Month: May 2017

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?

Book Recommendations May 2017

Book Recommendations: May 2017

Thes best books I read and reviewed in May 2017. This was a good month!

The Long Highway Home by Elizabeth Musser

The Long Highway Home is a unique combination of fact and fiction. Elizabeth Musser draws on her own missionary experiences working with refugees to deliver a story that hits home in terms of the trials refugees find in pursuing safety.

Click here to read my review.

Click here to find out more about Elizabeth Musser.

Read more

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?

Liebster Award Logo

The Liebster Award: Bloggers Encouraging Bloggers

I’ve been nominated for the Liebster Award by David Rawlings, an Australian Christian fiction author. David was a finalist in the 2016 Genesis Award for his contemporary novel, The God of Reality TV, and he’s a semi-finalist this year in the Short Novel category.

The Liebster Award

This is how the Liebster Award works: it is an award given by bloggers to fellow bloggers and aimed to encourage writers. The rules for the Liebster Award are as follows:

  • Thank the person who has nominated you for the award and link to their blog
  • Write some random facts about yourself
  • Answer the 11 questions the person has asked you
  • Nominate up to 11 people for the award (comment on their blog to let them know)
  • Ask the people you have nominated 11 questions

I’m not exactly a new blogger, but this is a new(ish) website, and I haven’t participated before. So that counts, right?

First of All …

Thanks to David! (Click here to head over to his blog and subscribe.)

Some random facts about me:

  • I was born in Wales, and my name is Welsh. It means “valued by the Lord”, which I think is pretty cool!
  • I live in New Zealand, which makes me a Kiwi. As an aside, a Kiwi is a flightless bird, not a fruit. Though they’re both brown and furry.
  • I lived on London for ten years, so my accent is a mix of Kiwi and London.
  • “Iola” isn’t pronounced “eye-ola”, despite the spelling. The “I” sound is more like the “I” in Ian, which means it’s “ee-ola”. But most Kiwis say it “yo-la”.
  • Which is why I used to get called Yoda in high school. (Thanks to my sister for reminding me of this.)
  • I once spent a night in an igloo on Mt Ruapehu. Ruapehu is Maori for “two peaks”, and it’s an active volcano which starred in the Lord of the Rings movies as Mt Doom.
  • I’ve visited more than twenty countries, and more than twenty US states. My husband loves airplanes, so if there’s an air museum near where you live, I’ve probably been there.

My 11 Questions to Answer

1. Who were your favourite authors as a child? Why?

Enid Blyton, Frances Hodgson Burnett, Arthur Ransome, and Anne Digby. I read a lot of Scholastic books which were from a range of American authors, but my favourites were the British writers (no doubt influenced by my British family). And I loved boarding school stories.

2. Is there a country you have always wanted to visit, and if so, where?

I’ve visited large portions of Europe and North America, and the populated parts of Australia. I’d like to visit some Asian countries, like China or Japan—because I love their food!

3. What is your favourite kind of weather?

Warm but not hot. My ideal day is clear and sunny, with a temperature in the mid 20’s Celsius—equivalent to the high 70’s in Fahrenheit.

4. Why do you blog?

I started blogging back in 2011 on Iola’s Christian Reads, after I discovered I could get free ebooks from my favourite publishers if I had a book blog and promised to post a book review. That lead into a new role as a freelance editor (, and that lead into writing my own fiction … and this website.

Now I blog because I enjoy it, and because the discipline of blogging keeps me writing.

The downside is that same enjoyment and discipline. It’s much easier to blog than it is to actually work on what I should be working on … my books.

5. What started you writing?

I’ve always written, but most of my writing has been school projects, university assignments, work reports—things other people wanted me to write. Being introduced to the world of book blogging and reviews opened my eyes to the fact I could write for my own enjoyment.

But the thing that prompted me to begin writing fiction was an invitation from Dorothy Adamek to attend a Margie Lawson immersion course. Margie is a brilliant writing teacher, and I knew attending the course would give me more tools to help the authors I work with. But the entry prerequisite was a fiction manuscript to edit … so I started writing fiction. And I love the new challenge.

6. What are the challenges of being an author/writer?

With non-fiction, it’s knowing about the topic, and not being awed by the fact there are so many people who know more than me.

With fiction, my challenge is getting past editor-me and actually getting the writing done. I’m a planner and plotter by nature, but I’m currently buried in a plot hole. One part of my brain says “just write!”, while the other part knows that will be a waste of time if I don’t know what the characters should be doing, or why.

7. How do you keep yourself motivated?

I’m still working on this one …

The desire is there, but I need to be more disciplined about getting through the planning stages, and getting onto the writing.

8. If you could choose a place to write where would it be?

There are a couple of local cafes I enjoy visiting to write. I find the different location and atmosphere helps me concentrate. It’s ironic, as I’m an introvert who enjoys the solitude of working from home. Yet I can get a lot more done if I go out—even though I’m then surrounded by conversation.

9. What difference does it make being a Christian and an author?

That’s an unintentionally difficult question, because I don’t know what it would be like to be a not-Christian author!

I do believe that as a Christian author I’m able to bring God’s truth into my writing, in smaller or larger ways. I often read novels where I want to yell at the characters because the answer to their problems is Jesus, and they don’t see it.

10. What’s your work in progress?

I have three. This is why I have difficulty in prioritising!

I’m working on a non-fiction book about the various paths to publication.

I’ve also written an online training course teaching writers how to start building their author platform (website and social media). While I’m writing both for the Christian market, the information applies to any aspiring author.

And I’m working on a series of short novels. My planning process has shown that my first manuscript, Play On, Jordan, is actually the fifth book in a series. I’m currently working on a prequel novella and trying to edit the first book.

You can click here to sign up to my newsletter to keep track of my progress towards publication.

11. Who is your ideal audience?

My target reader is a Christian woman who is looking for fiction that reflects her Christian beliefs, and perhaps challenges them a little. She also would love to travel to New Zealand—if she can’t do that in real life, then she’ll substitute that for virtual travel via fiction!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this insight into my life and writing. My nominees to complete this challenge next are:

These ladies (along with Jebraun Clifford) set their blogs up recently through a challenge I ran on my editing website, Christian Editing Services. I’ll be running the challenge again soon—if you’d like to participate, click here to sign up for more information.

Ladies, I’d like you to answer the same 11 questions David asked me.

Readers, do you have any questions for me?

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?

Book Recommendations for March/April 2017

Book Recommendations: March/April 2017

The best books I read and reviewed in March and April 2017. Definitely recommended!

The Memory of You by Catherine West

Catherine West is known for her thought-provoking women’s fiction. The Memory of You is certainly thought-provoking, but it had a lot more of a romance thread than I’d expected. Hey, that’s a good thing!

Click here to read my review, and click here to find out more about Catherine West.

A Fragile Hope by Cynthia Ruchti

I’m not usually a fan of the unlikable “hero”, but Joseph grew on me … once he grew a brain. It’s amazing how fast otherwise intelligent me can jump to wrong conclusions. Cynthia Ruchti is to be congratulated for a compelling novel examining love and hope.

Click here to read my review, and click here to find out more about Cynthia Ruchti.

If I’m Found by Terri Blackstock

This thriller is the sequel to If I Run, and the novels should definitely be read in order. Each story is complete in itself, but there is an overarching plot across the series.

But if you’re one of those people who can’t stand the wait for the next novel, you might want to put off reading this until the next in the series is published.

Click here to read my review, and click here to find out more about Terri Blackstock.

Catch of a Lifetime by Candee Fick

This is an older book, but new to me (and the first time I’ve read anything by Candee Fick as well. It’s Christian New Adult, set in a college football environment, and I loved the way the author wove faith and football together. She also avoided stupid or vapid characters—something that seems all too common in other books I’ve read in this genre.

Click here to read my review, and click here to find out more about Candee Fick.

What Christian fiction have you read recently that you recommend?

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?

New Releases in Christian Fiction for May 2017

New Releases in Christian Fiction for May 2017!

More in-depth descriptions of these books can be found on the ACFW Fiction Finder website.

Contemporary Romance:

Amish Brides by Jennifer Beckstrand, Molly Jebber, Amy Lillard — Under bright blue skies, wedding bells ring–fulfilling sweet dreams, impossible wishes, and joyous new beginnings among these three new stories. (Contemporary Romance from Kensington Publishers)

Sprouts of Love by Valerie Comer — An overzealous community garden manager delivers more than the food bank manager can handle. Can love sprout amid the tsunami of vegetables? (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)

Summer Dreams by Delia Latham — God’s love…reflected in the waters of the Pacific, and in the eyes of a young couple who walk its moonstone shores. (Contemporary Romance from White Rose Publishing [Pelican])

Right Where We Belong by Deborah Raney, Melissa Tagg, Courtney Walsh — Three sweet stories of small-town romance by three tried-and-true authors. Whether in a quaint home bakery in Langhorne, Missouri, a cozy boho coffee shop in Maple Valley, Iowa, or a charming lakeside cottage in Sweethaven, Michigan, love grows best in small towns just like this! (Contemporary Romance, Independently Published)

A Spring of Weddings by Toni Shiloh and Melissa Wardwell — Two Spring wedding novellas, “A Proxy Wedding,” and “Hope Beyond Savannah.” (Contemporary Romance from Celebrate Lit Publishing)


True to You by Becky Wade — Former Navy SEAL John Lawson hires genealogist Nora Bradford to help him to uncover the identity of his birth mother. As they work side-by-side, this pair of opposites begins to suspect that they just might be a perfect match. (Contemporary Romance from Bethany House [Baker] Publishing)

(I’ve read this, and it’s great!)

Cozy Mystery:

What the Bishop Saw by Vannetta Chapman — A fire blazes out of control in the San Luis Valley of Colorado, leaving an elderly, Amish bachelor dead. Bishop Henry Lapp rushes to the scene, and he learns the fire was no accident. When the police point the finger at a suspect Henry knows is innocent, the bishop must decide whether or not to use his mysterious, God-given gift—one he’s tried desperately to ignore all these years—to try and set the record straight. (Contemporary Romance from Harvest House Publishers)

General Contemporary:
A Season to Dance by Patricia Beal — The heart wrenching love story of a small town professional ballerina who dreams of dancing at the Met in New York, of the two men who love her and of the forbidden kiss that changed everything. (General Contemporary from Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas)

(I’m looking forward to A Season to Dance)

Looking Glass Lies by Varina Denman — A poignant and relatable novel, Looking Glass Lies captures the war women wage against themselves, and the struggle to see beauty reflected in a mirror not distorted by society’s unrelenting expectations. (General Contemporary from Waterfall Press)

(My review of Looking Glass Lies posts today at Iola’s Christian Reads.)


Blind Ambition by Carol Ashby — What began as a bored man’s decision to try a different road turns into an emotional and spiritual quest that changes the direction of his entire life. (Historical from Cerrillo Press)

Wings of the Wind by Connilyn Cossette — A broken and bitter Canaanite woman dresses as a man to fight against the invading Hebrews, never expecting that she would live to be captured and married to one of her enemies, and certainly not to find love and healing among the very people who killed her family. (Biblical/Historical from Bethany House [Baker] Publishing)


Historical Romance:
The Secret Admirer Romance Collection
by Amanda Barratt, Lorraine Beatty, Molly Noble Bull, Anita Mae Draper, CJ Dunham, Jennifer Uhlarik, Becca Whitham, Kathleen Y’Barbo, Penny Zeller — Shy expressions of love lead to nine historical romances. Declaring one’s love can be hard–even risky–especially when faced with some of life’s greatest challenges. (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)

The Noble Servant by Melanie Dickerson — She lost everything to an evil conspiracy . . . but that loss may just give her all she ever wanted. (Historical Romance from HarperCollins Christian Publishing)

My Heart Belongs in Ruby City, Idaho: Rebecca’s Plight by Susanne Dietze — It’s a mail-order disorder when newlyweds realize they’ve married the wrong partners with similar names. An annulment seems in order–and fast. But when the legalities take longer than expected, Rebecca Rice wonders if Tad Fordham wasn’t the right husband for her all along. . . . (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)

A Love So True by Melissa Jagears — They begin with the best of intentions, but soon the complications pile up and Evelyn and David’s dreams look more unattainable every day. When the revelation of a long-held secret creates a seemingly insurmountable rift between them, can they trust God still has a good plan for them despite all that is stacked against them? (Historical Romance from Bethany House [Baker] Publishing)

(On my to-read-and-review list – I loved the first book in the series)

Road to Harmony by Sherry Kyle — When Jonas returns to Harmony, Elena’s heart is torn between her secret love, and the storeowner her parents hope she marries. (Historical Romance, Independently Published)

Hills of Nevermore by Janalyn Voigt — Can a young widow hide her secret shame from the Irish preacher bent on helping her survive? (Historical Romance from Mountain Brook Ink)

Romantic Suspense:

Fatal Mistake by Susan Sleeman — Each day could be her last…but not if he can help it. An FBI agent must protect the woman who can identify a terrorist bomber in bestselling author Susan Sleeman’s riveting romantic suspense novel. (Romantic Suspense from Faith Words [Hachette])

(I started reading this last night. Big mistake. I did not sleep well. Must finish it tonight …)

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?