Tag: bookish question

What's the one genre you can never read enough of?

Bookish Question #109 | What’s the one genre you can never read enough of?

Christian romance 🙂

On one hand, I love Christian romance and I’m always looking for my next great read, there are times when the stories can all start to feel a little samey, a little to formulaic.

Also, Christian romance is a broad genre—more than half of the Christian fiction published is romance in one from of another, from Biblical romance to Regency romance, from Amish romance to contemporary romantic suspense.

If I had to choose one subgenre, I’d have to say contemporary Christian romance.

Why? Because it’s always changing as the world around us changes. Twenty years ago, characters were just getting mobile phones and learning to text. Ten years ago, they got phones with cameras. Now everyone has a smartphone, complete with email and social media.

Online connection means a lot of the plots that used to work and that I used to enjoy (like the secret baby trope I mentioned last week) have fallen out of favour because they don’t work any more. Instead, we have dozens of billionaire romances (because apparently any guy with a six-pack can earn a cool billion by developing some cool new app. No matter that there are so many free apps that I’ve yet to pay for one).

What I like about a great contemporary Christian romance is that it reinforces the importance of real-life connection—with other people, and with God. Great contemporary Christian romance also features flawed Christian characters doing their best to live a godly life in an ungodly world.

And, of course, there’s the romance.

Christian romance is (or should be) focused on the meeting of minds and the development of a three-strand relationship, not on the physical attraction that categorises so many general market (and real-life) relationships. Finally, contemporary Christian romance models romantic relationships built on a firm foundation, and built to last.

And that’s a few reasons why I can never read enough Christian romance.

What about you? What’s the one genre (or subgenre) you can never read enough of?

Bookish Question: What's your view on grammatical errors in novels?

Bookish Question #103 | What’s your view on grammatical errors in novels?

I’m a freelance fiction editor, which means I spent hours each day hunting through my client’s manuscripts and correcting errors. That can make it hard to switch off and not notice errors when I read for pleasure.

But there are different kinds of errors.

I’m not bothered if an author uses US spelling or grammar vs. British English. I do get annoyed if they don’t seem to be consistent.

I can forgive the odd who/whom error—it’s something even editors look up.

It annoys me if an author doesn’t use the Oxford comma, but that’s not necessarily an error. It’s merely a difference of opinion.

I’m usually not bothered by errors in the books I review.

Usually. This is because I’m often reviewing ARCs. ARCs are advance review copies, which are sent out before the final proofreading is completed. If I find errors in these books, I assume it will be found and corrected before it goes to print. (I’m less forgiving if the author or publisher makes a point of saying they’ve sent me the final version.)

I’m also used to seeing a lot of formatting errors in the review copies.

That’s because my review copies are electronic. The publisher uploads a pdf file to NetGalley, and that’s automatically converted to a mobi file which NetGalley email to my Kindle. The automatic conversion process often introduces errors, like missing line or page breaks.

What I find more difficult are the errors which take me out of the story.

For example, I was recently reading a story where the spelling of one character’s name changed several times (e.g. Smith to Smyth and back to Smith). That confused me to the point I actually found myself flicking back through the book to find whether Smyth was a new character or not (he was not). That’s annoying, but it’s just a proofreading error. They happen.

Other times I’ll get distracted by the errors because the characters and story haven’t engaged me.

Those are the most annoying—when I start picking up on minor errors because that’s more interesting than reading what is happening to the characters. That’s often the sign of a story that’s been written and published too quickly, a story that hasn’t gone through enough critiquing and beta reading and editing.

These are the stories that end up on my did-not-finish pile. I’d persevere if the story was good (although I’d probably still mention the errors if I reviewed the book).

But I’ve come to realise life is too short to read bad books, so if the story and characters don’t engage me, then it’s a DNF.

What about you? What’s your view on grammatical errors in novels? Do you notice them? Do they bother you?

What plotline or trope would you be happy to never read again?

Bookish Question #96 | What plotline or trope would you be happy to never read again?

First, let’s define a trope.

A trope is a common plotline used in genre fiction. For example, romance has the mail-order bride trope. These are usually set in the American West in the late 1800s, and feature a woman travelling (often alone) across the country to marry a man she’s met only through letters. They meet and marry, then fall in love after overcoming whatever difficulties the author has lined up for them.

Some people love these stories—as evidenced by the number of mail order bride stories on Amazon. Others loathe them. I’m somewhere in the middle—I enjoy reading them, but I’m not the target reader for the box set of twenty.

There are dozens of other romance tropes: billionaire, rock star, sports star. Brother’s best friend, friends to lovers, enemies to lovers. Secret baby, second chance at love, finding love again.

And that’s the one I get tired of in Christian fiction: Finding love again.

It’s not so bad now, but there was a time a few years back when it seemed every other romance novel I read featured a young widow finding love again. That’s sweet … but it means a lot of dead husbands.

Christian men, your twenties are a dangerous time.

If Christian romance is to be believed, you’re going to die. You might be murdered. You might be the victim of a drunk driver (or a texting driver). You might die for your country. But you’re gonna die, and leave your widow (and possibly one or more children) in a precarious financial state. Because it seems married Christian men in their twenties don’t have life insurance.

But that’s okay, because all those guys who didn’t marry young apparently spent their twenties doing something productive so now they’re financially stable and emotionally available. They are ready and willing to marry your wife. They never have any emotional baggage. No divorces (if they do, it’s because their wife was unfaithful). No problems. And they’re always Christians. Perfect.

Now we’re moving into a variation on the trope.

Instead of dead husbands, the women have loser ex-husbands (or ex-boyfriends), and a child. Sometimes the ex-husband is the father of the child. Sometimes the child is the result of an out-of-character one-night-stand. (It has to be out of character, because this is Christian fiction.) But it always results in an unplanned pregnancy and an unknown father. Charming.

Now I think about it, perhaps I preferred all the virtuous Christian husbands who died through no fault of their own. At least that was presenting a positive picture of modern manhood, not one-night-standers and serial philanderers.

What plotline or trope do you wish you’d never see again, and why?

Which author would you like to have coffee with?

Bookish Question #94 | Which author would you like to have coffee with?

All of them? Is that a legitimate answer?

I have met a few authors already. I went to Wellington to visit my parents not long after Close to You released, and Kara Isaac was kind enough to meet a groupie reviewer for coffee so I could get my book autographed.

Candace Calvert called into my home port on her New Zealand cruise two years ago. Ellie Whyte (from Christian fiction site Soul Inspirationz) and Angela Bycroft drove up, and we all had coffee and a chat with Candace after she came back from her tour to Hobbiton.

I’ve also been able to take Australian writers Josephine-Anne Griffiths and Raylene Purtill for coffee (but didn’t get photo evidence).

Who else would I like to have coffee with? The obvious answer is Francine Rivers, but I’d probably be too nervous to talk.

Which author would you like to have coffee with? Or is picking one just too hard? #BookishQuestion #BookChat Click To Tweet

What about you? Which author (or authors) would you like to have coffee with?

If you ever do a cruise around New Zealand and have a couple of hours to spare after your Hobbiton tour, let me know. I’d love to meet you for coffee.

Bookish Question #93 | Where is your favourite spot to read in the summer?

Where is your favourite spot to read in the summer? And is that different to winter?

I have two favourite spots for reading in summer: the front deck and the back garden, depending on where the sun is. In the morning, the sun hits our front deck. I can sit in a hanging chair, reading my book and admiring the view. In the afternoon I prefer the back garden, as it catches the afternoon sun.

I prefer to be inside in winter.

It doesn’t get as cold in my corner of New Zealand as it does in some countries, but it’s still cold enough that I wouldn’t choose to sit outside when I have a favourite chair by the fire for reading. Although sometimes I do read outside … in the spa pool (hot tub) on our back deck.

What about you? Where is your favourite spot to read in the summer? And the winter?

Do you have a book budget? Do you stick to it?

Bookish Question #92 | Do you have a book budget? Do you stick to it?

No, I don’t have a book budget, although perhaps I should.

However, I don’t spend a lot on books because most of the books I buy are Kindle versions, especially when it comes to fiction (which is most of what I buy). The only novels I regularly buy in paperback are those I’ve edited (when the authors don’t gift them to me). I like owning the paperback when it’s something I’ve worked on!

I do buy non-fiction books in paperback or hardcover. They are reference books, and I find it’s easier to read and highlight paperbacks, or to search through physical copies of style manuals.

My enormous to-read pile means I try not to buy books (try!) because I already have so many I’ve bought and haven’t read. And it seems wrong to buy more books when I haven’t read the ones I already have.

What about you? Do you have a book budget? Do you stick to it?

Should Christians read fiction? Why ... or why not?

Bookish Question #91 | Should Christians read fiction? Why … or why not?

Yes, some people honestly believe Christians shouldn’t read fiction. After all, they say, fiction is made up and Christians should be focused on truth. Christ’s Truth.

I agree Christians should focus on truth.

But Christ told stories—the parables. Preachers often tell stories—they call them sermon illustrations. Non-fiction writers often tell stories to make a point.

Writing instructor Lisa Cron says this is because our brains are wired for story. As Christians, we believe God wired our brains, not evolution. So if our brains are wired for story, why would listening to or reading stories be wrong?

So, yes, I believe it’s all right for Christians to read fiction.

But not all fiction. And perhaps not all Christians.

The Bible tells us “whatever is right, whatever is pure” (Phil 4:8). I believe this should apply to our reading. What we read can influence what we think and what we believe, so we need to be sure we’re not subconsciously adopting unChristian values and beliefs based on what we read. We may also need to be wary of the sexual content of the fiction we read (Song of Songs), or excessive violence.

Also, not all things are good for all people.

Paul tells Timothy it’s all right to take a little wine occasionally on account of his stomach, but that’s not a license for Christians to get drunk. Indeed, those who are susceptible to alcoholism or addiction would be better to avoid wine or other alcohol, because they can’t stop at “a little”.

Equally, people with some health issues shouldn’t drink alcohol, either because alcohol makes the problem worse, or because the prescribed medication shouldn’t be mixed with alcohol. But that doesn’t make “don’t drink alcohol” into a blanket rule for everyone.

In the same way, there may be some Christians who shouldn’t read fiction—whether that’s general market fiction, Christian fiction, erotica, romance, violent thrillers. But that doesn’t make it a blanket rule for all Christians. The key is to listen to God and be obedient to His calling. If he calls us to not drink alcohol for a year or for life, we should give up alcohol. The same goes for coffee, or chocolate. Or books.

I suspect some of the Christians who say Christians shouldn’t read fiction are those who’ve had a personal directive from God, but who have mistakenly thought it applies to all Christians, not just to them. They shouldn’t read Christian fiction, but that doesn’t apply to everyone.

What do you think? Should Christians read fiction? Why, or why not?

Bookish Question: What questions should I ask in 2019?

Bookish Question #89 | What questions should I ask in 2019?

It’s the end of the year—well, almost.

Next Tuesday is Christmas Day, so this is my last Bookish Tuesday post for the year.

I’ve been writing a weekly Bookish Question post since April 2017. I’ve asked (and answered) 87 questions, and I’ve received hundreds of answers. Some people answer on the blog, but most answer on social media—Facebook, Twitter, and (especially) Instagram.

Answers have varied from short and pithy (well Twitter only allowed 140 characters when I started), to long and far more detailed (usually here on the blog). It seems people like the idea. Australasian Christian Writers started a weekly Book Chat post at the beginning of 2018, and I’m one of the two hosts for that post, asking and answering the same question as here on my blog.

Now it’s time to consider what questions we should ask in 2019.

Here are some of the questions I’ve asked over the last two years:

Bookish Questions

So what else would you like to know, from me and from your fellow readers?

Do you want to answer the questions?

If you want to join in the fun by blogging your answer to the question each week, you can!

Email me via my Contact page here on the website, and I’ll forward you the list of questions for 2019 early in the New Year. You can then add your link to the ACW post each week, and share on social media. It’s a great way to get people talking!

Bookish Question #88 | What are your Top Ten Reads for 2018?

What are your Top Ten Reads for 2018?
Every year I volunteer to write a Top Ten post … and every year I regret it. How can I possibly condense a year of reading into ten books? Last year I decided to cheat a little, and posted only my top ten contemporary Christian romance reads.
I’m cheating again this year. I’ve already posted my five favourite new-to-me authors, and my top five romance read. So today’s post (which is cross-posted at Australasian Christian Writers) is my top ten Christian reads, excluding romance.

Strategem by Robin Carroll

An excellent thriller with a unique hook: a woman dies playing an escape room-type game designed by her husband, which makes him the prime suspect. He didn’t do it, so who did?Click here to read my review.

Shadows of Hope by Georgiana Daniels

An infertile woman working in a pregnancy support clinic is counselling the woman pregnant to her unfaithful husband … only none of them know it. A gripping novel which explores those problem areas where there are no right answers.

Click here to read my review.

Grace in the Shadows by Christine Dillon

Grace in the Shadows is a poignant and thought-provoking novel from Australian author and missionary Christine Dillon, one that is designed to challenge our thinking at the same time as giving us a good story with great characters.

Click here to read a review by Fiction Aficionado.

Life After by Katie Ganshert

What would you do if you were the sole survivor of a train accident that killed twenty-two people … but you can’t remember it? That’s the premise of this gripping and emotional novel.

Click here to read my review.

The Heart Between Us by Lindsay Harrell

The recipient of a heart transplant meets the donor family, and is challenged to get out and live the life she has been gifted … by ticking off the donor’s bucket list, the 24 things she didn’t get to do before she died.

Click here to read my review.

Hidden Among the Stars by Melanie Dobson

A powerful dual-timeline stories connecting a rare book, a second-hand bookstore, and pre-World War II Austria as Hitler comes to power and begins his persecution of the Jews. Plenty of twists and tragedy.

Click here to read my review.


Send Down the Rain by Charles Martin

Charles Martin novels always pack an emotional punch, and send down the rain is no exception. Yes, there’s a slow build, but the payoff is more than worth it in this exploration of love, loyalty, and family, a story of sacrifice and second chances.

Click here to read my review.

No Less Days by Amanda G Stevens

David Galloway can’t die. He’s tried, but he can’t. He’s always thought he was alone, but he’s watching TV one day and realises that he isn’t alone … Yes, No Less Days isn’t your typical Christian fiction. It’s more like Forever meets Highlander, part science fiction and part urban fantasy.

Click here to read my review.

Where Hope Begins by Catherine West

Savannah’s husband of twenty years has left her for another woman, the children are in boarding school and college and don’t need her, so she does what any sensible woman would do: she runs away. It’s a tough yet touching story about what women do when life disappears.

Click here to read my review.

Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate

I seem not to have reviewed this (probably because I bought it, and I’d already filled my reviewing schedule with review copies).

It’s a dual timeline story, with the past timeline telling the story of a family that is broken when the five children are stolen, shipped off to an orphanage, and adopted out. It’s a compelling story, made all the more compelling and horrifying by the knowledge it’s based on the real-life scandal of Georgia Tann and the Tennessee Children’s Home Society.


As I was compiling this post, I realised what all these novels have in common: a great hook.

Yes, they all also have great characters, a strong plot, and excellent writing, but so did a lot of the novels that didn’t make the list. These are the novels that have lived in my memory long past reading them and writing the review … and that’s because of the hook.

Characters placed in unusual and often difficult situations, and being forced to work through issues and problems most of us will never face. Because that’s the attraction of fiction: the way story can teach us how to deal with things in the real world.

So what’s the hook for your work in progress? What challenges do you give your characters?

What about you? What are some of the best novels you’ve read this year? Do your choices have a theme, like mine did?

Bookish Question: Do you have a Top 5 list of favourite reads in 2018?

Bookish Question #86 | Do you have a Top 5 list of favourite reads in 2018?

Top five? Are you kidding? Maybe I could come up with a top five list if I didn’t read so many books each year. But probably not (maybe I could do it if I only read six books …)

Anyway, I’ve decided to cheat a little. I posted five new favourite authors for 2018 a couple of weeks ago. I’m posting my Top Ten Reads for 2018 over at Australasian Christian Writers in a couple of weeks. So this post is my completely biased top five romance reads.

Cheating? Probably. #SorryNotSorry.

So here are my Top 5 romance reads for 2018:

The Saturday Night Supper Club by Carla Laureano

Despite the fact I’m a little over writers as main characters (it’s taking ‘write what you know’ a little too far), I still loved The Saturday Night Supper Club. It was probably all the yummy food … and the fact the ending was unexpected.

Click here to read my review.

A Song Unheard by Roseanna M White

Yes, there is a good number of books set in England. There is a good number of books set during World War I or World War II. But this is the first one set in Wales, in the (small) university city of Aberystwyth, where I was born.

Click here to read my review.

More than Meets the Eye by Karen Witemeyer

A heroine with two different colour eyes, and a pet pig. And a hero who tries to rescue her from the pig. It could be stupid to the point of ridiculous, but it’s actually a funny and touching historical romance featuring a wonderful makeshift family.

Click here to read my review.

Made for You by Kara Isaac

Yes, this is a completely biased recommendation, given I edited Made for You and Then There Was You. But I loved it, even though I’m not a reality TV fan (and I especially don’t watch shows like The Bachelor). If you’ve read and enjoyed any of Kara’s earlier books, you won’t want to miss this one.

Click here to read Fiction Aficionado’s review because it says what I would have said.

A Season to Dance by Patricia Beal

I’ve always been fascinated by ballerina stories (isn’t everyone?) A Season to Dance has plenty of ballet, but that’s actually secondary to a beautiful story of love and redemption.

I somehow haven’t reviewed A Season to Dance, so click here to read a review from Narelle Atkins, who recommended it to me.

Do you have a top 5 list of favourite reads for 2018? Which books are on your list?