Category: Bookish Question

Do you enjoy reading Christmas stories?

Bookish Question #37 | Do you enjoy reading Christmas stories?

I have to admit that I’m not the biggest fan of Christmas stories.

That’s mostly because I live in the Southern Hemisphere, which means our Christmas celebration marks the beginning of our summer holidays. Christmas is different Down Under.

I know a lot of people enjoy reading Christmas novels, perhaps because it gets them into the spirit of the Christmas season.

We don’t have snow. We have sand. At the beach.

We don’t have roaring log fires. Instead, we have the air con going full blast.

We don’t drink mulled wine (whether the alcoholic or non-alcoholic version). Who wants hot spiced wine in the middle of summer? Instead, we drink iced soft drinks—although it’s more likely to be Coca-cola or L&P than iced tea.

We might have the traditional Christmas dinner: roast turkey, ham, potatoes, kumera (the Maori name for sweet potatoes). And fresh asparagus—it’s in season. But we might also have a barbecue at home or on the beach. After all, it’s summer. Who wants to spend the day in a hot, steamy kitchen?

So I hope you can see why the traditional Christmas story doesn’t really appeal to me.

The one Christmas collection I did enjoy was the Aussie Summer Christmas novella collection. It’s no longer available as a collection, but the individual novellas are for sale on Kindle. They are:

Seaside Christmas by Narelle Atkins
A Christmas Resolution by Rose Dee
All is Bright by Andrea Grigg
Falling for Maddie Grace by Meredith Resce (I’m not a sports fan, but this was one of my favourites)
Melbourne Memories by Marion Ueckermann
Santa Next Door by Lacy Williams

What about you? Do you enjoy reading Christmas stories?

Which Bible translation do you prefer?

Bookish Question #36 | Which Bible translation do you prefer?

Bibles.

Isn’t it ironic that something that’s so central to our faith can divide us?

The first Bible I ever read belonged to my great grandmother—a King James Version. I was about eight years old, and although I could read the words (and I was the best reader in my Sunday School class), I was never chosen to read the Bible story of the week out loud to the class. I soon worked out it was because while I could read all the words in the King James Bible, my classmates didn’t understand them.

I’ve had similar experiences as a Sunday School teacher in the years since, meeting children who could quote the King James chapter and verse, but didn’t actually know what the words meant. (One thought King James had written it himself.)

That, to me, isn’t enough. Sure, we need to able to read accurately. But we also need to be able to comprehend what we are reading. Otherwise, what is the point? We’re parroting, not learning.

That’s not to say we can’t learn anything from the King James Version. We’ve recently got a new pastor in church, and he preaches from the King James. We asked why. Simple: it’s the one he is most comfortable reading,because it’s the closest to his native language of Icelandic.

Our retired pastor reads from the Amplifed Version (I guess he likes the extra information). My Jewish Christian friend reads the Complete Jewish Bible. I prefer the New International Version (UK edition, because it uses “proper” spelling). I like the NIV because the vocabulary and meanings are contemporary—I don’t feel I have to translate them.

To see what I mean, read 1 Corinthians 13 in the King James and the NIV. I can see the link between love and charity. But charity in 2018 usually means a financial donation to a cause. The meaning of the word has changed.

But I do find there are passages which feel more lyrical in the King James (or New King James). Especially in the Psalms.

What about you? What Bible translation do you prefer? Why?

What read the Bible in a year plan do you recommend?

Bookish Question #35 | What Read the Bible in a year plan do you recommend?

So we’re coming up to the end of another year, which means it’s time for me to consider what Bible reading programme I’ll follow next year (if any).

In 2014 and 2015, I read A Woman’s Guide to Reading the Bible in a Year by Diane Stortz. The first year, I did it with a virtual group on Facebook. We tried that in 2015 as well, but our weekly meetings fell apart for a range of reasons (my flaky internet connection being one of them).

In 2016 I used a different programme, one that went through the Bible in time order. This was good, but it did mean skipping around a lot. Like, some days would have six different readings (e.g. skipping between the Old Testament history books, or between Psalms and prophets.

So in 2017 I went back to A Woman’s Guide to Reading the Bible … and failed miserably. I’m not sure if it was the lack of accountability, or the familiarity. I’d like to get back into the habit of getting through the Bible in a year, but would like some kind of organised reading plan.

Do you use a read-the-Bible-in-a-year reading plan?

Which plan do you recommend?

Bookish Question #34 | How do you find new authors to read?

Bookish Question #34 | How do you find new authors to read?

Last week I asked if you read new (or new-to-you) authors.

This week I’m looking at the obvious follow-up question: how do you find out about new authors?

I’ve been reviewing books for a little over six years now, and it’s amazing to think how my answer to this question has changed in the last five to ten years. Once upon a time, I discovered new authors and new books in only one way: by visiting my local Christian bookshop (or bookshops, as they often carried different stock).

Then I discovered mail order—Koorong at first, then Amazon and Book Depository (back in the old days, before they were bought by Amazon). Then I moved to a smaller city where the public library system carried a lot of Christian fiction (helpfully identified by the cross sticker on the spine).

Later, I discovered Amazon reviews, Amazon Top 100 genre lists, and Amazon discussion forums (which have recently been deleted). Through Amazon, I discovered Goodreads and book blogs. And NetGalley, Edelweiss, and book blogger programmes. So I became book blogger …

I now find the books I read and review from three main sources, and a bundle of others:

NetGalley

I get most of the ebooks I review from NetGalley (click here to read my blog post Introducing NetGalley). I can search for books classified as Christian, or I can search through the publishers I’ve marked as favourites.

FirstLineFriday

First Line Fridays hosted by Hoarding Books

There are thousands of book bloggers, and probably hundreds of blogging groups with various themes. Some groups have what they call a “meme”, where they all post a linked post at the same time each week. I particiate in FirstLineFriday, which is a group of (mostly) Christian fiction bloggers.

I add at least one book to my to-read pile every Saturday after reading the #FirstLineFriday posts! This may or may not be a good thing ..

Authors

As a book reviewer, I’m also approached directly by authors looking for reviews for the books they’ve published. Many of these requests are clearly outside my preferred genre (like being offered general market memoir when I say I review Christian fiction). Others are within my genre, but I can only accept the offers which excite me—reviewers aren’t paid, and I can’t read every book I’m offered.

Other Sources

I also find some books through other sources, such as Amazon, BookBub (and other mailing lists), Facebook (e.g. the Avid Readers of Christian Fiction group), Goodreads (what my friends are reading and reviewing), and through author email lists (perhaps that’s a topic for another week).

What about you? How do you find new authors to read?

Do you read books by new authors?

Bookish Question #33 | Do you read books by new-to-you authors?

We all have favourite authors—authors where we’ve read every novel they’ve written.

Where we stalk their websites and social media for cover reveals and announcements about their next release. Where we click the Amazon Kindle pre-order button as soon as it appears, or where we have a standing order with our friendly local Christian bookstore? (That is normal, right?)

[If you want to know my favourite authors, sign up for my email list and I’ll send you a list. Actually, several lists. One for each of my favourite genres. But they are all in one document. Although I need to update it.]

Then there are the good authors, the ones we’ll read if we find a book in the library, if it’s on sale on Kindle, and if we don’t already have eleventy-billion books in our to-read pile (I know some of you can count the number of books on your to-read pile on the fingers of one hand. Just don’t judge the rest of us. Please).

But what about new authors? Do you read books by new authors?

Of course, “new authors” can have different meanings. It could be debut author, where you’re reading their first ever book (like The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck by Bethany Turner). It could be debut fiction author—someone with one or more non-fiction books who has now made the jump to fiction (like Grace in Strange Disguise by Christine Dillon).

Or it could be a new-to-you author—one who has published other novels, but none that you’ve read. I had that recently. I read Deadly Proof by Rachel Dylan, thinking it was her first novel. It wasn’t, but her other novels were Love Inspired Suspense.

Being a book reviewer means I read a lot of debut authors, and new-to-me authors. In fact, I often seek out books from debut or newer authors, because I want to see what’s trending in Christian fiction. Who are the new authors? What genres are they writing? What is changing in terms of writing styles.

I want to know this as a reader, because I don’t want to miss out on good books from new authors. I want to know as a reviewer, so I can recommend books to people who will enjoy them. And I want to know as a freelance editor, because I want to know I’m giving my clients up-to-date advice.

And I don’t want to miss out on good books.

What about you? Do you read books by new-to-you authors?

Do you prefer books by male or female authors?

Bookish Question #32: Do you prefer books by male or female authors?

If you’ve followed my reviews for any length of time, you may have noticed (consciously or subconsciously) that I mostly review books by female authors.

This isn’t altogether surprising.

I mostly read Christian fiction, and Christian fiction authors tend to be women—perhaps because the genre is dominated by romance authors, and romance authors tend to be female. Look at photographs from a romance writer’s conference, or a Christian writer’s conference. Both are dominated by women.

Yet many of the original trendsetters and stalwarts of the Christian fiction genre were men: James Scott Bell, Jack Cavanaugh, Frank Peretti, Gilbert Morris, and Michael Phillips.

There are some male authors I consistently read and enjoy. These include James L Rubart (speculative fiction), Charles Martin (women’s fiction), and Richard Mabry (medical thrillers). I’ve read and enjoyed science fiction from Randy Ingermanson and Adam David Collings.

But I’ve recently picked up books by some new-to-me male authors, and been less than impressed. They were in a genre I usually enjoy, but I couldn’t get into these books. I didn’t make an emotional connection with any of the characters, and I ended up leaving them unread. Twice. Yes, I tried each book twice, but never made it more than a third of the way in before I gave up and went to do something more fun, like clean the bathroom.

That’s not to say I enjoy all books by female authors.

I’ve had a handful of did-not-finish titles from new-to-me female authors in the last few months as well. I’ve also read a few books I won’t be reviewing, simply because I didn’t connect emotionally with the characters. But I have noticed this is less likely to happen in a book by a female author—it’s as though women are more likely to focus on character and emotion.

So I guess I prefer books by female authors.

What about you? Do you prefer books by male authors? Do you prefer female authors?

Or does it not matter, as long as there is great writing and a great story?

Who is your favourite non-romance Christian author?

Bookish Question #31: Who is your favourite non-romance Christian author?

Last week I asked who is your favourite Christian romance author … and gave a vague reply. I’m going to do the same this week.

Only this week, I’m asking who is your favourite non-romance Christian author.

In the last few months I’ve enjoyed books in a range of genres:

  • Legal thrillers, from authors such as Cara Putman and Rachel Dylan.
  • Medical thrillers from authors such as Lisa Harris and Lynne Gentry, and Richard Mabry.
  • Dystopian fiction from Vanetta Chapman and Sara Ella.
  • Science fiction from Adam David Collings.
  • Speculative fiction from James L Rubart.
  • Historical fiction from Lynn Austin.
  • Dual timeline fiction from Heidi Chiavaroli and Michele Phoenix.
  • Women’s fiction from authors such as Catherine West, Elizabeth Musser, Beth Troy, and Christine Dillon.

These are some of my favourite non-romance authors.

Because choosing a favourite depends on what genre I’m in the mood to read. And it’s like choosing a favourite child, or favourite flavour of Krispy Kreme donut. It can’t be done.

Who is your favourite non-romance Christian author?

Bookish Question #30: Who is your favourite Christian romance author?

Bookish Question #30: Who is your favourite Christian romance author?

Yes, I know.

Asking you to name your favourite Christian romance author is like asking you to choose a favourite child or grandchild. It’s impossible.

If you’re anything like me, it depends on your mood at the time someone asks the question.

Sometimes I need to read something funny.

If so, I’m going to suggest authors like Kara Isaac, Beth Troy, Bethany Turner, Jen Turano, or Karen Witemeyer.

Other times, I’ll be in the mood for something with a little more depth. In that case, I might turn to Courtney Walsh, Carolyn Miller, or Denise Hunter.

Sometimes I’ll want a specific genre or trope: Regency romance (Kristi Ann Hunter), mail order bride (Nerys Leigh), speculative utopian (Keely Brooke Keith), or Victorian village (Julie Klassen).

And some days, if you ask me who my favourite Christian romance author is, it will be the author of whichever book I’ve just finished or reviewed (because writing the review reminds me of the book all over again). Ask me again in a week, and it will be someone else.

What about you? Who is your favourite Christian romance author?

What's your favourite Christian Fiction genre?

Bookish Question #29 | What’s your favourite Christian Fiction genre?

Christian fiction comes in a range of genres

I suspect there are Christian versions of most of the genres found in general market fiction (with the exception of erotica and gay romance, for obvious reasons).

Romance readers are especially well catered for in Christian fiction. The Christian fiction industry is dominated by romance and the endless variations thereof: Amish romance, contemporary romance, historical romance (especially western romance and mail order bride romance ), and romantic suspense. Romance also creeps in to other genres such as women’s fiction, mystery, thrillers, and speculative fiction.

Romance is my favourite genre.

Not Amish romance—I don’t see anything romantic in having a house full of children producing endless dirty laundry, and no hot water. Yes, I suffer from #FirstWorldProblems and #SuburbanMomProblems (I think I see a future blog post there). But most other genres of romance, contemporary or historical, first person or third person. Especially if they have a touch of humour.

I like romance because I like the happy-ever-after ending romance guarantees. It reminds me of the gospel: no matter what bad things happen, we know we’ll get our happy-ever-after in Jesus.

We have hope.

I also see Christian romance novels as an allegory of our relationship with Christ. We are His bride, so surely this is the ultimate romance?

Yes, my favourite genre is romance, but I read most genres of Christian fiction—it shares that underlying message of hope. And it’s why I tend not to like stories without a happy ending. They often have no hope, and that doesn’t reflect the Truth of the Bible.

What’s your favourite Christian fiction genre? Why?

What Christian novel do you recommend

Bookish Question #28 | What Christian novel do you recommend?

What Christian novel or author would you recommend to a non-Christian reader?

I’m finding an increasing number of the novels I’m reviewing from Christian fiction publishers are “Christian lite”. They have little or no mention of God or Jesus, none of the main characters are overtly Christian, and there is no faith journey. I know this bugs a lot of faithful Christian fiction readers.

Many of us read Christian fiction not just because we want a “clean” read, but because we want to vicariously experience the faith journey of a fictional character. So when a “Christian” novel isn’t, we can feel a little cheated. But I’ve been involved in many online discussions over the years that have shown me we need these novels.

Christian fiction can’t just preach to the choir.

Sometimes we have to crawl out of our comfortable pews and do our bit in fulfilling the Great Commission. We have to write books that will lead people closer to God.

This can come through the most unlikely of titles. One of my online friends has an Asian family in his church who became Christians after the father read The Da Vinci Code. The man had never heard of Jesus, and Dan Brown’s much maligned book prompted him to look into who Jesus was.

I’m not a betting woman, but I’m sure that leading people to Christ wasn’t on Dan Brown’s list of things to achieve with his story.

Closer to home, I recently read a Goodreads review of The Secret to Hummingbird Cake by Celeste Fletcher McHale. I haven’t read the book, and the reviewer was disappointed that it wasn’t overtly Christian. Another lady joined the discussion, saying she’d become a Christian as a result of reading the book.

Hallelujah!

The commenter went on to say she’d been loaned the book by a Christian neighbour, and she never would have agreed to read it if it had been overtly Christian. In fact, she’d written to the author to share her conversion story, and the author was suitably thrilled and humbled.

Isn’t that what it’s about? Drawing people closer to Jesus—Christian and non-Christian?

Last week, I was listening to the Smart Podcast, Trashy Books, and the reviewers were talking about which romance books they recommend to non-romance readers. One—who isn’t a Christian, as far as I know—said she often recommends books by Deeanne Gist to readers she doesn’t know well, because she knows there won’t be any rauchy content in them that might offend some people.

Yet Deeanne Gist is a Christian author—one who has switched from traditional Christian fiction for a CBA publisher to “Christian lite” romances for a general market publisher. Gist’s newer books are still written from a Christian world view, but don’t have an overt faith element. Yet here they are, being recommended on one of the biggest general market romance review sites.

That’s not preaching to the choir.

So here’s the tough question. If you were in the position to loan your non-Christian neighbour a Christian novel, what novel or author would you suggest they read?