Category: Bookish Question

books I’m looking forward to reading

Bookish Question #13: What Books are you Looking Forward to Reading?

It’s the end of June (already!), which means we’re halfway through the year. I’ve read a bunch of books, but there are still more books to read. There are always more books to read.

Here are the books I’m looking forward to reading (click on the covers to buy on Amazon):

Books from Debut Authors

Count Me In by Mikal Dawn

An accountant as a heroine? I don’t think I’ve seen that before, so I’m looking forward to finding out Allegra’s story.

Someplace Familiar by Teresa Tysinger

I’ve heard good things about Someplace Familiar. It’s a debut novel, and the start of a series. Well, it’s best to start at the beginning, right?



Books I Own But Haven’t Read Yet

(Don’t judge me. You have a mile-high to-read pile as well. Don’t you?)

Finders Keepers by Sarah Monzon

Finders Keepers has just won the Selah Award, and I’ve read (and reviewed) the sequel, but somehow haven’t managed to read this yet.

 The Whys Have It by Amy Matayo

I love Amy Matayo’s writing and the way she shows authentic faith in a real world. And the cover …

My Unexpected Hope by Tammy L Gray

My Unexpected hope is the sequel to My Hope Next Door, which is a RITA finalist, and was one of my top picks for 2016. So I have to read it, right?

The Wayward Heart by Nerys Leigh

The Wayward Heart is the third book in Nerys Leigh’s unique mail order bride series—unique in that each of the stories in the series is happening at the same time, so you can read the series in any order.


Books I’m Waiting For

Ghost Hunter by Lisa Harris and Lynne Gentry

Ghost Hunter is a suspense novel set in Tanzania and the United States. That’s all I know about it. But it’s by Lisa Harris, which pretty much guarantees a winner.

Ghost Hunter releases in August 2017.

A Dangerous Legacy by Elizabeth Camden

I love the way Elizabeth Camden melds new-to-me historical research with faith and romance.

A Dangerous Legacy releases in October 2017.

The Captivating Lady Charlotte by Carolyn Miller

Regency romance is one of my favourite romance genres, and it’s great to see more Christian authors in this space.

The Captivating Lady Charlotte releases tomorrow! I can’t wait! Well, I can. Because I have to. But you know what I mean.

An Inconvenient Beauty by Kristi Ann Hunter

More Regency romance, from award-winning Kristi Ann Hunter. I’ve read and enjoyed every one of her books so far, so I have no doubts about this one. And the cover is gorgeous.

An Inconvenient Beauty releases in September 2017.

Deadly Proof by Rachel Dylan

Legal suspense. What more do I need to know?

Legal Proof releases in September 2017.


What book or books are you most looking forward to reading in the second half of 2017?

Have you judged a writing contest?

Bookish Question #12: Have you ever judged a writing competition?

Last week I talked about some of the awards for Christian fiction.

One of these is the INSPY Awards, which are judged by book bloggers and reviewers. I was privileged to be chosen as a judge for the General fiction category in 2015. It was a difficult job to pick a winner from five brilliant finalists, all of which were great books.

I’ve judged other writing contests as a first-round judge, including the Omega Writers CALEB Prize, and the Romance Writers of New Zealand Koru Award. I’ve also judged the Romance Writers of New Zealand short story competition, and the Genesis and First Impressions Awards from American Christian Fiction Writers.

Being a first-round judge in a contest for published books is a lot less pressure.

I read the book, complete my scoresheet, and send it off to the contest coordinator. They have the job of collating the feedback from the different judges and selecting the three or five highest-scoring books to make the final round, then coordinating the final round judges to pick the eventual winner.

Judging a short story contest is fun.

There is a strict word-count limit, so I know roughly how long each entry is going to take. It has to grab me quickly, and present a beginning, a middle, and an end all in that short word count (e.g. 1500 words—shorter than the average book chapter). It takes real skill to write a good short story!

I think the hardest is judging a contest for unpublished writers.

That’s because a good judge gives feedback on the entry. Good feedback—on what works, and what doesn’t. This can be difficult and time-consuming, but I think it’s important to do the best job I can because the entrant will be using the feedback to improve his or her novel.

Yes, it’s definitely easier to judge a published contest, where you only have to score!

Have you judged a writing contest?

What did you enjoy about the process? What was the hardest part?

Do You Read Award-Winning Books?

Bookish Question #11: Do You Read Award-Winning Books?

I’ve loved reading ever since I was a child. (Raise your hand if that sounds familiar!)

Most of the early books I read were from Scholastic, courtesy of the Lucky Book Club brochures that were delivered to school every few months. Mum would usually buy us a book out of the brochure. I also found many books from the brochure in the school library.

When I was about ten, I noticed that many of my favourite books had a picture of a medal on the cover—the Newbery Medal. I learned that if I was looking for a book, that medal often indicated a book I’d like.

Then I grew up, and grew out of Newbery Medal-winning books. Were there adult equivalents? My mother bought The Bone People by Keri Hulme, the first book by a New Zealand author to win the prestigious Booker Prize (back before it was sponsored by Man Group). She didn’t like The Bone People—she couldn’t get past the non-standard punctuation.

I think that put me off searching for adult equivalents to the Newberry Medal.

Now I read mostly Christian fiction, and I find there are a huge range of awards for Christian books, fiction and non-fiction. I enjoy following the fiction awards:

I find these four contests routinely have finalists and winners I enjoy—so if a book makes it to that coveted finalist position, I’m willing to give it a try even if I know nothing about the book or the author.

The Christy, Carol, and INSPY Awards all have several genre categories, and a first book category. I love checking out the lists of finalists in my favourite genres.

How many of the books have I read? Which did I like? Which would I pick to win?

I do find myself adding several books to my to-read pile. Sometimes I wonder how and why I missed them when they were first published.

So yes, I do read award-winning books, but only from the Christian contests I trust.

What about you? Do you read award-winning books?

Bookish Question #10

Bookish Question #10: What books did you read in school?

I’m sure we can all remember being reading in school.

One of my earliest school memories is the teacher reading out loud classics novels such as The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. I’d recently been given the book for my birthday, so I enjoyed following along in my own copy as the teacher read aloud from the school copy.

Later, in intermediate and high school, we’d have to read assigned books. This never bothered me—I was always a keen reader—but a lot of the books weren’t novels I’d have chosen to read myself. Yes, expanding our literary horizons was probably the point.

I think my favourite English reading assignment wasn’t a book at all, but a poem: The Man from Snowy River by Banjo Patterson.

I’m not a big poetry fan, but I loved the rhythm of the poem, the way I could almost feel the horse galloping along beside me as I read the words.

We read this in fifth form (our equivalent of sophomore year), in preparation for School Certificate. School C (as we called it) was the set of national examinations we sat at the end of the year. If we didn’t pass, we couldn’t progress to sixth form in that subject. It was a big deal.

One of the School Certificate questions was always to compare and contrast a piece of literature with the movie version. This meant we got to watch the movie version of The Man from Snowy River, starring Kirk Douglas and Tom Burlinson.

I remember reading The Great Gatsby, although I remember nothing about it. We read Tess of the D’Urbervilles. I loathed it because of the requirement to find theme and symbolism rather than simply reading and appreciating the story. And we read the compulsory Shakespeare: Macbeth and Othello.

What about you? What books do you remember reading in high school? What did you like … or loathe?

Bookish Question: How many chances do you give an author?

Bookish Question #9: How Many Chances?

How many books do I read from an author before deciding not to read any more?

Like most readers, I have likes and dislikes.

My perfect novel is romance (except Amish), especially romantic suspense. I enjoy a fast-paced thriller (as long as I’m not led to believe it’s actually romantic suspense, in which case I’m likely to feel short-changed in the romance department). I enjoy space opera and dystopian fiction, but I rarely read pure sci-fi or fantasy. Fiction tends to dominate my reading: non-fiction tends to be writing-related.

I also have preferences around writing styles. I like first person point of view, and while I enjoy both plot-based and character-based novels (depending on my mood), I don’t like it when the interior monologue starts interfering with the pace. Like bringing it to a complete halt.

I sometimes read a novel by a new-to-me author, and don’t enjoy it. I’m then left wondering if I should read another book from that author. Is that one book is representative of all their writing? Or might I enjoy other titles? Do I give them another chance?

How many chances?

How many books do I read from an author before deciding not to read any more?

How many do you read?

I’ve been in online conversations where people have posted that it’s unfair to an author to refuse to buy, read or review their books based on one bad experience. I can see the value in that argument, and I can think of authors where I’ve loved some of their books, and loathed others. And I often read the books I didn’t enjoy first. I would have missed out if I’d chosen not to read any more books by that author.

(As an aside, I often find if an author writes in more than one genre, I’ll love one but not the other. For example, I like Carla Laureano’s contemporary romance novels, but haven’t read her fantasy novels because I don’t enjoy fantasy. I like Lori Wick’s historical fiction much more than her contemporaries.)

But there is another side to the argument.

I can think of another author who I like and respect as a person (well, I’ve never met her so perhaps I merely like and respect her internet persona), but I don’t read or review her books. I used to: I like her characters and I like her plots but I don’t like her style of writing. It simply grates with me, which means my reviews were solid three stars.

Anyway, this author received a review on Amazon where the reviewer commented that while she’d read several books by this author, she didn’t like the author’s writing, so could only give the book three stars.

The author asked why the reviewer was reading the book—and reviewing it—if she didn’t like the author’s writing.

Good question.

And it persuaded me that it’s okay to choose not to review books by some authors. This particular review wasn’t mine … but it could have been.

I don’t like authors venting on social media about less-than-glowing reviews. Such comments often patronise or insult the reviewer, and/or make the author look insecure and a little mean.

Anyway, I was impressed beyond words when I checked the author’s Facebook page a couple of hours after her initial comment and found she’d removed the comment and posted an apology, saying God had impressed on her that her original response was inappropriate.

But none of this discussion answers my original question: how many books do I read by an author I’m not enjoying before deciding not to read any more?

What do you think?

Bookish Question #8: Waiting for a sequel

Bookish Question #8 – Waiting for a Sequel

Which book have you read that’s a standalone title, but you’re waiting for the sequel?

I have a love/hate relationship with series. I love them, because I love having the opportunity to get to know the characters over a longer period than just one book. But sometimes I hate them, because once I read one book I want to read more, and I know it’s going to be six or nine or twelve months before the sequel is available. A case in point: If I Run and If I’m Found by Terri Blackstock. And True to You by Becky Wade.

And the one thing that’s worse than having to wait a year to read the sequel to a book I loved?

No sequel. Not a yet-to-be-published sequel. But no sequel planned. At all. Because as far as I can tell, it’s a standalone title.

This most recently happened with Dance Over Me by Candee Fick. The novel follows an aspiring actress as she joins a dinner theater company and searches for her long-lost younger brother. And it’s a romance, so there’s a happy-ever-after ending for the main character. But what about the other members of the theater company? Don’t they get their happy-ever-after endings?

What’s a novel you’ve read that where you’re now waiting for a sequel?

Bookish Question #7: Standalone or series?

Bookish Question #7: Standalone or Series?

Bookish Question #7: Do you prefer to read standalone novels, or books in a series?

In general, I prefer to read books which are part of a series. If I like the characters, then I want to meet them more than once. And a series is a great way to do that.

My preference is a linked series, where there is some relationship between the main characters in each book (e.g. siblings, workmates). An example is The O’Malley series by Dee Henderson.

But I’ve also read and enjoyed series about a single character, with each book a complete novel but also contributing to an overall story arc. An example is If I Run and If I’m Found by Terri Blackstock. This series follows a fugitive trying to prove her innocence. Now I’m waiting for the third book!

But I don’t always like series.

If I don’t like the first book in a series, I’m not going to read the rest of the series. I guess this is one reason most publishers keep their series short—trilogies are popular. This is especially true if the series has an overarching storyline. The first book has to grab me, or I’m unlikely to be interested in the sequels.

Also, I’m no longer a fan of those romance series where it takes three novels for the hero and heroine to get their happy-ever-after. The exception might be if the romance is actually the subplot (e.g. The Smart Chick Mysteries by Mindy Starns Clark).

I recently read and loved a romance novel that was the first book in a trilogy. When I looked up the sequels, they were both about the hero and heroine in the first book. What? I thought they’d got their happy-ever-after at the end of book one. The next two books seemed to be introducing and prolonging unnecessary conflict. I didn’t buy them.

If I’m going to read a series, even one with an overarching storyline, I need each book to have an ending. A proper ending, where the mystery has been solved or the couple have got together. Not a cliffhanger ending where one or more major characters are left in major peril while the author writes the next book in the series. It’s annoying on TV, and it’s even more annoying in a novel.

So do you prefer to read standalone novels, or books in a series? What might make you prefer one over the other?

Bookish Question: Is it me, or is it the book?

Bookish Question #6: Is it me or is it … the book?

There are days I go online and find everyone (i.e. two reviewers I follow on Instagram) is raving about a novel, and I don’t know what they see in it. It’s meh. Whatever. Take it or leave it. Preferably leave it.

I wanted to like it.

The cover was perfect, the description enticing, the hero swoonworthy (of course that’s a word. And if it isn’t, why not?), and the heroine the perfect mix of sassy and vulnerable.

Can you relate?

Do you ever pick up a book expecting to love it, because a particular reviewer loved it and you have similar tastes … yet you find you can’t get into it? That it simply doesn’t grab you the way you’d been hoping?

Yes? No?

I’m not going to embarrass you, me, or the author/s in question by asking which books gave you that meh feeling.

No. I want to get a little deeper. Why do you think we feel this way? Is there something wrong with the book? Are all the raving reviewers hiding something? Or … is it me, us? Is it my fault I’m not getting it?

So here’s my Bookish Question for this week. Is it me? Or is it the book?

How Often do you read?

Bookish Question #5: How Often do you Read?

I read every day!

But I don’t necessarily read fiction every day. What about you – how often do you read?

I try to read my Bible every day—I use A Woman’s Guide to Reading the Bible in a Year by Diane Stortz as my guide. I like this plan because it alternates those hard-to-get-through Old Testament books with the New Testament or Psalms. Over the last three years I’ve read the New International Version, the New King James Version, and the Holman Standard Christian Bible. This year I’m back on the NIV.

I read blog posts every week day. I follow over 100 blogs through Feedly, and read maybe 10-20 posts a day, and share the ones I like most on Twitter and Facebook.

And I read fiction in the evening, especially if there’s nothing on television (that covers most evenings). I also try and read in the weekends—the promise of a good book gives me an incentive to get through those household chores faster! I can easily read two books in a weekend in the winter, when it’s cold and wet, and there’s no reason to go outside. Summer … not so much.

Yes, I pretty much read all the time 🙂

How often to you read?

What's your favourite fiction series?

Bookish Question #4: What’s Your Favourite Series?

What’s your favourite fiction series, and what makes it so special?

I have two possible answers to this question. Or maybe three favourite series. Yes, definitely three. All Christian fiction, which shouldn’t come as any surprise.


The Mark of the Lion series by Francine Rivers

I loved Hadassah, I loved Marcus, and I loved the way her quiet witness had such an impact on him. An Echo in the Darkness remains one of my favourite Christian novels.


The Love Comes Softly series by Janette Oke

I loved Clarke and Marty and the way two strangers came together and form a strong, godly family. I loved the way Clarke introduced Marty to God. And I loved the way the series covered generations, and didn’t shy away from the trials of life.


The O’Malley series by Dee Henderson

These were the first Christian romantic suspense novels I read, and I loved the mix of faith, romance and suspense. I especially liked the relationship between the seven O’Malley “siblings”, and the way each of them had a different journey to  Christ. I also read and loved the two prequels—Danger in the Shadows, and Jennifer.


What’s your favourite fiction series, and what make it so special?