Writing A Book Review, Are You?


My World War II novel – or I should call it more accurately a fictional biography – is out in advance copies now, and I’ve asked quite a number of friends and acquaintances to read and review the book. All seem more than willing, but some half are wringing their hands over writing a review. So what’s in a review?

Reviews can be as long as a magazine article or as short as a book cover blurb, but reviewers will want to accomplish roughly the same things in them regardless of length. For my book, and for those I review here, I’d say the length should be from one long paragraph to three moderately long ones. In these, there are certain things to be accomplished:


  1. The first sentence should “hook” the reader’s interest. Something intriguing that comes to mind about the book, or possibly something that sums up the book in an interesting way. Not just “I like this book…” but something that gets to the core of the book from some an unusual perspective. Let’s say the book is about traveling by train. You might begin with “I grew up in a small town, a town that wouldn’t have existed had a railroad not run there. I would listen to the train whistle at night, wondering what the train was carrying, who was aboard…”
  2. Don’t go off on a tangent with 1. above; instead segue as quickly as possible into your review of the book. This is most often written in present tense. The most common advice here is don’t write the book you wish the author had written; review the book before you, as it is. Be concise but sum up the story without giving away the key to the story. Something brief about the main characters, in the context of the story.
  3. Are you familiar with the author and his/her work? The author’s past history of books/stories published – basically the writer’s authority on the subject of this book.
  4. Finally, summarize the book from your perspective. Did you like it? Why?

This may sound daunting, but you’ll likely find that you have a handle on all of this from your reading. It’s just a question of putting it together. You can do it!


Visit my website here, where you’ll find more information on my books. There’s also a Facebook fan page if you can find it. On both you’ll find more on ideas and events that matter to me — and possibly to you.

A Really Great Review

Collateral Damage NEW Cover copy 3

We writers read for enjoyment, yes, but try as we might, we find ourselves sizing up the competition. At first we gain prototypes from which we learn. As we continue to grow in technique and possibly in talent, we try to fit ourselves into the panoply of writers: the famous, who make the money; the geniuses, who give us new structure and vocabulary; the storytellers, who hold us speechless as we turn page after page.

This is largely what we writers do when we blog books. But occasionally we grab the brass ring for ourselves, and something we’ve written becomes praiseworthy in the eyes, the ears, the mind, of prominent reviewers. I received such a gift this weekend – – praise for my latest, Collateral Damage and Stories. What transpired? Have a look:

Asheville_Citizen-Times_20160724_D03_2-REVIEW_Collateral Damage and Other Stories_Bob_Mustin

Thank you, Rob Neufeld!

P&W’s Slant on Self-Publishing

Poets & Writers, November/December 2013


Being a writer caught between the traditional and the self-pub worlds, I’m always drawn to the what-ifs of self publishing articles and advice columns. P&W seems to be aware of this changing reality, given that an annual issue appears on that subject, so I dug in to this issue – with gusto.

If you’ve done the same for the past couple of years, you’ll find this issue disappointing in that regard. But if you’re just now thinking of diving into those waters you’ll find much to inform and reassure you. Publicity is where most of us bump our heads, whether published traditionally or solo, and Michelle Blankenship, in her column, “The Heartbeat of Publicity,” gives us both the somewhat gloomy reality of publicizing one’s self and works and some pragmatic advice on the best ways to go about publicity.

Reviews are another must for all writers, and Melissa Faliveno dishes on paying for reviews as well as gaining them for free.

Otherwise, Elizabeth Gilbert, of Eat, Pray, Love fame, gives us her story on grabbing the literary brass ring.

P&W promises and almost always delivers on items to inspire, inform, and reassure, and this issue falls right in the fat part of that bell curve.



Visit my website here, where you’ll have an opportunity to download an audio eversion of my latest, Sam’s Place, as well as select book review podcasts. Then there’s my FB Fan Page here. On both you’ll find more on ideas and events that matter to me – and possibly to you.

Taking Comfort in Promo and Reviews & A Celebration


When the alternate-universe high of writing a book and having it published wanes, you’re left with the real world concerns of promotion and coping with reviews, whether they’re good, blah, or bad. Maybe J.R. McLemore’s approach to such things will help you navigate that emotional minefield.

Oh, and this is my blog’s 1,000th post. Wow!!

Visit my website here, where you’ll have an opportunity to download an audio eversion of my latest, Sam’s Place, as well as select book review podcasts. Then there’s my FB Fan Page here. On both you’ll find more on ideas and events that matter to me – and possibly to you.

Kirkus Likes!

I'd been waiting somewhat anxiously for the Kirkus Review of recently published novel, A Reason To Tremble. They liked it and I'm really excited! The review follows:



Front Cover

After the small town of Hope, Ga., is rocked by the hit-and-run death of a 10-year-old girl, two brothers set out to find her murderer in Mustin’s debut thriller.

When Emily Shane is killed by a hit-and-run driver, her father, Pat, begins to obsess over the idea that known-alcoholic Phil Agee is the culprit. It was Agee’s vehicle that was seen ricocheting away from the crime scene, after all. But Agee’s close involvement with a prominent liberal senator, Alan Baxter, leads Pat to suspect that the police and Baxter are withholding evidence and not interested in pursuing justice. Pat’s increasingly violent mood swings and volatile outbursts are driving a wedge between him and his wife, Yvonne; the town; and his brother Jason, a Vietnam War vet who lives with the couple. In order to save his family, Jason agrees to investigate the case with old war buddy and private detective Wilton Byrd—as long as Pat lays low. As the case enfolds, more tragedy ensues and Jason and Wilton uncover secrets and lies that shatter the family and

town. Author Mustin has created a rich, layered and believable character study of Hope and its people; these are fundamentally decent people who struggle against a greater machine. Some lose their souls and lives trying to make a difference. The corrupting nature of power (the enormity of which is the title’s “reason to tremble”), the damaging effects of war and personal loss, and issues of trust and betrayal are explored with intelligence and depth as two men risk everything to uncover the truth. Filled with complex characters and relationships, this novel is moving and compulsively readable. Ultimately, readers may ask whether holding onto ideals and integrity is really worth this high a price.

An absorbing thriller wrapped in a sharp, biting critique of corruption.