How Reading a Horrible Book Encouraged Me To Write

Indie authors will often do something called a review exchange. It means you both exchange your manuscripts and review them for each other. A lot of times this turns into a great experience that ends with a new writer friend. Other times though, it can be disastrous. The latest exchange I joined has been more of the latter, but that’s ok. Why though? I’ve gotten a two star review on a book that otherwise has great reviews. Also, I’ve had to read through a horrible book. I don’t mean that the content was poor, but that the writing was less than mediocre. I kept making myself read further, and everything in me that loves reading and writing revolted. No, stop reading this. You’re wasting part of your favorite reading month of the year on this book. Read something—anything else—because life is too short.

Photo by Markus Clemens on Unsplash

The Worst Part

You know what offended me the most? Is that the book could have been good. It was about an interesting topic. The story had some problems, but they also could have been fixed with just a bit more effort. The whole thing was what my reading and writing friends call ‘lazy writing’… it’s the sort of thing that happens when the writer doesn’t put any effort into their writing. Using the same word three times in one sentence because you couldn’t be bothered to use a thesaurus? Lazy. Jumping from present to past tense as if there isn’t a difference because using the correct tense sucks brain power? Lazy. Using a cliche every other paragraph? Lazy! Writing is an art. It takes a lot of effort and constant education to increase one’s skill. It isn’t easy. If you want to do something easy, don’t write. As my favorite writing quote says

“Easy reading is terribly hard writing.” -Richard Brinsley Sheridan

No thanks, I’m ok being rubbish at my job.

But don’t be discouraged. I am also a stubborn believer that anyone that wants to can learn to be a writer. Because of that, I emailed the author and asked if she would like me walk her through why I would give her book one star if I did review it. Her response: “I would appreciate if you didn’t review it.” No, “Sure, I would love to hear your constructive criticism!” It makes me sad.

A few years ago I would have made a list of examples of why her writing was so difficult to get through (including the use of cliches, many grammatical errors, and lack of creativity when choosing words)… but now I ask first because usually I received a reply like, “Thanks for your email, but my readers don’t seem to mind the things you pointed out, so I’m just going to keep writing like I write now.” Why would you be ok being bad at something you supposedly love? I don’t get it. Sure, it takes time to learn how to be a better writer, but isn’t the time investment worth it? Because money. These authors don’t care if their books are good or not because their books still sell, and contribute to the idea that self-published books can’t be held to the same standards of other books… forget literature.

Photo by Jonas Svidras on Unsplash

Over the summer a writerly friend read two of my books. The first one I ever wrote, and the most recent (book number five). She said, “You can definitely see a difference in the quality of writing between the two.” THAT! That is what I want. Thank you, friend. That was the best compliment to me you could have paid.

After reading that horrible book I’m encouraged. Now I know what I don’t want to do, and I realize more than ever how much I care about the written word. I want to get better and write amazing books. Maybe I won’t be able to convince anyone they should read my books anytime soon. But either I’m going to do it right, or I won’t do it at all. Let me close with this quote:

“What is written without effort is in general read without pleasure.” -Samuel Johnson

Happy reading,

Kristin

Book Review: Into a Silent World by Carmina Edwards

My Thoughts

I give this book 5/5 stars.

Into a Silent World‘ is quite the wild ride as far as stories go. I couldn’t put it down! The first half of the book had a slow pace as the author spent a lot of time helping the reader understand what the intriguing world of an aspiring nun was like for Amy, our fearless protagonist. But at exactly half way in, crazy and interesting things start to happen. If I gave you a preview of all the schemes Amy gets into, you probably wouldn’t believe me, so I suggest you read it for yourself. Amy is a lovable, timeless character you will never forget!

An additional note for readers of my blog– I found this book really helpful as research for better understanding what religious instruction in an institution like the one where Amy lived might be like. This comes into play in my NaNoWriMo book as the protagonist attends a school in religious instruction before he can be sworn in as a time traveler.

I was provided a copy of this book by Celebrate Lit in case I wanted to write a review. All opinions are my own.

Purchase your copy here.

About the Book

Title: Into a Silent World

Author: Carmina Edwards

Genre: Biography, Memoir

Release Date: August 15, 2016

Following Amy’s adventures in A Door Cracked Open, she heads into a world which will test her faith and perseverance to the limit. Instead of settling into a simple, safe and unchanging life like she imagined, Amy is strongly drawn to a vocation with even higher requirements, prompting her to plan some seemingly impossible missions in order to reach her goal.

About the Author

I am a mother of two wonderful grown up children and currently living in the UK, after living in Sweden for three years where I wrote my first book, “A Door Cracked Open.” I was blessed to be able to spend six months in USA before returning to the UK, my home country, to work with my editor in California on the edits of this book and visit friends.

I am an avid reader and linguist, having also spent some years living in France and have been fortunate enough to have taught Swedish and French over twenty-five years and translate for businesses and manuscripts in both languages. Being unemployed the past few years, has led to me becoming homeless. However, I never give up hope. As I try to portray in my books, God has always had His hand on me. Once again, He has stepped in right at the last minute. I now have a new job in Sweden and will be moving back there. Because I feel passionately about helping the homeless, a large percentage of my royalties will go directly to them.

Guest Post from Carmina Edwards

“Into a Silent World” follows on from Amy’s story in “A Door Cracked Open.”

With a new beginning ahead of her, a long standing dream about to be realized, she was unprepared for the events which were about to unfold over the next two years.

Why would God send her to this place of “absolute conviction” and allow her to remain there for that long, if He never meant for her to be there? Amy struggles to understand and seeks His will, but determined that it was His plan, she persevered in order for her dream to be fulfilled.

Blog Stops

Just Jo’Anne, November 7

Mary Hake, November 8

Kristin’s Book Reviews, November 9

Janices book review, November 10

Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, November 11

History, Mystery & Faith, November 12

Reading Is My SuperPower, November 13 (Interview)

The Power of Words, November 14 (Interview)

margaret kazmierczak, November 15

Splashes of Joy, November 16

A Reader’s Brain, November 17

Multifarious, November 18

Artistic Nobody, November 19 (Karin Perry guest post)

Texas Book-aholic, November 20

Giveaway

To celebrate her tour, Carmina is giving away

Grand Prize:

Paperback copies of A Door Cracked Open & Into a Silent World

1st – 3rd place:

Ebook copy of A Door Cracked Open!!

Click below to enter. Be sure to comment on this post before you enter to claim 9 extra entries! https://promosimple.com/ps/c3c4

Book Review: My Heart Belongs in Castle Gate, Utah: Leanna’s Choice by Angie Dicken

Welcome to another installment of ‘Kristin’s Book Reviews’ where I tell you exactly what I think about some of the most exciting new releases. Today’s book is about a woman in difficult circumstances, surrounded by hateful people, who tries to make the best choices, but often fails.

My Thoughts On ‘My Heart Belongs In Castle Gate…

I give this book 3/4 stars.

Category: Historical Fiction – Christian

Though I was naturally endeared to this book because of the interesting history revolving around Greek immigrants to America (I am an American immigrant to Greece), there were definitely highs and lows both as I read through this jaunt into America’s past.

This dual POV story gives you the side of each protagonist as you learn about their prior mistakes and cheer them on to victory.

As someone who speaks (I use the term loosely here) Greek, I have to say that for the most part the Greek was spot on. Kudos to Ms. Dicken who was influenced by her family history to create this story.

The thing that I really had a hard time with about this book is something I see in a lot of books lately. The constant repetition of the protagonists inner thoughts reaffirming their feelings, which the reader is already very familiar with after the beginning of the book, becomes annoying. In this case, multiply that by two because both protagonists do it through the entire book. I understand that when God speaks to us, we aren’t always so eager to listen, but in this case the author never had her characters deal with the fact that they were ignoring their feelings and circumstances because of their own pride. I think that’s a shame. I also think the idea of women being reluctant to marry, or men (in Alex’s case) is an overused theme in Christian literature.

Though this wasn’t my absolute favorite, the story was consistent and I was curious to know what would happen in the end. I think many people will enjoy it.

I was provided a copy of this book by Celebrate Lit in case I wanted to write a review. All opinions are my own.

Be sure to keep reading for more about the author as well as information on her awesome giveaway.

Purchase your copy here.

About the Book

Name of book: My Heart Belongs in Castle Gate, Utah

Author: Angie Dicken

Genre: Historical Romance

Release Date: November 1, 2017

Schoolteacher Leanna McKee plans on leaving the coal mining town of Castle Gate, Utah, and never looking back. Good riddance to coal dust, rugged men, and the fatal mine that took her husband’s life.

Until the widow meets a widower who awakens her heart…and she finds herself inexplicably falling for miner Alex Pappas which stirs up a whole heap of trouble.

Alex’s Greek parents have arranged a more traditional match for him. When the schoolteacher’s association with the Greek family begins to anger the American miners, they threaten Alex and his family. Leanna has received an offer to teach elsewhere and feels she has no choice but to leave Castle Gate. . .though she will be leaving her heart behind.

About The Author

Angie Dicken is a third generation Greek American, the granddaughter of strong men and women who endured hardship to grow American roots. My Heart Belongs In Castle Gate, Utah is set near the birthplace of her grandfather, a Greek coal miner’s son, and published 100 years after his birth. Angie is a contributor to The Writer’s Alley blog and an ACFW member since 2010. She lives with her husband and four children in the Midwest where she enjoys exploring eclectic new restaurants and chatting with friends over coffee. You can connect with Angie at www.angiedicken.com.

 

Blog Stops

A Baker’s Perspective, October 31

Faithfully Bookish, October 31

Caffeinated Reads, October 31

Captive Dreams Window, November 1

Reading Is My SuperPower, November 1

A Greater Yes, November 2

Janices book reviews, November 2

Daysong Reflections, November 2

Red Headed Book Lady, November 3

Books, Books, and More Books., November 3

Just the Write Escape, November 3

Carpe Diem, November 4

Christian Bookaholic, November 4

Radiant Light, November 5

History, Mystery & Faith, November 5

Chas Ray’s Book Nerd Corner, November 6

Texas Book-aholic, November 6

Babs Book Bistro, November 7

Kristin’s Book Reviews, November 7

Singing Librarian Books, November 8

Connie’s History Classroom, November 8

D’S QUILTS & BOOKS, November 9

J.E. Grace Christian Author Blog, November 9

Neverending Stories, November 9

Have A Wonderful Day, November 10

Pause for Tales, November 10

Tell Tale Book Reviews, November 11

Mary Hake, November 11

Splashes of Joy, November 11

Bigreadersite, November 12

Blossoms and Blessings, November 12

Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, November 12

Vicky Sluiter, November 13

Bibliophile Reviews, November 13

Giveaway

To celebrate her tour, Angie is giving away a $25 Amazon gift card and a copy of her book The Outlaw’s Second Chance!!

Click below to enter. Be sure to comment on this post before you enter to claim 9 extra entries! https://promosimple.com/ps/c1ff

Book Review: Reintegration by Ashley Bogner

Welcome to another installment of ‘Kristin’s Book Reviews’ where I tell you exactly what I think about some of the most exciting new releases. Today’s book is special in the fact that it’s author Ashley Bogner’s first novel! Ashely has been a faithful reviewer of my books (even though we don’t always agree 100% on things) and I’m so excited to finally be able to return the favor. I was also able to interview Ashley about her writing process, which I know all my readers that write will enjoy. Without further ado, here is the interview. Make sure to keep reading to find out how much I enjoyed and ‘Reintegration’ along with a brief synopsis.

Interview with Author Ashely Bogner

What is the most difficult thing (or things) you struggle with as a writer?

World-building and scenery description, definitely. I’m so jealous of authors who craft richly-detailed, epic fantasy or sci-fi settings that make me feel like I’m actually in the story.

Are you part of a writing group? Why or why not?

I used to be part of a writer’s group that met once a month and I loved it. Unfortunately, my family moved and I haven’t been able to find a Christian writer’s group near me. It’s very disappointing, as I love meeting other writers and learning from their experiences.

When do your ideas usually come to you? When you’re writing? When you’re walking around? Reading a good book?

On car trips, actually! There’s something about watching the scenery go by while listening to music that just tends to inspire story ideas.

Although, I am also plagued quite frequently by the ideas that come when I’m trying to fall asleep and am too tired to write them down. 🙂

What kind of writer are you, a planner, a pantser, or a plantser (combination of the two)?

Definitely a planner. I never start a book without doing a gazillion outlines and synopses (I always want to write this synopsises—it’s very fun to say!). I don’t like getting half-way through a manuscript then realizing I either have no idea where I’m going or I have a major plot loophole. It’s also helpful for when I have to abandon a project for a while. I can just reread my outline and pick up right where I left off!

How many drafts do you write, and which of those is the most difficult for you?

This question made me laugh, because for me, there is actually no telling how many drafts I’ll have. Reintegration had one draft followed by some small edits. I’m currently on the fourth draft of the sequel. Once I finish the Reintegration trilogy, I’ll start my tenth draft of an old fantasy manuscript of mine. The number of drafts I’ll have is such a mystery.

Honestly, rough drafts are the most difficult. As I mentioned earlier, I do a lot of planning so I don’t run into a lot of writer’s block. Rough drafts are hard for me because I’m a perfectionist and I want everything to be just right the first time. Oftentimes, I’m not even half-way through the rough draft and I’m already dying to go back and edit. I really have to push myself to finish before I start rewriting.

Are there any character traits you have that you try to instill in your characters? Are there traits you wish you had that you give to your characters? What are they?

You’ll actually find a lot of “me” in my characters, especially my female protagonists. I want my characters to feel authentic, so oftentimes the fears and dreams and values and flaws and doubts they have are based off my own. I try to make them unique characters, but also have them be characters I relate to.

My characters have a lot more courage than I do. They’re more willing to take action when they need to. I’m that person who has to think through all the options before making a decision, and I sometimes miss opportunities because of it. That’s why I love speculative stories so much—the characters inspire me to be braver, even if I’m not involved in a world-saving adventure. 🙂

What genre is your new project?

Reintegration is a YA dystopian novel told from a Christian worldview. It’s also the first of a trilogy!

What was your world building process like for this project?

Dystopian is an interesting genre because it’s so theme-driven. World-building has always been a struggle of mine, but with Reintegration it came a lot easier than with previous stories. With dystopian fiction, I found that the “key” to world-building (at least for me) is building the setting around the theme. My characters live in a world where tolerance and relativism have been taken too far. I looked at each element of the setting from this perspective. What government type would reflect this idea best? What would the education system be like? How would people interact with each other? Then I filled in the details with things like clothing, food, vocabulary, etc.

My Thoughts On ‘Reintegration

I give this book 4/5 stars.

Categories: Speculative Fiction, Young Adult, Religious Fiction, Dystopian

This book is touching and thought provoking with plenty of twists and turns. There is some violence toward the end, which is why I don’t recommend this book for readers under the age of 13, but besides that I found it to be totally clean and appropriate. If you like futuristic dystopian style novels, ‘Reintegration’ will definitely keep you entertained and turning the pages. I couldn’t put it down and ended up reading it in one sitting. The only complaint I have is that sometimes there were paragraphs of Katherine’s inner thoughts that seemed to go on too long. Those scenes would have been more powerful without as much repetition and length. I think that is one of the main reasons why I haven’t seen very many five star reviews for this book… the too-long inner dialogue bogs down the flow of the otherwise smooth yet punchy story line. However, I remember what it was like to write my first novel, and I think given time Bogner will learn to avoid this mistake.

The themes in this book center on what happens when the true meaning of tolerance is forgotten and twisted into moral relativism, the importance of family, and establishing boundaries within the context of righteousness. Does God exist? And if yes, what would Katherine be willing to risk to get that information into the hands of her peers? Matthew was definitely my favorite character!

I can’t wait to read the next book in this series whenever it comes out, and I would definitely recommend it to my friends. I wish there was more Religious Fiction in the world like ‘Reintegration’.

You can purchase it here on Amazon, here on Barnes & Noble, and here on CreateSpace.

Reintegration Synopsis

TAG LINE:  A perfect citizen. A captured rebel. One decision could destroy them both…

SUMMARY: As a Regulator, seventeen-year-old Katherine Holliday’s duty is to protect the people of the Federation from a group of violent rebels who have exiled themselves to the mysterious wilderness. When one of these rebels is captured within the Federation, the government leaders propose an alternative to execution, a procedure they call Reintegration. The procedure involves erasing the rebel’s memory and attempting to make him a member of society. The rebel, a young man named Matthew, is not the violent criminal Katherine expects, and she can’t help but befriend him. A few weeks after Matthew’s Reintegration, Katherine realizes the procedure failed and she is now presented with a choice no one else can help her make. Can she warn her superiors that Reintegration failed, which could mean death for Matthew? Or will she defy everything she knows to help him escape—and risk her own execution?

AUTHOR BIO: When Ashley Bogner was in third grade, she decided she would be a published author when she grew up. Ashley is a homeschool graduate and has lived in seven different states. She completed a year of Bible college and in the fall will begin pursuing a degree in Communication Studies. After college, her plan is to work in the Christian publishing industry. When not writing, she can be found baking, posting book reviews on her blog, and watching her favorite movies over and over to the point of memorization.

SOCIAL MEDIA LINKS:

Blog: http://www.ashleybogner.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ashleybognerwriter/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/@AshleyBWriter

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/16953932.Ashley_Bogner

As always, happy reading!

Kristin N. Spencer

Book Review: The Union of the North and the South

This post was originally part of my old book review website “Christian Book Lady,” which I will be shutting down next week.

I give this book 5/5 stars.

Category: Historical Fiction :: Target Audience: Christians

The Union of the North and the South,” by Ann Mock is an extremely well written tale of Lauren, a woman who has lost everything, well almost everything, when several unfortunate events take place in her life after the Civil War. Things in the South have gotten downright depressing after war. With confederate money being worth nothing, many prominent families are forced to leave their plantation homes and make another way in the world. Though Laura’s family has survived the economic devastation of the war, that doesn’t mean they are free from trouble.

This book was a delight to read. I couldn’t put it down. But at some points I felt very sad for Laura. Is God’s plan for her good? It seems like one tragedy follows another, and then there is the matter of the man that keeps trying to kill or injure her. She isn’t sure which is his goal. If you like historical fiction, you will love this book. The details were definitely well researched. There wasn’t one inappropriate moment in it, either.