Before Ryan Conklin‘s book, An Angel From Hell, came out, I knew I wanted to review it for the Ryan Conklin site. I also thought that if I could do a reasonable job with it, I would like to post my thoughts on Amazon and other sites that accepted user reviews. Of course, it was very much dependent on whether I liked the book or not. As much as I like Ryan, I wasn’t going to write anything I didn’t believe. So, if I didn’t like the book I was prepared not to write anything at all. As it turned out, I loved it, and I was able to follow through on my plans.
First thing was the wait for it to be published. The announcement that the book was to be published had been made nearly a year before the actual sale date, so it was a long time coming. The Amazon pre-order option had been available for several months prior to the sale date, and I promoted it, but interestingly I didn’t avail myself of it. I did expect to order the book close to the sale date so that I would get it as early as possible, but then I saw where I could get it even quicker. On Twitter, someone had remarked that a bookstore in NYC had the book on the shelves two weeks early. I went to the store’s website and immediately ordered it with the extra charge for overnight delivery.
So I got the book in the next few days and I was one of only a handful of people in the country that had it their hands. I thought that was great because I would have the jump on anybody else reviewing it. Unfortunately, I quickly ran into a few roadblocks that prevented me from capitalizing on the early access.
For one thing, I didn’t know how to write a book review. I had to read a few articles on what should and shouldn’t be in one. The other thing was deciding on what my “take” on the book was and how would I organize it. I wrote quite a few pages of notes and had to read the book several times to figure out what I considered to be the most important points to comment on. It took a long time to gel, in fact over a month.
It is interesting that I would be slowed when I kept on dissecting random paragraphs. To satisfy my own curiosity, I wanted to determine the quality of the phrasing and sentence and paragraph structure. I wanted to see if was noticeably written by an amateur or was it on par with a professional. Envious, my conclusion was that it was very professional indeed.
For the record, here is what I made sure I included:
- Comparison with another author and book.
- Summary of the story and the purpose of the book.
- Description of the tone, the feel, and the point of view of the narration.
- Conclusion on how well the author succeeds at meeting his intentions.
- Explanation of what makes the book special.
- Listing of the story elements that are particularly interesting or noteworthy.
- Suggestion of who would find the book enjoyable and/or informative.
- Mention of problem areas.
Concerning the last bullet item, it took me a long time to decide how I felt about the number of characters. I found the volume of names to be difficult to follow, but eventually decided that the interaction with a large number of people was germane to a story about the Army.
One more thing would be important to include and that is a quote. I had decided very early on that I wanted to use the cousins/princesses quote. I felt like it really tied together the notion of the civilian boy in the uniform along with the humor discovered even in serious situations.
The end result: something long, but something I felt pretty good about.