Why I Struggle Reading Indie Books and One I Recommend (my review of Kendall Grey’s STRINGS)

posted in: Review, Various Musings | 3

Some of you might have read this on Twinsie Talk Book Reviews a couple of weeks ago, and I wanted to share it here as well.  I wrote an author review of Strings by Kendall Grey, and this is it!

Some of you might not know this, but I am a former college English and Creative Writing instructor. That, my friends, has been both a blessing and a curse in my life. In the classroom, I had the pleasure of reading the writings of blossoming authors, some of whom should have already been published. I also had the responsibility of helping students think critically and apply themselves so that they could become better communicators through the written word. Those things? Those were the blessings of being a writing teacher.

The curse? The curse sucks, and here is one way it does. All those books so many of you rave about? I can’t get through a lot of them and, NO, I will never—as in NEVER!—reveal which ones. Why? It’s tough enough for me to get through a book that needs to be edited better. I’m used to correcting grammatical, spelling, and usage errors, and I have a hard time getting through a book that is poorly edited. A few errors? No problem. Two or three per page, though, and I’m breaking out in hives before you know it—and I begin to feel like I’m back on the clock. What’s sad is so many indie writers even go to the trouble of hiring editors they have to pay…but either those editors aren’t very good or those authors are disregarding the editors’ advice. Sorry. I said it and now I can’t take it back, but it’s true.

That’s not all of it, though, not by a long shot. Because once a teacher, always a teacher…and nowadays I can rarely read a book where I can just sit back and relax and enjoy it. Oh, don’t point a finger at me. I do it with my own writing, too. I constantly pick and pick until I realize I have to let it go. But this review is not about me. This is about other writers. I have a hard time enjoying a lot of books, because I’m reading like a beta reader (actually, like a creative writing instructor), thinking, “Well, if the writer had done this or that or this…man, this would have been a great book.” Am I picky? Yes. You can probably thank my education for that, because I’ve been trained to pick apart the written word all so it can be better.

But I digress. Let me just set the stage a little more before I move on. It’s tough for me to enjoy indie books like most of you do for all the reasons I mentioned above. Every once in a while, though, I find a book that pulls me in and I do enjoy it. One has stuck with me for a while now, and—since Twinsie Angie invited me to guest review a long time ago and I said I would—I’m going to review it right now.

This particular book has been gobbled up by readers who tend to like my books as well. (I say that because many of my readers recommended this one to me.) The book is Strings by Kendall Grey. Her blurb was irresistible and so I snagged the book via one-click. I was still teaching at the time, though (along with keeping my own crazy writing schedule), so I didn’t read it right away.

When I did, though…WOW. Grey grabs you from the beginning. She knows her characters and her writing style is refreshing—it’s a slap in the face. It’s not that her story is necessarily anything new, but what I loved the most? It was well written—and I’m not just talking about the grammar and spelling (although the red-pen-grasping teacher in me LOVED that).

It was raunchy and disgusting, sure, but I had no eye roll moments (besides, I like raunchy and disgusting sometimes). But I never had any moments where I felt like (cue snark voice), “Yeah, right…sure. That could happen.” I do, unfortunately, have those moments sometimes when I read other indies. Grey’s book felt real and believable. That is important to me as a reader. Whether it’s little or big, I have to feel that it is possible, and Strings felt possible to me.

The raunchy was good, because it fit the characters. Again, I believed the story. I don’t always like or believe the raunchy in other books. Grey set the stage for this from chapter one. You don’t get midway through the book and begin scratching your head, wondering how you got there. You saw it coming and you’re not surprised when it happens.

That’s what I’m talking about. Truth. No, I don’t think the things in the book ever really happened, but they felt like truth in the Stephen King sense of the word. Grey was true to her story, true to the characters, and true to the situation.

Strings is told in first person POV. Again, I don’t always like that perspective because it seems like an easy cop out for some writers who don’t really get to know their characters before they start typing them. Not so with Grey. She knows her characters in and out. Probably the only one I’d say that felt two-dimensional was Kate, and that’s probably because she was the “bad guy” and we were supposed to dislike her. The conflict near the climax involving Kate and Shades was, perhaps, the only part of the book that made me hesitate, because it bordered on contrived and it felt like it was too easily resolved, and I only criticize because Grey handled everything else so beautifully in this book. This felt like one area where she failed to challenge herself. Still, the rest was done so well that I am able to overlook it.

A year later, the way this book was written is still with me, and that is why I felt compelled to review it.

So…those of you who know me know I tend to read nonfiction, literary fiction, horror, and a lot of other books that are NOT erotic romance. When I do read erotic romance, give me something like Strings. It was a well-written book—seriously well-written—and I thoroughly recommend it.


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