Tag Archives: up for discussion

How is social distancing going?

My family and I have been social distancing for about a week now. Honestly, this has required very little from us. A few canceled social events, no music lessons, or dinner dates. We’re introverts by nature, my husband works from home, and the girls have been on Spring Break. So, nothing much changed, except the understanding that staying home is more necessity than choice and the girls won’t be going back to school next week (it’s closed).

All the same, I’ve had to fill my time. I have to consider filling more time in the future. My children and husband have found and are currently playing Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime, a video game that apparently requires all three of them to fly and defend a space shuttle. I know nothing about it except they sound like they are having a blast.

Meanwhile, I’ve spent the entire day obsessively collating my Goodreads library. And I do mean all day. I began while drinking my first cup of tea this morning and have just finished. (It’s about 7:30 pm now.) Well, finished is maybe a stretch. I’ve come to a stopping point…a pausing point. It’s worth remembering that this is what my Goodreads shelves look like. And nothing goes on a shelf unless I actually have access to it. So, I own all those “want to read” books.

It might not be too much of a stretch to imagine I’m transferring some of my generalized Coronavirus stress into compulsive, all-absorbing, ultimately meaningless tasks. But let’s not go there. As I said, it’s not affected us personally in any huge way yet. But I think that yet is important.

I started by making sure all the books on my shelves have listed page numbers. It drives me absolutely nuts to not know what is a short story, novella, or novel when picking out something to read. So, I periodically do this; sort my library by page length and individually search out page numbers for any book coming up as unknown. It’s a slow process. (Why doesn’t everyone include page length when they upload to Amazon?)

On a side note, I cannot tell you how much it irritates me that audiobooks don’t get listed page numbers. I mean I get it, their audio files and don’t actually have pages. But I need Goodreads to incorporate some way to show their length. Need I tell you! All those unknown in a row that I can’t fix get under my skin.

Then, I moved from there to checking all the anthologies, compilations and boxsets I have. I found too many instances in which I had books 1 and 2 in a series and then a compilation of books 1-5, for example. There was a lot of deleting going on. And when I say delete, I mean I even went to Amazon and deleted it from my cloud. I no longer own a lot of single books.

You have to understand that deleting books is really hard for me. It’s not normal, the resistance I have to trashing a book (even a digital one that barely even exists). But there just isn’t any reason to own these books more than once, except that it was time-consuming to find them and consolidate my shelves. And I’m not going to pretend I found them all. But I found a lot.

I also deleted several anthologies outright that I’d picked up a few years back when anthologies were all the rage. If I haven’t read them by now, I’m not going to. There are actually a couple more to go. But at some point, I was organized enough to mark each individual book included in them. So, to delete them I need to track those books down and delete their listing too because I won’t own them anymore. But I put that off until tomorrow.

I found three books I suspected of book stuffing. This isn’t something you hear much about anymore and I don’t know how these three managed to survive on my shelves. Actually, that’s not true. It’s too easy for things to hide on my shelves. That’s part of the reason for today’s exercise in thinning. Needless to say, these were deleted.

All in all, I deleted hundreds of books. Soon…I have to work myself up to this…I’m going to go through and delete anything I’m no longer interested in. My tastes have changed quite a bit and there is a lot of detritus on my shelves that could go. But I need to read each synopsis before I’m willing to take the leap. And that will take a lot more time. Luckily, as I said before, I have time to fill in the near future. I’m going to make the most of being homebound.

Of course, I haven’t spent the entire week collating my Goodreads shelves (just all of today). I’ve spent quite a lot of time playing Overwatch.

I brought my support SR up to 2466, in case you’re wondering. (I only queue support/healer in competitive mode. No one wants to depend on my crappy aim, trust me. I main Moria, Lucio, and Mercy.) I’m never gonna make top 500 or anything. But considering this is the first shooter game I’ve ever committed to playing (and I’m a 43-year-old woman), I’m pretty thrilled to almost touch platinum.

I’m WondrousBeet6 on Xbox if anyone ever wants to play. I’m awkward as hell at first, but I promise it’ll fade.

Other than gaming, I’ve also listened to a ton of audiobooks while working on diamond paintings. This is the one I finished last night. I’m actually pretty thrilled with how it came out.

I have a whole stack of unstarted ones. So, I figure I’ll be putting a dent in both my audio library and my diamond painting stash.

So, so far so good. I won’t say anyone is accomplishing anything overly meaningful (though tending my bookshelves is immensely satisfying). But nor have we gone too stir crazy, which is good since we’re committed to this whole social distancing thing. I don’t really understand why some people aren’t. Of course, some people can’t and that’s another matter altogether. I recognize how lucky we are to be able to with so little disruption that I’m thinking about how to fill time, not how to fill bellies. But if you can stay home for a while, giving our health system a little room to breathe and maybe saving lives, please to. I’d be more than happy to spend some digital time with you if that helps.

In defense of reviews that say, “I don’t generally read this genre, but…”

This is one of those, probably ill-advised, posts in which I consider my own opinion. It came about because, the other day I was scrolling through Twitter and passed a tweet in which someone was disparaging reviews that say something along the lines of “I don’t generally like this genre, but I gave this book a try,” and then give it a negative review. There were several responses, vehemently agreeing.

As someone who has written reviews that say exactly that, I was perplexed. I considered responding, but decided to let it go. It wasn’t someone I knew enough to be certain debate on the subject would be welcome, and it’s just too easy to write what you think is a balanced polite comment, and have it come across as aggressive. In the end, I didn’t want to be that person who rolled up in someone else’s space and says, “But…”

But the tweet has stuck in my mind. The poster—who I assumed was an author, but I honestly don’t know**—is 100% entitled to their opinion. This post isn’t directed at them specifically, but the thread so reminded me of one particular review I wrote in the early days of this blog—This one—that I’ve been kind of ruminating on it ever since.

I’m not going to rehash the whole review. You can follow the link to see it on Goodreads.* But the review starts with this:

Oh God, I wish I hadn’t read that. Historically, I’ve not been a fan of contemporary romances. I often find the female leads weak-willed and the plots too sappy for me. I know that’s what some people like most about the genre, but me not so much. Despite my hesitations about the genre, I was tempted by the sarcastic tone of the book’s description…

I went on to say that I did not, in fact, like the book. And I promptly got this comment:

Then, as now, I’m confused by this opinion. Ok, that’s not true. I was then. I even spoke to someone in real life about the comment, only to have them say, “Sorry, but I agree with the commenter. If you don’t like the genre, don’t read the book.” Now, I understand where the opinion comes from, I just disagree with it.

Which is where the meat of this post comes in, why I disagree. To say that people who don’t generally like a genre shouldn’t ever read books in that genre is exclusionary and ridiculous. Life simply isn’t that black and white.

People’s opinions change, and if they never try something they might not like, they’d never know it. (Not to mention other reasons to read a book you might not like: to expose yourself to opposing opinions, book clubs, school, friends’ recommendations, cross-over, etc).

Let me give you a personal example. For most of my life, I thought I hated romance books. Every time I tried to read one, I was dissatisfied. But I was often tempted by the blurbs, especially if there was a fantasy element. So, every now and again, I’d give in and read one. 99% of the time I finished them unhappy. But there was always that one, which kept home alive.

As I got older and my understanding got more mature, I realized that I don’t hate romance. What I hate is the type of gender politics that are so common in romance books. So, if I was careful about which authors I read and/or read LGBT+ romances (which have their own problematic aspects, but not my particular rage triggering ones) I could happily read a romance book…or 400. But If I’d given up and said, “I hate romance” and never read another one, I’d have never realized my mistake and would have missed out on some of my favorite books.

So, I dislike being told I shouldn’t read a book in a genre I generally dislike. There are always exceptions, and I’m always hoping the next book will be the one. Which brings me to the original Tweeter’s point about reviewing books in genre’s you don’t like. Which is subtly different that reading them. No one would argue with, “I generally dislike this genre, but took a chance on this book and loved it.***” No one would tell that reviewer that they shouldn’t have written their review.

Reviews of such books is a topic that I take a related, but different issue with. Telling reviewers that they shouldn’t review books in genres they don’t generally choose to read presumes that reviews are written for a single purpose. What’s more, I’d assert that it positions the review in the perspective of the author and/or fans of a book/genre. It suggests “the review space about book X is only for people like us, and if you don’t share our view, you’re not welcome at the tea party.” It forgets that, while a review’s primary purpose may be to inform readers about a book’s quality (and we could argue if this should be objective or subjective quality), it isn’t a review’s only purpose.

I for one, write reviews as a sort of book journal. It’s my personal closing out the book ceremony. And as such, with very few exceptions (usually latter books in long series, in which my opinion hasn’t changed since earlier books), I review every book I read. Good, bad, indifferent, they all get a review.

So, how should I handle books from genres I generally dislike, took a chance on, and found they were not the exception to the rule? I’m going to review them. I say, “I generally don’t like this genre, but…” Why? Because that flags all readers of that review that it’s being written by someone who was not predisposed to like the book. It says up front, that the review could be considered bias. It warns readers that are fans of that genre that they can disregard the review as an outlier. I consider that sentence, and ones like it, to be a favor to future readers.

So, when people take issue with it, I’m always like, “Well, I guess I could leave it off and just let the review stand, unaccompanied, as a negative review.” Would that be better, you think? I don’t.

That single sentence also speaks to other readers who might not be regular fans of that genre, but are considering taking a chance on the book, just like I did. Maybe they’ll decide against it. Maybe they’ll see the points I make and decide they’re not the ones that bother them and read the book anyway (or because of the review). Either way, the review is still serving it’s purpose. It’s still a valid review.

I feel like telling readers that they should only read books in genres they particularly like, and should only be allowed to review books from such genres (and yes, I feel like this becomes a prescriptive, allowance issue) is akin to people claiming you shouldn’t write reviews of books you don’t like. Which means the only reviews to be written are positive ones. Which means review spaces lose their critical edge and instead become fuzzy praise boards.

This is something I REALLY disagree with. If someone chooses to only write positive reviews, that’s their choice. But the moment they say someone else shouldn’t write a negative, one I start to grind my teeth. Similarly, if someone chooses not to read or write reviews of books from genres they are not pre-established fans of, that’s their choice and I welcome to it. But as soon as they try to tell me I shouldn’t do it, we have friction.


* I don’t actually remember why I reviewed it on Goodreads and Amazon, but decided not to post it here. Maybe because it was my first year as a blogger and I wasn’t certain how to handle poor reviews yet. I don’t know, 4 years later.

**I didn’t at the time realize the tweet would still be in mind two days later. So, I didn’t think to take a screenshot. This post simply wasn’t that premeditated…or even meditated.

*** Which is basically the review I wrote last week for The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peal Pie Society. I read it for book club, despite having no interest in it.

Tips for submitting Ebooks to bloggers for review

ID-100207548This is an on-going list of things that help make submitting an ebook for review flow smoothly. I’ll be adding points as they occur to me. It’s written to be specific to me and my blog, but in all likelihood would work for any number of bloggers. I’m trying to focus on specific tasks—the mechanics, so to speak—not the request itself. So I’m going to skip over the obvious be polite/professional, don’t SPAM or harass the reviewer, and other such basic etiquette. The Bookish Brunette and Lindsay Buroker do a good job of breaking that down, if that’s what you’re looking for. This is about the nuts and bolts of getting a book into my hand and a subsequent review on the net.

To start with,

READ THE POLICY!!
I know this sounds too simple for words and every blogger to ever write a tips and hints page starts with it, but people really don’t do it. In my case, I don’t just assume they don’t, I know they don’t. I set up two email addresses, one labelled 2lazy2readP&P@sadieforsythe.com and the other, further down the page, labelled ereview@sadieforsythe.com. A full 1/3 of the requests I get come to that first email address. Of those that manage to read far enough to spot the trap, many still don’t follow the directions (point #2), so I’m forced to wonder how well they read them. But it’s a start.

FOLLOW DIRECTIONS!!
I know, I sound like a first grade teacher. But my case makes an excellent example of why this is important. I strive to write an objective review. And, as much as I love meeting authors (and I really, really do), I find that too much conversation upfront impedes my ability to be impartial. This means I’ve set the whole system up so that I don’t actually ‘meet’ authors prior to reading their work. After—great, but not before.

lady-face-angry-mdSo, if you send me a ‘request’ that says ‘write me back if you would like a copy’ (which is me requesting your book, BTW, not you requesting a review) you’ve A) not followed direction and probably annoying me upfront, but more to the point, B) just collapsed my system. Don’t expect a response (not that you’d know that, since you probably didn’t read the policies or you would know better). And…

DO YOUR BASIC RESEARCH
Under no circumstances write me this email and expect me to comply.

Good afternoon,

I saw your contact on book tweeting service, can you send me more informations about book reviews? Where will you post your review? your blog, amazon, goodreads, Facebook?

this is my new book…

Thank you very much

Looking forward to hear from you

Best Regards

Not only because all of that information has already been provided in the Do it Yourselfpolicies he/she obviously didn’t bother to read (yes, it came to the 2lazy2readP&P address), not to mention it’s listed on Book Tweeting, but also because I get several requests a day, have more books available to me than I can read, and therefore don’t need to work for more. I don’t need to make my case to you, just the opposite in fact. You make my job easier if you wish me to do you a favour, not the other way around. I don’t work for you. In fact, this gets me so riled up I wrote a whole rant on it. I know this really falls under the etiquette umbrella, that I wasn’t going to address, but it’s just so basic it needs repeating. 

INCLUDE THE INFORMATION ASKED FOR
I know this really falls under follow directions, but it deserves it’s own point. I ask for a title, synopsis, page length and cover image. I love it when authors include genre classifications too, but I don’t specify it. I ask for this information for a reason. It helps me decide if I’m interested in your book or not, but it also helps me in another way. I use Goodreads to keep track of my TBR list. If you’re book is too new to be on Goodreads I often add it so that I can place it on the appropriate shelf. To do this I need some basic information. Yes, I can search Amazon for this information (this is now acceptable by GR policies) and I do. But having the basics to begin with helps me help you.

PAY ATTENTION TO THE FILE NAME
man and kindleThis is something I never would have thought of if I wasn’t running an ebook review blog. Think it through. You send me an e-file. I then log it on my TBR list and plonk it onto my Kindle, to be read at some future date. When that time comes, I search my kindle for one of two things, the title or the author’s name. If the file is called something else, god forbid Unkown (of which I have several), I’ll never find it and, therefore never read it. So take that extra second to ensure that the file you attach to your email will show up when searched for.

IF YOU’RE INCLUDING LINKS, INCLUDE THE RIGHT ONES
If you send a Smashword’s coupon include the Smashwords link, not the Amazon one. I see this all of the time. People send me a coupon for one site and then link me to another. It’s usually Amazon. I think authors want me to know it’s available there. I promise, I’ll always look. But the logistics of the problem is that I still end up having to search for the book before I can actually use that handy-dandy coupon you’ve provided me. And as anyone who searches Smashwords regularly knows, their search engine is a bit of a pain. So just providing the link upfront instead of the higher profile Amazon one makes me happy. Honestly, I would prefer no link to a useless link. I’m just saying.

KEEP A LIST
listI have on more than one occasion, received the same book from the same author 2 or 3 times. I’m assuming this isn’t harassment, so much as poor bookkeeping. This wastes everyone’s time. You waste time posting a duplicate email and I waste time trying to log it only to discover I already have it.

SERIES
If a book is 2nd, 3rd, etc in a series, I will need the previous books. This admittedly runs the risk of my reading/reviewing the first one and not continuing the series to the newest book. If that happens at least you got one review from me. But without the beginning of the series I’m almost guaranteed not to read the book you send me.

NUMBER OF REVIEWS
I know those first couple reviews are the hardest and most nerve wracking to find, but I’m unlikely to choose to read your book until you have them. The reason is that I’m going to be honest about my thoughts. That means if I disliked the book I’m going to say so. I’m not heartless though. I want to know going in that if I dislike the book and rate it poorly there are enough other reviews to balance everything out. There are a lot of dissenting views out there on the use of acquaintances for reviews. As long as they actually read the book before reviewing it I have no issue with it.

Like I said, this is an on-going list. Expect it to grow. But it’s a start. I’d be really interested in hearing from others. Have I forgotten something, missed something, mangled something? Let me know.