Tag Archives: Phil Jason

Phil’s Summer Reading 2015

Here is my first annual Summer Reading List. Reviews of the first twelve titles have already appeared on Phil Jason Reviews Books (and elsewhere before that posting). For the other seven, the reviews are written, but not yet published because (in several cases) the books are not yet available. Come back later (and often) to find those reviews. You can put key words in the search box to bring of titles that don’t appear on the menu bar.

Randy Wayne White, Cuba Straits

Tami Hoag, Cold Cold Heart

Patricia Gussin, After the Fall

Michael Lister, Innocent Blood

Kim Michele Richardson, Liar’s Bench

Robert Levy, The Glittering World

Kinley Roby, An Anecdotal Death

Joseph Kanon, Leaving Berlin

Jonathan Papernick, The Book of Stone

Adam Mitzner, Losing Faith

Arleen Alleman, A Current Deception

Kate Angell, No One Like You


*Jonathon King, Don’t Lose Her  [book out, review forthcoming]

*Mike Hirsh, Fly Unzipped  [book out, review forthcoming]

*Helaine Mario, The Lost Concerto [book and review forthcoming]

*Paul Levine, Bum Rap [book and review forthcoming]

*Alex Kava, Silent Creed [book and review forthcoming]

*Lucy Burdette, Fatal Reservations [book and review forthcoming]

*Amy Hill Hearth, Miss Dreamsville and the Lost Heiress of Collier County [book and review forthcoming]


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Phil’s 2014 Top Picks

philjason loves booksThe following titles, which I prefer to list without ranking them, are my top picks among those published in 2013-2014 that I reviewed during 2014. It would be easy to find room for another 5-6 fiction titles, but I’m staying with the top ten selected.

The first three lists (Young Adult now listed as separate category for the first time) reflect my favorites among the trade publications that I reviewed. Separately, I’ve listed four self-published titles that seem to me especially worthy of notice.

FICTION [trade]

Julia Dahl, Invisible City

Lisa Unger, In the Blood

Randy Wayne White, Haunted

Zachary Lazar, I Pity the Poor Immigrant

James Lilliefors, The Psalmist

Boris Fishman, A Replacement Life

Leonard Rosen, The Tenth Witness

Michael Lister, Rivers to Blood

Beverle Graves Myers, Whispers of Vivaldi

Michael Wiley, Blue Avenue


YA FICTION  [trade]

Gwendolyn Heasley, Don’t Call Me Baby

Amber Hart, Before You

Rick Yancey, The Infinite Sea



James Webb, I Heard My Country Calling

Artis Henderson, Unremarried Widow

Libby Garland, After They Closed the Gates

Neville Williams, Sun Power

Andrew Furman, Bitten: My Unexpected Love Affair with Florida

Natan Ophir, Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach: Life, Mission, and Legacy

Gary Shteyngart, Little Failure

Joshua Muravchik, Making David into Goliath

Anais Nin, Mirages: The Unexpurgated Diary of Anais Nin, 1939-1947. Ed. Paul Herron



Robert J. Taylor. Hardship Post

Robert Lane, The Second Letter

Gidi Grinstein, Flexigidity

Hélène Gaillet de Neergaard, I Was a War Child

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Confessions of a book reviewer

“So many books, so little time” is the credo emblazoned on one of my sweatshirts.  Isn’t that the truth?  Among my favorite tee-shirts is “Lead me not into temptation … especially bookstores.” I confess: I’m addicted to reading. Worse, I’m addicted to blabbing about what I read. I want to do you the favor of knowing what I think. You see, dear reader, I’m looking out for your best interests. philjason loves books

Well, not really. Usually I do not warn you when a book is not worth your time. With rare exceptions, I do not write negative reviews. Why not? Wouldn’t a balance of negative and positive reviews give my work more credibility? Perhaps it would. I don’t care. I don’t have enough space to tell you what not to read or why you won’t like something. Besides, if a book is inferior, it will sink under its own weighty badness – it doesn’t need my help. Silence can be a good thing.

Many writers, especially novices, do not understand my refusal to write reviews of their efforts. My “Florida Writers” column brings me a lot of email from authors (and publicists) whose attempts at gaining my respectful attention are so poorly scribed that I can only imagine how poor the actual book is. Still, if I see any hope of being able to praise it, I’ll ask for a copy (or a pdf or an e-version). Too often, I end up not reviewing the book, hoping to cast my refusal so that it doesn’t do unnecessary harm.

“But I’m a Florida Writer – why not?” It is not true, I insist, that all publicity is good publicity. Why find yourself insulted by my honest appraisal? Easy Writer cannot imagine that his book could garner negative reviews. I pretend to agree that the problem is simple: there’s something wrong with me.

“But you’re the only person doing regular book reviewing around here. If you don’t help me get the word out, no one else will either.” Sure, I feel guilty. However, book reviewing is not public relations work; at least it shouldn’t be. (You want a planted, paid-for review?  I’ll tell you how to buy one.)

In case you’re dying to know the exception to my rule about not writing negative reviews, here it is: I will write a negative review when a well-established, talented author slips from the standard that he or she has set and that readers expect. Here’s a case in point. Though I love Randy Wayne White’s work, a couple of Doc Fords ago I thought he had let us down and said so. Fortunately, I was soon able (and happy) to praise his first Hannah Smith novel and the most recent Doc Ford.


“Confess, Phil, confess that sometimes you do not review a book that you know is pretty good. What’s the deal here? Lazyness?” Sometimes I’m lazy, but more often I just don’t think that the book and I are compatible. I can’t get excited about its virtues. I need to move on to another book that engages me more fully or that I feel will be of value to my readers “out there.” I don’t have time to agonize about the one that gets away. Again, my publication space and reading-writing time is limited. Careful selection is what gets me through. It’s like dating.

“Why do you review so many self-published books? Aren’t they bound to be just awful?” Hey, you snobs out there, with all the mediocre books put out by the trade houses, the burgeoning body of self-published titles offers a truly viable alternative for the serious reviewer looking for quality publications. I don’t let the publishing industry make up my mind for me, and I’m prejudiced against prejudices.  While there are many periodicals that refuse to publish reviews of self-published titles, Florida Weekly has allowed me the privilege of deciding by the case and not the category. . . .

For more “confessions,” as they appear in the full article found in the July 10, 2013 isssue of Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the July 11 issues of the Naples, Bonita Springs, and Charlotte County editions, click here  Florida Weekly – Jason’s Confessions 1 and here  Florida Weekly – Jason’s Confessions 2


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Phil’s 2011 Top Picks


The following titles, which I prefer to list without ranking them, are my top picks among those published in 2010-2011 that I reviewed during 2011. It would be easy to find room for another 5-6 fiction titles, but I’m staying with the top ten selected.

Because I review fewer nonfiction titles than fiction, I’ve made this list a “top 8.”

Finally, the first two lists reflect my favorites among the trade publications that I reviewed. Separately, I’ve listed 3 self-published titles that seem to me especially worthy of notice.

FICTION [trade]

H. G. Adler, Panorama: A Novel, trans. Peter Filkins

Lisa Unger, Darkness, My Old Friend

James W. Hall, Dead Last

 Howard Jacobson, The Finkler Question

Robert Macomber, Honor Bound

Jennifer Niven, Velva Jean Learns to Fly

John Milliken Thompson, The Reservoir

Michael Connelly, The Fifth Witness

James Nolan, Higher Ground

Tami Hoag, Secrets to the Grave


Kelle Groom, I Wore the Ocean in the Shape of a Girl

Jean W. Cash, Larry Brown: A Writer’s Life

Les Standiford, Bringing Adam Home: The Abduction That Changed America

Adina Hoffman & Peter Cole, Sacred Trash: The Lost and Found World of the Cairo Geniza

Bill Belleville, Salvaging the Real Florida

Deborah E. Lipstadt, The Eichmann Trial

Greg  Myre and Jennifer Griffin, This Burning Land

Charles Sobczak, The Living Gulf Coast: A Nature Guide to Southwest Florida


Brian Stanford, Somerville

Walt Breede, Snow on the Golden Horn

Naomi Pringle, Ginga’ Root Tea: An American Journey


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