Friday, October 9, 2009

Karen Kingsbury's "Every Now and Then"

ATTENTION FEDERAL TRADE COMMISSION: No one gave me this book. I bought it myself, with my own money, at a Barnes & Noble Bookstore in a suburb of St. Louis. I even have the receipt. I have received no compensation for this blog post, nor do I expect to. So, if in your infinite wisdom you would hold book reviewers in the traditional media to the same rules on book reviews that you’ve got now for bloggers, then we could all be unhappy and outraged together. But at least it would be fair. I don't don't have a problem with transparency, even mandated transparency, but I do have a problem when you set rules for one group but not another doing the same thing.

If you haven't followed the news on the new FTC rules, suffice it to say that the FTC is now requiring blogger "endorsers" to disclose whether they received any kind of compensation at all, including a free book to review. I don't have a problem with that. But I don't really see a difference between a book review on a blog and a book review in the newspaper. Ths may shock people, but 99.99% of newspapers and magazines don't buy the books they review. The books come (gasp!) free from the publishers. And there's no disclosure.

Okay, that’s off my chest.

I’m not much into “branded” authors. You know, the ones whose name on a book cover magically makes the books fly off the bookstore shelves and the aisles in Amazon’s warehouses into consumers’ hands. The ones whose books are in the top 10 on Amazon’s list months before they’re published. There are the secular fiction brands like John Grisham, James Patterson and Stephanie Meyer, not to mention Don Brown, and there are the Christian fiction brands like Jerry Jenkins, Beverly Lewis, B.J. Hoff, and Terri Blackstock. And, if we were all honest with ourselves, every wannabe published writer secretly desires to achieve brand status. Alas, only a few every make it, but that's the appeal. That, and the money.

I don’t usually read the branded authors. No particular reason or bias, I just find myself interested in other kinds of writing. Usually. Last year, I picked up one branded author’s book because it looked interesting, but I was disappointed. It just wasn’t written very well. Others he had done were better written, but this one was, well, just off. Leave it at that. Everyone has a bad day sometimes.

So here I was at that bookstore mentioned above in my FTC rant, looking for some interesting things to read in Christian fiction, and came to the Karen Kingsbury section.

Karen Kingsbury is a brand. She’s written a lot of books. She gets her own section of shelves – three of them, in fact – at Barnes & Noble. That amount of space at Barnes & Noble is for brands – authors who sell lots of books. But hey, this is a business, and the brands make a lot of money for booksellers and publishers, and if Karen Kingsbury helps Barnes & Noble stay in business then she deserves three shelves.

I almost went on to another section, but heard this little voice in my head saying "Snob! You're biased and probably jealous, and acting literary doesn't fool me!" So I stopped and looked through the Kingsbury books, and found one (there were others) that looked appealing. It was called Every Now and Then and was part of Kingsbury’s 9/11 series of books based on the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington in 2001. This book is set several years later (it was published in 2008), and it’s about Alex Brady, a young K-9 officer in southern California whose fireman father died in the collapse of the Twin Towers. Alex has neither forgotten nor forgiven, and he has become almost like a machine in seeking to eradicate evil from the streets.

Okay, I thought, it’s part of a series. The author has written some 50 books or so. It’s probably OK, not great but OK. The story idea sounds interesting. And, and I’m being candid here, the bad guys were environmentalists, of the radical, destructive variety, the fringe types who set off bombs and set fires to protect the environment from humanity even if they have to destroy humanity to do that. Being in business, and watching how movies and TV programs and novels always, always demonize business people, this promised to be at least different. As in refreshing.

It was more than different. I underestimated Kingsbury. Every Now and Then is a good story, and it’s told well. The book required a lot of research, and she did it, and it’s believable and credible and makes the story come alive. And the appeal is both to women and men; in fact, this story may more appeal to a male audience because it’s action-packed and suspenseful and it’s good versus evil and the dialogue is mostly guys talking to guys and it’s got a raging fire and people getting shot. Well, you get the picture. Sure, there’s some romance in it, but it fits the story and isn’t the heart of what the story’s about. It’s a great read.

So I learned something. And that is, the “brands” can deliver just as good a story as anyone else. It's not just about being a brand. I don’t know what the rest of her writing is like, but Karen Kingsbury’s Every Now and Then is a satisfying read. The lady knows how to write, she knows how to tell a good story, and she delivers.

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