Sometimes, you get the chance to review more than one book in a series. It’s a gamble on several fronts. Often, the first book in a series is great, but the next one or two… not so much. Other times the first isn’t so good but subsequent ones in the series got progressively better—particularly with an author’s first books. (I know my second book was exponentially better than my first, and that remained true through several more.)
I took that gamble recently. The books looked amazing, and I really wanted to share them with my suspense-loving readers. The first had a great premise and huge potential, but… I was underwhelmed. That review is HERE.
Sunday, I opened Shadow of Suspicion, eager to discover if the series improved with the second book. All it needed was obvious improvement, because like I said, I know that writing matures. It didn’t happen.
Note: Links may be affiliate links that provide me with a small commission at no extra expense to you. Additionally, I requested a review copy of this book. The opinions shared were not influenced by the receipt of that book.
What Do You Do When You Want to Love a Book but Don’t?
I’ll just say it right now. I don’t want to write this review. If I hadn’t given my word that I’d read the review copy I requested, I wouldn’t be typing right now. My apologies to the author in advance. You have excellent ideas and instincts. I’m going to keep trying your books, because I know someday I’ll be singing their praises. I just know it.
Shadow of Suspicion has every element necessary to make it an excellent book. In fact, the way the story played out reminded me a lot of my Agency Files. As I said, I wanted to love it.
But I don’t.
So here I am torn by what to do. How do I remain kind in what I say while being honest about what I think? People ask me this all the time which is why I’m sharing it in this review-slash-post. I hope to demonstrate what I think once I state it. Let’s hope I pull this off.
First, like I already mentioned, you remain kind.
I don’t care how terrible the book is (and this one isn’t what I’d call terrible—just clarifying there), there is never an excuse for being unkind. Now, for the author and the most sensitive of readers, any criticism may feel unkind. In those cases, please look at the heart of the writer instead of just the words.
For example, I can say I don’t like how something is written. That doesn’t mean I dislike the author. Not only did I not say that I would never imply it—especially if it were true! Just sayin’.
So when you state you don’t like someone’s writing style, be specific without being nit-picky or mocking. It’s one thing to say that a particular style makes your teeth itch—as first-person/present-tense does with me. It’s another to say that only immature junior high girls still write that way (and I don’t agree with that, by the way).
You can say that you found the enormous amount of info-dumping to be tedious or difficult to wade through. That’s not unkind. What would be unkind would be to say that you wish you could sue the author for the lost hours of your life while you waded through the unnecessary details given when describing a room (although, since Dickens is dead and can’t get his feelers hurt…).
Second, be honest.
While there’s no excuse for being unkind, there’s also no excuse for lying to potential readers—and being deceptive about what you really think is lying. If you find the book to be inappropriate, say so. If the typos became unbearable after a dozen or two on every single page, then say so. Just don’t add a full list of every single one to your review. That’s not helpful to the reader and it is unkind to the author.
Hint: most authors do not mind a kindly worded message or email stating that you found a few typos while reading and asking if they’d like to know what they were. As long as your email is kind and not accusing (please don’t remark about how they clearly didn’t have it edited. It’s often not true, but even if it was, it doesn’t help), most authors appreciate the heads up!
Just don’t say that you liked something you didn’t. Don’t say it’s well written if it isn’t. Tell what you did like and what you didn’t. And don’t forget to tell them why. Why you didn’t like something helps someone else decide if it’ll bother them or not. Just remember #1 up there while you write it.
Third, say who would like it—if anyone.
If you know it’s written in the style of another author—say so. That helps. If you know that some people don’t mind certain stylistic choices—then point out that those were used. Saying who would like it shows the author that you’re not out to trash their book (this is especially helpful if you’re also an author!) and it helps readers decide if they fit in that category of folks who would like it.
How does it work? Well, I’m going to review Shadow of Suspicion with this method. I wanted to love this book. I don’t. Here’s why.
My review of Shadow of Suspicion:
I was eager to read Shadow of Suspicion. The synopsis caught my attention. Danger, suspense, uncertainty. I had to request a review copy the minute I read it. Suspense novels come with certain expectations—the biggest being just the right amount of tension to keep you hurtling through the story at the right speeds at the right times.
I so want to tell you that I loved this book, but I can’t. The story concept is good—intriguing, even. The characters are interesting and kept my attention. Unfortunately, the story is told rather than shown. As I read, I felt as though the author related the events to me rather than allowing me to experience them with the characters.
I also found a certain amount of repetition. In fact, in places, it was almost as if the story had been written in the style of a typical essay. We’d have narrative hinting what would come next, the dialogue would carry us through for a bit, and then a summary in the narrative of what we’d just experienced.
A significant amount of the story is told as “backstory” and as such, includes large sections of info-dumping. In the end, I had to fight not to skim a lot of it. And, I should admit that I now suspect I did a lot more skimming than I realized at the time.
The book has such huge potential; however, despite every effort to immerse myself into it, I didn’t enjoy it.
Recommended for readers who want to enjoy suspense but find traditional suspense a bit too hard to handle. The narrative style does tone down the suspense greatly. I also recommend it for people who just want a nice, clean, Christian read and aren’t bothered by lots of narrative backstory and info-dumping. I will also add that the Christianity shown is not preachy, but it is also not token. The Christian characters take their faith seriously, even if they don’t drone on and on about it.
One warning for those who are more particular and are on the fence. My copy may not be like the one available on Amazon today, but it should be noted that there were no section breaks. So, the story point of view shifts abruptly from one person to the other without warning. It is in large chunks, so we’re not talking about “head hopping” but just shifts in POV but without benefit of something to indicate it.
I’m giving it three stars because there is so much potential in it.
And I look forward to new books by Ashley Dawn in the future. Perhaps with a few more stories under her belt, some of these issues will be corrected. I have high hopes.
Revenge is the agenda…
“Find my sister.”
Rick Reiley’s words were what drove Luke to search mercilessly for Kerry. He is in a race against time to find her and will have to face more than a criminal mastermind to get close to her. He is prepared to give his life for her, but what about his heart?
“…I would like you to meet….My wife.”
Those words from her enigmatic rescuer threw Kerry more than anything else that had happened to her in the last few days…and that was saying a lot! Kerry’s simple life is turned upside down when she is kidnapped and dragged to the middle of nowhere by a madman. She trusts Luke with her life, but can she trust him with her heart?
As Luke fights to keep Kerry safe, the chemistry ignites and the danger gets closer.
Will God protect them while Luke tries to sort out his heart….and capture Kerry’s?
Author Ashley Dawn was born and raised in rural Arkansas where she developed her love for writing while helping in her parent’s office. She graduated with an accounting degree from the University of Central Arkansas but is currently working as a legal assistant.
Ashley has been writing professionally for the past twelve years and has four published books. Her Shadows Series include Shadows From The Past, Shadows of Suspicion, Shadows of Pain, and Shadows of Deception. She is currently working on multiple projects including the fifth in her ‘Shadows’ series entitled “Shadows in Black and White” and also a standalone suspense titled ‘One of Their Own’. She and her family makes their home in Texas.