How to Write a Book Review the Author Will Love

By Mary C. Findley

I am a big classics fan. I have, however, recently begun reviewing book by modern authors, and especially Indie writers, some of whom I’ve become friends and acquaintances with through author and reader sites I have joined.

I have gotten good responses from the authors so far, even if I gave them the dreaded “three out of five stars.” One who was at first very unhappy with her three stars admitted that it was a very good review, she liked it, and she quotes from it as she promotes. Another author said she loved my review so much it made her cry. It’s the only five star I’ve given so far, and she really deserved it.

I’m going to use Tale of Two Cities as an example of how to write a book review by reviewing it. Mr. Dickens won’t mind.

First, an author wants you to find out the solution of his book’s mystery by reading it, not by the reviewer giving it away. In Tale of Two Cities, why in the world does that drunken lowlife Sidney Carton get to hang around sweet Lucie the whole book, almost?

The author does want the reviewer make readers interested, though. So I will just mention that Sidney has a much bigger part to play than just standing up in court looking remarkably like Charles Darnay, thus saving his life.

Second, the author wants the reviewer to get readers to like the people in the story. For this example, let me introduce you to Mr. Lorry. Mr. Lorry represents an ancient, trustworthy, boring bank, but Mr. Lorry is hardly boring. He’s vain about his fine calves, though he’s past sixty. He rescues a parentless child although he says he is “merely a man of business.” He warns off a most unsuitable suitor, protecting a young lady from an arrogant and disgusting predator. He goes along with an unknown plot for an impossible rescue. This can hardly be a service to the bank he has served his whole life, but is an extraordinary example of compassion and courage.

Third, the author knows his book isn’t perfect, though he loves it as his own child. He doesn’t mind if you tell people imperfections, as long as you are honest and have good reasons. Tale of Two Cities, like most of Dickens’ works, is very wordy. I don’t care how many people say he wasn’t paid by the word, he was. He wrote serials. He had to pad out the work to fill a certain amount space in a magazine and make a cliffhanger out of every installment to get people to keep reading. That’s a guaranteed recipe for wordiness. Some of Dickens’ books are much longer than this one, but a modern editor would certainly be chafing to trim it down. I know as a former editor I would.

Fourth, a reviewer needs to warn readers if there is material not suitable for certain ages or groups. Dickens describes people in grinding poverty virtually starving to death before our eyes. He has a careless nobleman run his cart over a small child. The noble gentleman cares nothing about it except to try to throw a coin at the father and ask why he makes such an infernal noise. People are beaten and beheaded and described as blood-covered and murderously enraged. Sometimes just the sheer callousness and indifference toward death is hard to take. However jaded young readers might be today, it’s still not the best thing for very young readers. There is no real sex. Reference is made to breasts but only for nursing children.

In conclusion, I give Dickens’ Tale of Two Cities a four out of five, because I think he could have written a better story without so many words. Otherwise, it’s probably my favorite fictional work of all time.

About Mary C. Findley

I grew up in rural NY and met my husband at college in South Carolina. We taught school in AZ, MO and PA, homeschooled, and created curriculum and videos for church and commercial productions. We have three 20-something children, and now travel the 48 states together in a tractor trailer.


Book Review: Alana & Alyssa’s Secret by Joana James

Review by Mary Findley

This is the second book I have read by Joana James. While it’s less perfect technically than Nightmare at Emerald High, it’s still a very moving, powerful story about the power of God and the prayers of the faithful.

Could anybody have more to overcome than Alana and Alyssa? You won’t know unless you read it for yourself. But what a powerful lesson Alyssa learns about what we can and can’t do to protect those we love. Sometimes even a second chance isn’t enough.

Only the greatest tragedy can sometimes shake us out of our reliance on what we have the power to do in our own strength. Realizing that we need help, accepting that help, and getting it from the Source of all true help, makes all the difference in what happens to these two sisters.

Eric is almost too good to be true, but he’s not an angel sent to escort Alyssa safely home. He’s a real person, and the only thing he wants is the truth. If Alyssa’s ready to face the truth herself, Eric will hang on for the emotional ups and downs of Alyssa’s life. It’s up to her.

I appreciated the author’s afterword explaining the terrible tragedy described in this book. It was jarring to me, but sometimes life will jar us out of our self-sufficiency. It’s something we have to accept, and this book is fundamentally about accepting help. Help from others, and help from God. In the end, Alyssa kept trying to help her sister Alana, never realizing how much she needed help herself, and what a terrible price she would have to pay before she was ready to accept that help.

Mary grew up in rural NY and met my husband at college in South Carolina. She and her husband taught school in AZ, MO and PA, homeschooled, and created curriculum and videos for church and commercial productions. They have three 20-something children, and now travel the 48 states together in a tractor trailer.

Welcome Mary C Findley

Today we welcome Mary C. Findley to the G&F Spotlight!  Mary grew up in rural NY and her husband and writing partner is a “city boy” from AZ.
They met at college, taught school in AZ, MO and PA, homeschooled, and created curriculum and videos for church and commercial productions. They have three 20-something children, and now travel the 48 states together in a tractor trailer.

Hello, tell us a little about yourself.

I am a wife of 30+ years, mother of three 20-something children, and I travel with my husband as he drives tractor trailer cross-country. I taught school or homeschooled off and on for more than 20 years, I make Scripture-centered crafts, build puppets and perform with them, and love costume and set design.

Wow!  That sounds interesting.  So how did you come to be a Christian writer?

Started drawing very young, and all my drawings were of characters I wanted to write about. Becoming Christian was harder since I was immersed in fantasy and SciFi and it took me awhile to get past the secularist and godless emphasis of those fields. In the meantime Historical fiction beckoned and I was successful in that genre, going back to a time when belief in God was more the norm.

I find it fascinating that Christians are moving into the fantasy and scifi fields as well.  Seems there’s a genre for everyone these days.  I’m curious if you weren’t writing, what would you be doing and why?

Costume design or puppeteering, because I love those too. But this way I get to write the plays too.

Who are your greatest influences either writing or personal?

My husband inspires all my no-compromise, no quitting men. He’s my hero.

If you could give one piece of advice (not writing related), what would it be and why?

Don’t go into debt to get an education that might not even get you a job to pay the school bill back. Try to pay as you go.

There’s some good advice!  So what has been your greatest challenge in life so far?  How did you handle it?

Homeschooling. Not as well as I should have. I am not an organized person and you just have to be to do it well.

I think homeschooling would take a lot of courage too.  I’m amazed by those who tackle it.  On a different note, what do you like to read?  What are some of your favorites that you have read?

Great classic tales that teach piety, courage, patience, personal sacrifice and honor. Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens and Persuasion by Jane Austin.

What is a quote or saying you live by?  Where did it come from?  Why does it speak to you so deeply?

Proverbs 16:3 “Commit they works unto the Lord and thy thoughts shall be established.” Help for my disorganized, undisciplined, and undomisticated nature.

Haha!  I’m with you on that one!  What are you working on right now? 

Literature and English Skills Curriculum, a literature supplement to our Conflict of the Ages series, and three fiction projects: One involving a Christian Victorian Steampunk suspense story about favorite literary characters (Oliver Twist among others), a sequel to my fantasy The Baron of Larcondale called Three Healers for Kolt-Kutan, and an allegorical treatment of persecution and spreading the Word in a world where Nimrod and Semiramis have created an “immortal” dynasty seeking to “open the Stargate” and commune with gods.

Wow! Nothing like having a full plate!  So tell us a little about things you have out now we might be interested in checking out.

Our blog contains a number of samples of our books plus discussions of important issues, studies on the meat of the Scriptures and reviews of other authors’ books. We have a special call to combat Secular Humanism. We want to disestablish it as America’s Established Religion and our book Antidisestablishmentarianism particularly deals with this. We also have Curriculum and fiction works, Sci Fi, Historical, Romance, and Children’s and YA novels. Four of our books are 99 cents.

Where can readers find you on the ‘net? is our blog. is our website. is our Findley Family Video Facebook page

@MaryCFindley on Twitter

Awesome!  Thanks so much for joining us.  Best of luck in all your travels, and God bless!

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