That means that person is both Carolyn Keene and Franklin W. Dixon. Too bad they can’t put it on their resume.

Why do I love this book?

I love middle grade mysteries. They focus on the story and leave out all the character angst. Despite my dislike of the original books I really do like Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys. Now that there is a series featuring them all set in the twenty-first century I am willing to read these books. They do not disappoint. The writing is not amazing but the characters are true to their origins and the mysteries are both intriguing and exciting. The sleuths find themselves in hot water time and time again. These books made me like Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys even more.

No book is perfect. This is what bugs me…

The only thing that bugs me is that the books are so hard to find in online catalogs. The reason for this is that there are a ton of Nancy Drew and Hardy Boy mysteries and they all have similar names. There is a super mystery set that was written in the 1991 and some of the titles are almost identical. I wanted to read all the books in the series written in 2010 and had a hard time doing so. I wish someone would write a new Nancy Drew/Hardy Boys series and call it something besides “Super”. How about “Ultimate”, or “Mega”, or “All New”? I know they are super-sleuths but the word super has been overused.

Why should you read this book?

If you liked Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys as a kid these you’ll enjoy spending more time with these super sleuths. If like me, you thought the original Nancy Drew books were old-fashioned you’ll love the new updated version of these wonderful characters, complete with cell phones. If you are looking for a kid-friendly mystery for the middle grader in your life this series would be a great choice.

A Quote worth Quoting

“Canya dew any bett’r?” said Frank. Listening to him, I had to admit I was impressed. His Irish accent was impossible to understand. That afternoon we spent watching and rewatching the Commitments had paid off. Franklin W. Dixon Stage Fright

I Love the Chicago Way by Michael Harvey

I found The Fifth Floor by Michael Harvey while shelving books at Borders. I like P.I. stories so I tried it out. Jackpot. It was the second book in the series so of course I had to read the first book immediately. The Chicago Way was so good I bought a copy for myself and one for my mother. I hoped there would be more and was not disappointed. Four books are out now and each is more complex than the previous.

Who is Michael Harvey?

Before writing The Chicago Way Michael Harvey had a lot of experience writing about crime. He helped create, write, and produce the TV show, Cold Case Files. He has also made various documentaries that have won several awards. He lives in Chicago, which might explain how he can describe it so accurately. He has a law degree from Duke University and a masters in journalism from Northwestern University. I wonder how he has any time to write such great books.

Why do I love this book?

Chicago. Except for Ferris Bueller’s Day Off I have never given Chicago much thought. And then I read The Chicago Way and the city came alive. The way Michael Harvey describes Chicago makes it seem like one of the most interesting places on Earth. His descriptions of the weather, the lake, the bars, the trains, the sidewalks, the food, and the politics all added up to one of the best settings for a mystery ever. Move over New York City, move over Los Angeles and San Francisco. I want to explore Chicago, Michael Harvey’s Chicago.

Not only did Michael Harvey bring the setting to life he also brought us P.I. Michael Kelly, one of the good guys who can’t catch a break for anything. In a world of corruption he fights for truth and of course that means everyone wants to kill him. Maybe not everyone but enough that I wondered how he was going to survive the book. Luckily he did and continued to so for three more books.

These books have plots that keep you turning the page consisting of complicated crimes and lots of political intrigue. In Michael Kelly’s world no one should be trusted. It is impossible to know who is telling the truth and who is lying. It has the feel of a Sam Spade novel. You know everyone is lying but they are so convincing and charismatic you just want to believe them. I was duped time and time again. That is how good of an author Michael Harvey is.

No book is perfect. This is what bugs me…

This book may not be perfect but I enjoyed it too much to find anything to complain about. It is a winner.

Why should you read this book?

You should read this book because it is an awesome mystery novel, set in a corrupt, fascinating city, starring a tough, compassionate, P.I. That’s why.

A Quote Worth Quoting

“I was on the second floor of a three-story walk-up on Chicago’s North Side. Outside the Hawk blew hard off the lake and flattened itself against the bay windows. I didn’t care. I had my feet up, a cup of Earl Grey, and my own list of the ten greatest moments in Cubs history.” Michael Harvey The Chicago Way