Category Archives: up for discussion

Little Free Library design competition, hosted by Space

I got to do a fun little thing this afternoon. I attended the judging party for this year’s Little Free Library Design Competition, hosted by Space (a local architecture firm), in conjuncture with Saint Louis’ general Design Week.


I am a book hoarder, a manic reader, and a Little Free Library steward, but not part of the design community. This means I was able to stand back and observe as an outsider. (And check out Mayana‘s nacho bar and Narwhal’s urban ices!) What I discovered, other than that a Bellini slushie is a hard thing to pass up, even if you do have to drive home, is that Saint Louis has an engaged and open community of designers that seemed to truly enjoy getting together and giving back to the community.

Roughly a dozen groups submitted Little Free Libraries for consideration. And, for me, seeing them was the best part of the evening. It’s amazing how many ways the same idea can go.

I wasn’t able to get pictures over everything. I missed a few info cards along the way. But this was largely because, by the time I thought to take pictures, there were quite a few people there and I didn’t want to obnoxiously elbow my way in. But that also means there was a pleasantly positive turnout for the event. Win! But here is an example of what was there.

It’s worth noting that the heart shaped one was drawn by an art student at Adam’s elementary and then turned into a library that will hopefully be placed at the school. See, that’s just cool community building. As is the competition in general. The houses will be passed to the  St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department, who will distribute them around the city and officers will hopefully use them to build and strengthen relationships with neighborhood children. (Please, please let this be a step toward community policing. Please!)

I was also a little camera happy with the cool posters hung around the office.

Anyhow, it was a fun chance to see what the community is up to and a step toward sharing literacy. As I even donated a few paperbacks, there was some playing with books too. All in all, I think everyone deserves a trophy.


……Except you Mr. Parking Warden. You may have just been doing your job, but I don’t feel like giving you a trophy for it.



Join me in the #DiverseRomanceBingo challenge.

Those of you who read this blog on any sort of regular basis know I’m a sucker for challenges, doing several a year, most concurrently. So far this year alone, I’ve challenged myself to read a weeks worth of books with Omega in the title. Then, I felt obligated to do alphas too. I started the year with a broken wrist, so I challenged myself to read all my short stories and novellas. (They require shorter reviews, usually; less typing.) I’ve been adding on to the tail end of last year’s Annoying Closeup Guy challenge, as I’ve found I have more books with him on the cover now. And of course I’m doing the Goodreads challenge, which I pledged a shocking (even for me) 300 books this year. (I wanted to account for so many shorts, so I upped my goal. I expect to surpass it.) I say all that because I intend to add another challenge to the list and this one I think is more important than any of those.

A few weeks back, I went through the books I’d read so far this year, looking to see how diversified the authors were. I honestly went into this expecting to find that I read a fairly diverse group of authors and could feel confident in my position as alley and amplifier of minority voices. I was severely disappointed. I found that despite my good intentions and opinion of myself, nothing was being translated into actual action. The vast majority of the books I’d read were by cis-gendered, straight, white women. Have I done better than someone who isn’t paying attention? Probably, but not by much, and not by enough to feel smug about it. (Not that I should anyway.)

The simple fact of the matter is that any time I picked up a book without actively searching out and choosing a book by an author from a minority group, it was invariably by a white woman. And this was true for the characters in those books too. They were overwhelmingly able-bodied, white people. So, I committed myself to do better; to search out authors of color, authors who are trans or non-binary, or queer, or have a neurological difference, or aren’t American. Diverse characters is a natural by-product of that. And I’ve found a challenge to support this.

#DiverseRomaneBingo card

Let me introduce you to the #DiverseRomanceBingo card. I came across this in a group I’m a member of, though there has hence been a Goodreads group established for it. The challenge began yesterday, Sept 17th, and runs until the end of the year, with the goal being to complete as many squares as possible in that time. This requires reading a book that includes the descriptor in the box and reviewing it is strongly encouraged.

Some will be no problem. I read plenty of M/M books. But others will take some searching. I can’t think of a romance, off the top of my head, that qualifies as having a Desi main character or love interest. The Indian subcontinent just ins’t somewhere a lot of characters in books published in English come from. It will require effort on my part to find a book for that square and as I’d like this challenge to also support #OwnVoices (which is a square, but also a broader goal) I’m hoping to find a romance by a Desi author to boot.

But this brings us back to my earlier disappointment and the realization that truly supporting diversity in publishing takes more than happy thoughts. It takes effort and action. This is what makes the bingo card so appealing to me. It makes such action accessible and engage-able. Obviously, it’s not enough. But it creates a visible and accomplishable goal that moves the participant in the right direction.

I’ll be starting this afternoon with Karen Stivali‘s Moments in Time series. It’s my understanding that some of the main characters are Jewish and bi. Those are some of my boxes. The book is also written by a #OwnVoices author, but you’re only allowed to tick one box per book and I’m choosing this one for the bi MC box. And I will continue in just this manner until the end of the year, when I’ll write a wrap up post. We’ll see how successful I am. Intentionality is important. So, I’m hopeful. Plus, some friends and I got together and put together some ideas.

I invite anyone who is interested to download the card and join me. Drop a link to your own post and/or #DiverseRomanceBingo reviews and I’ll check them all out. I do want to add a final word of caution, however. This is something that has to be approached respectfully. As soon as it’s reduced to just a game or something done for the social justice cookie, we risk tokenizing, objectifying and even commodifying the individuals represented. No amount of amplifying the group can excuse injuring the individual. Having said that, let’s spread the word and thank those responsible for creating the card. (You know who you are.)

An example of how to make a reviewer NOT want to read your book

I mostly use this blog as a reading journal. I post reviews of books I’ve read. I occasionally branch out to something else, but reviewing is my main jive. Unfortunately, more often than not, when I have something to say that isn’t a review it’s a complaint. I feel like it makes me seem far more negative than I am. But I kind of feel like sometimes a complaint needs to be made.

I saw a re-release of The Never Ending Story in the theatre recently. I was thrilled to take my kiddos to see a movie that was a sharp memory from my own childhood. Unfortunately, I thought it was overpriced and they showed a “How the Movie Was Made” feature before the film that gave away all the key points of the plot and the ending. It utterly ruined it. I hate to be a complainer, but in those circumstances something had to be said to save future viewers from the same fate. Features with spoilers should be after a film, not before.

Well, today I’ve come across another ‘something has to be said’ scenario. For background, I read a lot. I also gather books from a number of sources. Lately, I’ve been entering a lot of Goodreads’ giveaways, especially since I installed my Little Free Library and can share my winnings with my neighbors. And I’ve been pretty lucky with my winnings.


But one of the most important aspects of a Goodreads giveaway is listed as the second sentence in the guide to posting one. Namely, “Members are encouraged but not required to write a review of the book they receive.”

NO obligation

For people like me, this isn’t so much an issue. I generally do write reviews of books. I run a hobby book-review blog for goodness sake. But that’s not true of everyone who enters such giveaways. Many have never written one, are intimidated by the thought, even. Which makes the insert that arrived in my most recent won book infuriating. In fact, when I showed it to my husband his response was that I should send the book back rather than accept such dictates.


Now, I don’t want to seem ungrateful, but this is problematic for several reasons. First, it simply breaks the ‘no obligation’ clause that Goodreads sets as part of its giveaway terms. But further, this is not a book I requested for review. This is a book I won. So, it’s simply not been sent to me for review. It’s been sent to me as a prize.

But not only does it assume I’ll accept the responsibility to review a book, despite my giving no such guarantee, it presumes to tell me exactly what I’m expect to include, down to the phrasing. I’m expected to include an advertisement for their company, McFarland “one word.” Then, I’m expected to send a copy to the marketing manager. But it’s not enough that I write a review that includes exact dictated information and I go out of my way to send the review to them (rather than the onus being on them to search out their own reviews), but I even have to send it in a particular format, PDF. But wait, generously, they’re even willing to let me pay for snail mail postage if I prefer. It leaves no room for inability or unwillingness on the part of the recipient. How arrogant can they be? The tone alone, even if all of those rules didn’t make me seethe, would offend me. I am not their employee. They are not paying me for a job well done. How dare they presume to order me such?

I am infuriated at this letter. This makes the book not a prize but a job. I run a book blog that reviews several hundred books a year and I would not allow myself to be beholden to such exact instructions. I can only imagine what a normal, non-reviewing, reader thinks of it.

Now, it’s possible that they looked me up before they sent the book and knew they were sending it to a blogger. But even then, the arrogance needed to try and micromanage a reviewer to such a degree is staggering. And to do it without actually acknowledging the implied interaction is ineffective, to say the least. Lastly, I’ll acknowledge the possibility that these books were pre-packed for reviewers and someone didn’t think to remove the leaflet. Let us hope that’s the case.

At this point, the only reason I’m not listening to my husband is that I see no reason to punish the author for the misbehavior of the publisher, who frankly should know better, IMHO. This is almost a perfect example of how to put a reviewer off reading your book, certianly how to put me off.

Reviewers out there, how would you feel about this? Readers, how about you? Publishers, am I missing something that makes this less insulting than it seems?