I know that a few of our trusty witers on BNN occasionally try their hand at book reviewing. It is mostly a lot of fun. The bit I like best is getting stuff for free! Free is always good. Free is my favorite price.

Unfortunately things do not always go according to plan. 

As a book reviewer, often times you have no clue what you are getting yourself into when requesting a review copy from a publisher. Most of the time the books that I review are not yet in circulation, therefore there are no reviews that you can use as a guide. There are rare occasions where this is not the case, those reviews are usually written by the publisher or publicity company, and just a little biased.

Most of the authors I select are complete unknowns who are taking those first tentative steps into the complicated and often confusing literary world. I see little reason for reviewing the latest John Grisham blockbuster that 20,000 other reviewers have already beaten to death.

Either I am incredibly lucky, or there are an incredible amount of really good new authors out there, because I am rarely disappointed in the quality of the books I read.

My main source of information is the inevitable press release. Yes it is biased; I have never read one that did not praise the book in question as if it was the second coming of Jesus! But at least you get a general idea about the subject matter.

Occasionally, though, I do get very disappointed. And very disappointed does not adequately describe my feelings last Friday, I was pissed off! Some days previously I had read a press release for a new book about Vermont. The exact wording escapes me right now, but it was something like: “Heartwarming and humorous tales about Vermonters…..”

It seemed harmless enough, the sort of book that you can polish off in a day or so, and not too taxing on the grey matter. In other words a cake walk. So off went my form email requesting a review copy. An hour or so later I received confirmation that the book was in the mail.

On Friday afternoon a package arrived. I eagerly tore into it, but at first I thought there had been a mistake and they had forgotten to actually include the book. A second inspection revealed my mistake; the book was indeed there, and I had mistaken it for a publicity hand-out.

It was a whopping 53 pages long. And all it contains are a series of not very funny one-paragraph jokes. Please Listen While I Think… I’m A Vermonter by Bruce C. Blanchard was not at all what I was hoping for.

How anyone could write even a 400-word review of this book is absolutely beyond me. It would take an intellect far superior to mine to achieve this feat in creative writing. It would also be the first occasion where the review actually exceeded the word count of the book.

I basically read the entire book while sitting on the toilet. A more befitting reading room for this book I can not think of.

The highlight of the entire adventure was reading the endorsements on the back cover. My favorite being:

“My son spent two years on this book (Ten dollars is a bargain).”

As you can see, there are perils involved with becoming a book reviewer. But it is also great fun. Despite this experience, my advice to anyone who has the reviewing urge is: Grab a pen and just do it!

I would love to see more book reviews on BNN.

Simon Barrett



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