Arts and Entertainment, Books, Fiction

Beyond Beautiful: A Redemptive Romance Story by Robert Goluba

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.

Beyond Beautiful by Robert Goluba

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

(Click the title to find the book description/blurb.)

Dave tends to have a rather critical and narrow view of other people, especially where looks are concerned. Not only does it affect his work as a high school P.E. teacher, but it’s also putting a strain on his relationship with Megan, his wife. Then one day, a strange phenomenon gives humans around the world X-ray vision, making everyone appear as skeletons in Beyond Beautiful: A Redemptive Romance Story by author Robert Goluba.

Even with “romance” in the subtitle, I found it tricky to classify this read, genre wise. But I can appreciate a tale that’s out of the box, like this one. I think I can safely call it a sci-fi love story that even people who don’t usually read sci-fi can enjoy.

I like how the story touches on a number of ideas in a short amount of time. Dave’s situation is the central focus, but the story goes further. It takes an interesting look at how society in general is affected by physical appearance in various ways. While it’s an inspirational read, not every theme is tied up at the end with fairytale perfection, which is realistic and challenging.

Now, I felt the lessons in the story to be pretty heavy-handed at times. The narrator and Dave spell things out a bit too much instead of leaving more room for nuance and the reader’s perception. There are also a number of minor errors and places where the narrator slips into present tense (such as, “Dave is lost without her”), though most of the story is narrated in past tense.

Nevertheless, this is a quick and thought-provoking read that other ChristFic fans may want to check out.

 

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Arts and Entertainment, Authors, Books

Dear Authors and Readers: It’s Not About “Us” vs. “Them”

Authors and readers. Wielders of the mighty pen, and turners of the wondrous page. We’re all a part of the same book world, here.

Dear Authors. Dear, dear fellow authors:

We all know from Day One that not everybody is going to like our books, that no author can please every reader.

And, sure, the age of the internet and social media has familiarized us with internet trolls. People who post negative comments that nobody needs. Cyber riffraff who seem to have nothing better to do than to say bad stuff about stuff.

Then, up pops a new review for one of our books. Yay! Oh…wait a minute. Not so “yay,” this time. The new review is cutting. The reader did not like the book. The reader does not recommend the book. The reader rated the book with two stars or less. So, because of the undeniably negative, not-so-“yay” effect the reader’s cutting words and low rating have on the author, that reader must be a troll with nothing better to do than to say bad stuff about something the author worked hard on. Right?

Well, not necessarily right. A reader’s cutting review and low star rating do not automatically make that reader a troll.

But what about readers who post totally irrelevant reviews, with complaints about retailer shipping, customer service, or other things that have absolutely nothing to do with the author’s writing? Readers like that are trolls, correct?

Okay. This might be a good time to advise that an author shouldn’t be so quick with the gavel and the “troll” label. Don’t forget what a troll actually is: a person who is intentionally antagonistic online. Someone who makes disruptive attacks on purpose, merely to cause trouble and to get a rise out of folks. Yes, book reviews are a huge, important deal for us authors, and since our books and reviews are constantly on our minds and we know how reviews should be, knowing what or what not to include in a book review may seem like basic, universal knowledge to us.

But, dear authors, most readers aren’t living in our author universe. Or, maybe better said, our author bubble. Most people aren’t thinking about book reviews all the time. They’re not looking for ways to become savvy or expert book critics. They’re just decent, everyday folks, taking a little everyday time to post something online. Not being up on Best Book Reviewing Practices or Customer Review Guidelines does not mean that a person is intentionally antagonistic toward authors.

Likewise, expressing cutting opinions about a book doesn’t make a reader an attacker. Yes, authors, our work is deeply personal to us, so, naturally, it’s hard not to take reviews about our work personally. Still, it’s wise to recognize when a reader is making no personal attack on anyone but is simply saying what they think or how they feel about something they’ve read. Just as we authors are free to write the books we want to write, despite who may not like them, readers are free to choose what they read, free to think or feel the way they do about the books they’ve chosen, despite who may not agree with them.

And, trust me, we would not want to live in a world where only our professed fans would be allowed to buy and read our books, and no one else could have access. A world where people would only be allowed to say when they like something, where all negative opinions would be unwelcomed, censored, or silenced.

Dear Readers. Dear, dear fellow readers:

The age of the internet has made a lot of stuff more accessible to us. It’s even become easier for us to get books right on the spot, without having to wait around or go anywhere, thanks to the invention of ebooks and instant downloads. Yay!

Oh…wait a minute. Not so “yay” all the time. While some of us have totally fallen in love with the convenience and efficiency of digital books, others of us still don’t consider digital books to be real. We can’t really hold ’em in our hands. We can’t smell ’em. We can’t display an ebook on our bookshelf or pass the copy around to as many of our friends as we want.

Since an ebook doesn’t quite seem real to us, we might not be as ready to pay for one as we would a “real” book. Despite the fact that it takes an author just as much time, effort, blood, sweat, tears, and sacrifice to write an ebook as it does a print book. Despite the fact that an ebook still needs an editor, a cover designer, someone to format the files, and whatnot. Despite the fact that it takes finance to market and advertise a book, no matter what format the book comes in. Despite the fact that when traditional publishers publish an ebook, they still have to pay everyone on their publishing staff, pay their company bills, pay royalties to the author, and all that. The cost of printing, warehousing, and shipping a print book is only a fraction of what goes into that book’s retail price.

No, ebooks are not cost-free to produce and publish just because they’re not made of paper. Yes, an author still deserves to be paid for the work they’ve put in and for the art–the words–they’re sharing with the world, even if a reader can’t hold those words in their hands.

It’s much like when we pay to go watch a movie or to see a play in a theater. Or when we pay to attend a concert. To browse around a museum. To see a ballet, a tennis match, or a basketball game. We can’t hold a concert, a ballet, or a basketball game in our hands. But we still pay for the experience, for what people in their profession are sharing with us.

Whether a book is published physically or digitally, the author’s words are there. That’s what a book is really about: getting someone’s words out there to other people.

Besides, whether we like it or not, the world we live in is becoming increasingly digital. Book publishing can’t survive if we, dear readers, are willing to download digital books but are unwilling to pay for them. An author or publisher isn’t being mean, greedy, or unreasonable when they charge us to access an author’s words, just like a host of other kinds of artists and professionals charge for their work.

Now, there are plenty of other points I could raise on this author and reader topic, but my main point is this: we shouldn’t make a habit of thinking the folks on the “other side” of a book are out to get us, to cheat us, to make our life as an author or as a reader more difficult. Authors should extend consideration and respect to readers, and readers should extend consideration and respect to authors.

Don’t let it become about “us” vs. “them.” Authors and readers need each other to keep the world of books turning. So, we may as well read and write, buy and sell, give and receive reviews, and enjoy this book world we share with as much grace as possible.

 

Arts and Entertainment, Books, Fiction

Until We Find Home by Cathy Gohlke

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me. Tyndale House provided me with a complimentary copy of this book for an honest review.

Until We Find Home by Cathy Gohlke

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

(Click the title to find the book description/blurb.)

When American Claire Stewart joined the French Resistance against the Nazis, she dreamed of daring adventure with the man she loves: the kind of grand and noble escapades she wants to write about. But she soon finds herself stranded and bewildered in England with five Jewish children she smuggled from France in Until We Find Home, a novel by author Cathy Gohlke.

Now, I’ll admit that for half the book or so, although I was enjoying it, I practically felt as at sea as the heroine, not sure what to make of the story. Though my expectations weren’t as romantic as Claire’s, I imagined this World War II tale was going to have more scenes of travel and danger. So it took me a while to settle into the novel’s slower pace and—notwithstanding its few scenes of wartime danger—to gather that much of the story is about burgeoning family life. Not “going” or “escaping” to get home, but truly “finding” home.

I’ll also admit that Claire is the kind of heroine I’d like to tell to quit pining away already, wake up, and get up, but I guess that’s much of the point of her character. So it’s not a big deal that I didn’t start to warm up to her until late in the read. This story is not at all only told from Claire’s perspective, though, as you get to see through several more of the characters’ eyes. Overall, they’re the kind of cast that grows on you.

Also, even as the novel is one of strong Christian faith, one thing I appreciate is that there isn’t an attempt to make Christians of all the key characters. The times when Jewish characters from different countries connect under their common heritage are among my favorite moments in the story. And I found the read to become more touching and powerful as it drew toward its climax and conclusion.

I’d certainly recommend this novel to fellow fans of historical ChristFic.

 

Arts and Entertainment, Authors, Books, Films

Will TVs, Movies, Gadgets, and Gizmos Make Books Obsolete?

I suppose my short answer to the question at hand is: no. No, TVs, movies, gadgets, and gizmos will not make books obsolete.

And to explain a bit…

With the way technology is advancing and media is shifting nowadays, people have increasing options for entertainment, and plenty of folks don’t do much book reading unless they have to. Sure. Nevertheless, increasing options for entertainment isn’t a new phenomenon.

Take motion pictures and television for example. When the television was invented, people worried about what would happen to motion pictures. Why would anybody take the trouble of going out to the movies anymore when most of those people would have screens to entertain them right in the comfort of their homes?

Yet, for some odd reason, people kept on going to the movies anyway.

And now, even with the availability of YouTube, Hulu, Netflix, DVD and Blu-ray, the ability to watch movies on our TVs, tablets, and smartphones, movie theaters still have yet to become obsolete. We have more options, but those who enjoy going to movie theaters still go.

Has technology changed things? Absolutely. Filmmakers knew they’d have to raise the bar on their art because people would have the option of staying home to watch this new thing called television, if the movies coming out weren’t any good. So filmmakers did just that, raised the bar, and the “silver screen” lived on and still lives.

Yeah, most movies don’t remain only in theaters for as long a time anymore. Subsequent DVD, Blu-ray, and Netflix releases follow original releases sooner. Yet, going out to the movie theater still gives people an experience they can’t get by watching a movie on their tablet or phone.

I’m of the same mind as fellow bookworms I’ve heard from who believe that people who truly love to read books are going to read books. It gives us an experience we simply don’t get from TV, movies, video games, social media, and other forms of entertainment. Besides how enjoyable they are to read, books help us to strengthen our reasoning and critical thinking skills, to keep our imaginations sharp, to become more empathetic human beings, to see and consider ideas from different angles, and to become better at expressing our own ideas through words, when we need to write or articulate.

That’s not an exhaustive list of the benefits of reading, by the way.

As entertainment options increase, though, it becomes more important for readers to deliberately stress and demonstrate the value and importance of books, especially to generations coming up behind us, in the age of all things digital. When I was growing up, my parents made sure my siblings and I had a TV and movies we could watch. They bought us toys and sporting equipment and video games. And they bought us BOOKS. They made sure we had library cards and took us to the library. They started a reading club where the whole family participated. They sat down and read in front of us, so my siblings and I saw our parents reading, not just telling us that we kids should do it (“Go read a book, kid. Get out of here.”) while the two of them vegged in front of the TV all day. 😀 Our parents constantly kept the option of reading before us, and even with all the options my sibs and I have for entertainment and learning now, we still read books.

So, fellow authors and publishers–or “book makers,” if you will: we have to be intentional about keeping our art excellent and improving our craft, as past filmmakers did in their changing times. Book lovers who know the importance of reading have to be intentional about conveying that importance to other people, knowing that there are more entertainment options available, and the options will likely increase with new technology.

Naturally, people who just aren’t into books can’t be forced into loving them. While, of course, everyone should be literate, literate folks are still entitled to whatever methods of entertainment and information consumption that suits them best. But don’t be fooled. Don’t see all the TVs and movies around and people fiddling with their digital gadgets and gizmos, be fooled into thinking it’s impossible for anyone to love or focus on books anymore, and throw up your hands and say, “Welp. I guess books are over.” I might not have discovered my love for books, especially not so early on, if somebody hadn’t deliberately stressed and maintained the awesome “option of books” to me.

And let’s not even go into all the advantages that digital gadgets and gizmos have brought about for books, or we’ll need another blog post to expound.

Books will only become obsolete if book lovers and devotees somehow let it happen. And I don’t think we’re going to do that.