Review of 'Finding Home' (Angela Hartley)
Updated: Dec 14, 2022
Overall Rating: 2/4
Proceed with caution.
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Book Title: Finding Home: By Following Your Heart
Author Name: Angela Hartley
Publication Date: June 1, 2022
Summary (no spoilers): Amanda receives a mysterious letter from her father after his sudden death that leaves her unmoored. To learn more, she will have to leave the home she's always known and risk her familial relationships.
Angela Hartley writes in a way that will pull on your heartstrings. Her descriptions of home and family evoke a certain nostalgia that is well-suited to the subject matter of this book. The cover art is beautiful and sets the tone for the text. It's a cozy read that is easy to settle into and pairs nicely with a warm blanket and a hot beverage. Short chapters make for a quick, easy read.
I say questionable because, while our scorecard aims for as much objectivity as possible, reviewing a book is inevitably a very subjective experience. Though this book created a lovely atmosphere, there were several issues with the text, starting with the clunky formatting from page one to the cornucopia of typos and passive language throughout, culminating with a dragged-out ending.
Formatting: If you like your books to have a somewhat uniform appearance, the formatting of this book may irk you. The page margins are too wide which is problematic for two reasons; (1) it makes the book look unprofessional, and (2) large margins equal a higher page count which means the book costs more to the consumer. There are also some off-center page headers and blank pages that snuck into the book.
Typos: As a warning, this book is written using UK English which means that the average North American reader will likely take a little time to sink into the grammar differences that look like errors at first glance; however, there are enough actual errors and typos throughout (especially in the second half) that if poor grammar takes you out of a read, you may want to pass on this one.
Passive Language: If you like prose that flows well, this book is a coin toss. While the author's use of language evokes many emotions, there are times when the author uses passive voice and it completely ruins the flow of the story, pulling the reader out of the action by reiterating important moments of conflict through dialogue instead of letting the reader experience the scene/conflict first hand.
There were many times when Hartley simply tells the reader key information about the character without expressing it or supporting it through the character's actions (e.g. 'this total lack of control over the unknown being one of Amanda's major fears').
The use of passive voice also means using more words where a stronger single word may have sufficed, thus increasing the word count of a book that already drags toward the end (and increasing the overall cost of the book).
Dragged Out Ending: The first part of the book is easy to read but by about two-thirds into the book, it starts to feel like the author had no real sense of where to end the story. After the main stakes are resolved and we reach the (rather unmoving) climax, the story continues for another hundred pages. The material at the end of the book feels like it would have been more suitable as bonus content and does nothing to add to the main story.
There are a few main things an aspiring writer can learn from Finding Home:
(1) Always hire an editor. This can't be reiterated enough. The number of typos in this work will aggravate many readers. While a few are acceptable, this work contained too many to pass our quality assessment.
(2) Understand the different levels of editing needed to perfect a story. A good developmental edit would have shaped the story better, eliminating the superficial elements at the end of the book that made the narrative drag. A copy edit or line edit would have shaped up the story at a sentence level, eliminating some of the awkward wording and clunky prose. And a final proofread would have eliminated the remaining pesky typos that make a reader doubt the author's credibility.
Whether you hire someone to do these edits or do them yourself, you must understand that each of these edits needs its own attention and time. You have to edit from the top down; start by editing big (fixing your overall story structure), then zoom in on your sentence structure and comb through your prose and presentation, and then finally run through your story several times to eliminate any remaining typos.
Trying to do all these edits in a single read-through will undoubtedly leave behind errors. Editing takes time and several read-throughs.
(3) Edit your ENTIRE book. Most writers have been there--you edit the first part of your book relentlessly, planning to do a full read-through, then lose steam about halfway through. This results in the first half of your book getting several edits while the end of your book falls victim to extra typos as the result of tired eyes and the desire to just get it done already. If you can't give the second half of your book the same attention as the first, be willing to put it down to give yourself a break before continuing, then start where you left off and not at the beginning again. It will take a little more time this way, but you'll catch more mistakes.
(4) Understand story structure. This book had some great ideas that were poorly executed. The culprit? A poor understanding of story structure and how conflict controls the impact of a narrative. For more on story structure, click here.
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