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Book Review of: Think Twice

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Review of Think Twice, by Lisa Scottoline (Softcover, 2010)

(You can print this review in landscape mode, if you want a hardcopy)

Reviewer: Mark Lamendola, author of over 6,000 articles.

Normally, I listen to Lisa Scottoline novels in audio format. The narrators do a great job with those Italian accents. I grew up with Italian accents, capice? This was my first time with one of these novels in paper format.

It's hard to believe the author of this book is the author of the others. There are two glaring reasons why:

  1. The plot strains credulity at many points. It's just not believable. A reader can overlook one, maybe two instances of implausible plot twist. But this book seemed to reply on those, and that's just not solid writing. This book is not at Lisa Scottoline's previous level of writing.
  2. The character Bennie Rosato that I've come to know is not the Bennie Rosato in this book. It's not that the character grew or changed in response to a challenge, which we readers can find believable or even desirable. She's a different character, and not one that seems to have a lot of sense. She appears to have been written for the convenience of the plot. I'd rather this relationship were the other way around.

The plot isn't plausible, but what is plausible is the author was aware of how weak (or farcical) this novel was, so she used some gimmicks instead of relying on solid writing.

For example, many chapters were only two pages long. There are 128 chapters in 371 pages. You read the first page of one chapter, and flip the page--you are looking at the next chapter. Pacing by chopping up the scenes into micro chunks strikes me as an act of desperation. It would have been better to focus on the actual writing. Fix the plot, and use the characters we have come to know so well. I'm not saying a character can't ever change, but what we're asked to believe in this novel just isn't believable.

A major implausibility is that Bennie's twin sister could impersonate her and fool Bennie's employees. These people are lawyers. They are highly educated people. They make their livings sorting through evidence and applying logic. Sure, one of the attorneys "thinks" there's something wrong but she can't convince her coworkers to even provide a basic test. It's hard to believe "whether to ascertain the facts" is even an issue. Especially considering the circumstances.

As a reader, I found myself wincing but still wanting to go on. What saved this book wasn't the use of micro-scenes. What saved it was the use of a few MacGuffins. I wanted to see how (or if) those were resolved. So, while this book is not at the quality we've come to expect from a Lisa Scottoline novel, it's still fairly entertaining.

And I do like a few things about the ending. These, the author made plausible. It is the getting to that point that really needs to be rethought and re-done in a revised version that meets the standards Lisa Scottoline has previously written to.

If you've not read a Lisa Scottoline novel yet, don't start with this one. It's not her best work. Start with Moment of Truth, or maybe Lady Killer. After you gain an appreciation for this outstanding author who usually does excellent work, then you may want to pick up this book.




About these reviews

You may be wondering why the reviews here are any different from the hundreds of "reviews" posted online. Notice the quotation marks?

I've been reviewing books for sites like Amazon for many years now, and it dismays me that Amazon found it necessary to post a minimum word count for reviews. It further dismays me that it's only 20 words. If that's all you have to say about a book, why bother?

And why waste everyone else's time with such drivel? As a reader of such reviews, I feel like I am being told that I do not matter. The flippancy of people who write these terse "reviews" is insulting to the authors also, I would suspect.

This sound bite blathering taking the place of any actual communication is increasingly a problem in our mindless, blog-posting Webosphere. Sadly, Google rewards such pointlessness as "content" so we just get more if this inanity.

My reviews, contrary to current (non) standards, actually tell you about the book. I always got an "A" on a book review I did as a kid (that's how I remember it anyhow, and it's my story so I'm sticking to it). A book review contains certain elements and has a logical structure. It informs the reader about the book.

A book review may also tell the reader whether the reviewer liked it, but revealing a reviewer's personal taste is not necessary for an informative book review.

About your reviewer

  • Books are a passion of mine. I read dozens of them each year, plus I listen to audio books.
  • Most of my "reading diet" consists of nonfiction. I think life is too short to use your limited reading time on material that has little or no substance. That leads into my next point...
  • In 1990, I stopped watching television. I have not missed it. At all.
  • I was first published as a preteen. I wrote an essay, and my teacher submitted it to the local paper.
  • For six years, I worked as an editor for a trade publication. I left that job in 2002, and still do freelance editing and authoring for that publication (and for other publications).
  • No book has emerged from my mind onto the best-seller list. So maybe I'm presumptuous in judging the work of others. Then again, I do more describing than judging in my reviews. And I have so many articles now published that I stopped counting them at 6,000. When did I stop? Probably 20,000 articles ago! (It's been a while).
  • I have an engineering degree and an MBA, among other "quant" degrees. That helps explain my methodical approach toward reviews.
  • You probably don't know anybody who has made a perfect or near perfect score on a test of Standard Written English. I have. So, a credential for whatever it's worth.

About reading style

No, I do not "speed read" through these. That said, I do read at a fast rate. But, in contrast to speed reading, I read everything when I read a book for review.

Speed reading is a specialized type of reading that requires skipping text as you go. Using this technique, I've been able to consistently "max out" a speed reading machine at 2080 words per minute with 80% comprehension. This method is great if you are out to show how fast you can read. But I didn't use it in graduate school and I don't use it now. I think it takes the joy out of reading, and that pleasure is a big part of why I read.

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