March Book Review of Rachel's Contrition, a Catholic Fiction Romance Novel by Michelle Buckman
If I had to use one word to describe this book, I think it would be "visceral." I didn't simply read this book. I felt it deep down inside. From the first page, I was emotionally tied to Rachel. I had a hard time putting the book down as it moved smoothly from chapter to chapter, drawing me ever deeper into the darkness of Rachel's grief.
I loved the way Michelle built the characters slowly and personally, as if they were being developed in my mind, not hers. I identified with Rachel. I was Rachel for a while. I could feel her grief about the loss of her daughter. I felt compassion for her husband and I wanted them to reconcile. I wanted her son to embrace her. I wanted them all to be a family again.
Perhaps there is a deep dark fear in each of us that if we are examined too closely, we won't measure up. I felt that in Rachel. Even those with the greatest faith feel lost sometimes. Rachel was a mixture of strength and weakness - flawed, yet morally intact.
For me, the connection with the soul is what made this book memorable. Long after the mysteries were solved and the plot was unfolded, I pondered how I would react under the same circumstances.
An excellent read and one I would highly recommend.
This is my first monthly book review of another author on my blog.
I read "Night Machines" by Kia Heavey at a time when I was busy writing and caring for my grandchildren. I had to leave it at times - but I didn't want to. I thought about it all the time when I wasn't reading it. This is rare for me. Usually, once I lay a book down, it is in danger of being forgotten. The smooth tight writing style of this author worked well for me, as I am dyslexic, but this was no simple story. There is food for thought on so many levels. The characters were all realistic. I could relate to all of them, even the bad guy, for whom I inexplicably felt a certain amount of compassion.
An exciting unforgettable read - one I highly recommend. I will certainly be looking for more books by this author!
As I passed through the family room where my husband was watching a re-run of an old Andy Griffith show, I was brought up short by an ignorant statement. Andy's girlfriend had just written a book and Andy was suggesting she submit it for publication. She became excited about the prospect and said "Wow! I could be a real author!"
To a writer, "them's fightin' words." But for me, it was especially so. I muttered in a disgusted tone " You ARE an author. If you wrote the book, you're an author. You don't have to be published to be an author." I shook my head and continued in a growl "That's where people get these stupid ideas."
I didn't begin writing stories on paper until my early 20's, after our first son was born. Even then, I hid it in my dresser drawer under my undies so that no one would discover that I was pretending to be a writer and make fun of me. I had talent that no one knew about - not even me. I can remember making stories up in my mind as early as 8 years old. Having been scolded for "daydreaming," I usually did it at night before I went to sleep, or in the car on a long trip. No one minded a silent child then. I could look out the window and "daydream" to my heart's content.
I began writing because I could no longer contain the passion. I would write the stories and read them later for my own enjoyment. Unfortunately, since I was not sharing, I was not learning how to improve. I read books (I could do that in public) and who knew I was editing? My dyslexia was undiagnosed at that time, along with the A.D.D that had plagued me through my school years. Everyone simply called me "slow." Having a mechanic for a father, I knew if you retarded the timing, you slowed it down. I knew what they were saying. Worse, I believed it. But that didn't stop me.
When my passion kept growing, I finally confessed to a friend what I was doing. "Ma Bell," encouraged me and I finally brought some of my work for her to read. She liked it and gave me a few pointers. Several years later, when my son was diagnosed with dyslexia and A.D.D. and the doctor convinced me that I too had this affliction, I came out of my shell. I wasn't stupid or retarded! The revelation set me free. As I learned more about dyslexia and how to work around it, I began writing more and showing it to others.
So where did I get the idea that an author was a published writer? Possibly television, or from the many people who believed that to be the situation. What seemed an innocuous comment to many was enraging to me. How many writers are out there thinking the same thing - depriving the world of their talent?
Today, I make a point of reading the work of "undiscovered" writers. It is impossible to read the work of a person who is not an author, because they would not have written anything. So, next time someone tells you they aren't really an author because they haven't been published yet, set them straight. It's the kindest thing you can do for them.
"I'm bored." Don't you just hate to hear someone say that? What they are really saying is: "I don't have enough imagination to entertain myself, so you're in charge of my brain right now." It always makes me wonder who is in charge of their brain when I'm not around.
In telling me that they are bored, they are doing more than making me responsible for their entertainment, though. They are implying that, in my inferior ability to act as a hostess, I have failed so miserably that they are unhappy. In essence, saying "I'm bored" is rude and insensitive - not to mention inaccurate.
The words "I'm bored" were essentially foul language to my mother. If we spoke them, we wound up with chores. It didn't take too many hours of cleaning our room, weeding in the garden or raking leaves before we learned not to say them.
When my granddaughter came to me for the third time to tell me she was bored, I sat her down and explained what those words implied. She understood. I doubt I will ever hear those specific words uttered from her mouth again, at least not directed at me. But more important, I hope I have opened a door to release her creativity. As an adult, I don't remember ever being bored. When I had nothing for my hands or eyes, I always had that wonderful gift called the brain. I know she has that.
The four words I dislike hearing most from reviewers are "not your best work." What is that supposed to mean? Only one is your best work. The only way it could be your best work is if it was your only work. In that case, it would also be your worst. The cliche' doesn't tell you what is wrong with the work. Since it doesn't help the writer improve, it isn't constructive criticism. In fact, it's negative feedback. It deflates the ego and discourages the writer.
I think of negative feedback the same way I think about gas mileage on my car. I don't calculate miles per gallon using 1 day out of 365. By the same token, I don't calculate the quality of my writing by one negative review - or one positive review, for that matter. When I calculate my gas mileage, I get the results from three or four tanks of gas and average them, factoring in all the variables. Were they all highway miles, or stop and go? What was the weather like and how much was uphill? The concept is the same with reviews on my books. I look at the reviews from multiple books and watch for common denominators. If I'm getting a lot of negative feedback from all or most of them - or even a lot from one, I take notes. This is when negative feedback can become positive.
A book reflects the heart and soul of its author. No one writes a novel in one day, so the mood may go uphill one day and down the next. If this happens in the same scene, it may confuse readers. A confused reader usually results in a disappointed reader. Anytime I see the word "confused" in a comment, I think of it as a red flag. Reading it again under different circumstances often reveals the cause of this problem. Readers usually mention poor spelling, unbelievable characters or plots specifically, but a mood is more difficult to define and convey.
The phrase, "not your best work" is intended as a kind way of saying that the book was disappointing. It could be that they don't know what is wrong. They may be saying that this book doesn't measure up to another one - or any of them. Whatever the specifics, the reader was disappointed. Multiple reviews like this prompt me to remove an e-book from publication and edit it. I may have missed my target audience, or the story may need serious editing. Either way, it is a poor representation of my skill.
Inevitably, someone is not going to like my book. Not everyone voices their likes or dislikes. Some people comment on everything and some on nothing. The most informative comments are often the most passionate - whether good or bad. Learning to roll with the punches is important, but learning to dissect a bad review and use it in a positive way could be the most constructive writer's skill of all.