Wednesday, April 18, 2012

"Fever" by Joan Swan, reviewed by Sherry Isaac

I shy away from writing reviews for writers I know. A review places two reputations on the line, the author’s, and the reviewer’s. To write a proper review I have to be honest and accurate about my impressions. It is a responsibility I take seriously.

I met Joan Swan in the fall of 2010 on a mountain top in Colorado. We were classmates in a writing class. I fell in friend with Joan, and fell in love with her writing.

As the release date of Fever (Kensington Publishing Group) approached, Joan sought reviews. I’d had a taste of Joan’s writing that had only whetted my appetite for more, and the usual qualms over reviewing a friend’s book vanished.

My hand shot up. Pick me, pick me!

My copy arrived. I opened the package. Drooled over the cover model. << YUM! >> Cracked the spine.

Page one, paragraph one, I had not made a mistake. Joan rivets the reader to the page with a pace that flows like hot taffy down a milk chocolate slope. Quick. Smooth. Scrumptious.

No back-burner simmer here. Embers ignite in hot hot hot chemistry, a raging plot, smoldering sensuality, and a charred line between good and evil.

I could talk about story line, but the back cover blurb and other reviewers have that fire under control. Instead, I’ll tackle craft. A plot can be intriguing, full of twists and turns, but if the writer can’t hold a reader’s interest with quality prose and a competent pen, success and sales go up in smoke.

A penny for a page-turner? How’s this for a hook at the end of chapter one:
Primal anger sank deep and overlaid the fear. She’d be quiet all right. And in the silence, she’d watch. And wait. And plan.

Joan’s dialogue fills us in not only on a character’s attitude, but on his prejudices:
“Shut the fuck up, you goddamned gook.”

No scene, no set up, yet I sure as heck don’t have to tell you that was not one of the good guys. As for heroine Alyssa’s spark:
“If you hadn’t gone all NASCAR on me, I could have settled for a frostie.”

When the pressure is on and our heroine needs a plan, Joan knows how to kick up the embers and set fire to the pace:
A crowbar, hammer, lighter, screwdriver, wrench, paint supplies, bag of weed killer, can of gasoline.
Introspection provides powerful insight into a hero’s heart, but narration can bore us with drawn out explanations. Not so in Fever. Teague’s internalization stokes the fire with some smoldering description:
Had he really walked out on her lying naked, tangled in a sheet, still warm and damp with their sweat from hours and hours and heavenly hours of lovemaking? Had he? Really?

And now for the smoky plume of simplicity:
“You’re getting a little bossy, Lys.” Teague bit his way down her neck. “I like it.”

The purpose of a good review is to light a fire under the reader’s keister to buy and read the book, but with Joan’s own words sizzling up and down the page, my job has never been easier.

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Sherry Isaac was raised by Nancy Drew and Miss Marple and so took to writing stories early in life. She’s won the Alice Munro Short Story Award and was a finalist for the Maggie in 2011. Her rich storytelling is laced with a pinch of mystery, spiced with a dash of the unexpected and served with a dollop of suspense. Resistant to any one genre, her novels and short stories weave the common thread of everyday life, love and forgiveness into tales that transcend all things, including the grave. Sherry believes in romance, identity and the depth of the human soul.

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  1. "The purpose of a good review is to light a fire under the reader’s keister to buy and read the book"

    Really? I thought the reviewer's job was to give a helpful critical appraisal. It's the purpose of the publisher's blurbs to light the fire etc., etc.

  2. Seems a bit small minded, previous commentator.
    I liked this review as it takes a positive upbeat tone, instead of the usual tack reviewers take. They often write as though it is their task to find every flaw.


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