Category Archives: up for discussion

reading the rainbow

Wasting time…or playing with my book reviews

This post sort of came about by accident, as a result of me trying to keep myself busy. As I say in the Instagram posts below, I’m having my first real experience with sciatica. The result is that I’m largely uncomfortable if I’m walking around, but I also can’t sit for too long without stiffening up and hurting more. Yeah, it’s no fun…It is not fun.

So, in trying to find activities that I can do both while being up and about and while sitting down, I discovered that making little Pixgram videos can be a fun distraction that I’m able to do in on the go and while sedentary. As a result, I decided to make a cover reel of for each color of the rainbow. Yes, it’s random and basically just me frolicking in my digital book pile. But it’s something to keep me occupied.

After the fact, it occurred to me that, since most of these books have reviews here on the blog, there’s no reason I shouldn’t pull them all together too. Yes, it’s basically just a game and me playing in my review pile. But it is what it is.

The standard by which I chose books is set out in each of the post, but I’ll quote it here. “I only chose from books I’ve read (though not necessarily reviewed), the cover was heavy in the color I was looking for, I didn’t hate the book too badly when I read it, and I didn’t remember posting about it super recently (though, since I’ve read them, I probably have at some point). And I tended toward books that seemed like they’d not had a lot of attention.” Plus, I snagged Saint Louis Authors when I saw them. Gotta support the locals.

I’ll also add that the whole thing depended pretty heavily on chance. I literally scrolled until I found a book that matched my criteria, grabbed it and went for the next. So, it could have been this batch of books or an entirely different one. The result is that I ended up checking out some reviews I’d not had reason to look at in several years, which was fun. I forget what is buried in the review archive sometimes.

Here are the Pixgram reels and I’ll link each review below it.

The Martini of Destiny
Food of the Gods
10 Ways Io Piss Off A Reaper
The Winter Boy
A Surefire Way
Love and Fuck Poems
Technologies of the self
The Clockwork Monk
Slippery Souls
The Fire King
The Devil’s Revolver


The Prince and the Program
Storm Dancer
The Tide of War
Was Once a Hero
The Quest For Juice
Finding His Feet
The Guest of Honor
Resistance
Mars on the Rise
Gracier


A Bullet A Piece
Light a Candle
Colt Harper Esteemed Vampire Cat
Spirelli Paranormal Investigation
The Magic Laundry
Murder Takes Patience
Edge Of Desperation
100 Ghost Soup
Dhata Mays
Death Days
Season of the Wolf


Guesswork
Duende
The Flower Bowl Spell
Creature of Dreams
For the Clan
Curva Peligrosa
Alien Chicks In Citrus Bras And Stalkers From Beyond The Stars
Life After Love
King’s Raven
The Wounded Ones
Rook
Man Made Man


Last Witch Of Cahokia
Cotton and Indigo From Japan
Dancing With Gravity
Ghost
Shadowcursed
The Eighth Square
The Wizard of Crescent Moon Mountain
A Late Bite To Eat
Night Watch
Eternal Samuri
Half


Dragonspire
Welcome To My Chair
The Mechanical Universe
One Dead Vampire
God Killer
A Lesson for the Cyclops
Wild Wild ghost
Thorn and Fangs
Dear Mona Lisa
Silver Moon
Binding Shadows
liberty


 

a month in picturs april

A Month In Pictures

I found a fun thing today that I thought I’d try. Scrolling Twitter, I came across a post by Nell Iris in which she chronicled her month in 10 pictures. And I loved the idea.

It made me realize that I don’t put a lot of my life, outside of books, here on the blog, and made me wonder what I’d find if I looked back through a month of my own pictures. Like most people, my phone is full of candid shots I snap throughout the day. None of them were taken with an eye to publishing. (I didn’t even have the idea of this post yet.) But, seeing them might say a bit about me. So, here it goes.

What I found, unsurprisingly, was lots and lots of book pictures. I’m just gonna skip those. If you want to see them glance to the right or hop on over to either of my Instagram pages (@See_Sadie_Read or @Sadiesspotlight) they’ll all be there. Outside books, it was a month of cakes, nature, and dogs. And who can complain about that, really?

The month started with a picture of my almost finished new kitchen. I could rant frustratedly for an hour here, but I’ll hold myself back. Let’s just leave it at the project took significantly longer than projected and was full of complications. The last of which is that we can’t find anyone without a 3-4 MONTH wait to finish the plaster and paint! And please don’t even ask why the plaster wasn’t done before the cabinets went in. But the kitchen is complete otherwise. And we love our crazy blue countertops.

I took this picture April 9th, to send to my sister who lives out of state and therefore can’t just come over and see it.

We then spent the weekend out in woods. We have access to ~26 acres outside the city where we can go hike and bask in nature for a little while.

These pictures are taken in pretty close to the same spot, one facing north and the other south-ish. I’ve taken a picture over the bluff (toward Pelican Island Nature Preserve) pretty much every weekend for months. It’s amazing how much it changes from week to week. The whole forest, actually, not just the island.

Sadie got vaccinated

On the 16th I did something really exciting. I got my first Covid Vaccine shot. I was initially scheduled for the Johnson & Johnson single shot. But they ended up canceling the appointment and I rescheduled for the Moderna. So, I’m halfway there, folks.

And look, you even get a rare picture of me. I’d make excuses for my unfixed hair and lack of makeup. But I don’t wear makeup or do my hair (beyond a brush) normally. Honestly, this is the first time I’ve had hair that wasn’t in a pixie style in years. And only because it’s a covid-do. I’ve not been for a haircut since before quarantine started. So, this is me on any regular day.

We then spent the weekend out in the woods again, where the dogs (Motoko and Batou) were exceptionally cute. I got some great snaps of them and my husband. But I’ve cropped him out, since he wouldn’t appreciate being splashed on the internet. He’s shy that way. And you can also see, as always, there are books about, even in the woods.

I was also interested to see all the different kinds of wild flowers starting to peak out. I photographed some of them with the intent to google and see what they are. (Not good at identifying flowers, me.) But I never actually got around to it. Anyone have any ideas?

And then I ended the month with two unrelated cake encounters. My mother-in-law frequently sends boxes of treats to my children. It’s a thing. Included this last time was a Swizzels Parma Violets Cupcake Kit. This is not really something I want in my cupboard, but oh well. Eventually, I decided the solution was just to make the darned thing and then it would be gone. And since I have a friend who is getting back into cake decorating, and I’d just been talking to her about it, I decided to try my hand at actually decorating them, instead of just slabbing the icing on. The results were OK for a newbie, I think.

swizzlw sweets parma violet cup cakes

But I got really lucky a few days later when the same friend who’d prompted me to try my hand at decorating gave me a cake she’d decorated. You seeeeeee, one has to decorate a cake to practice. But one doesn’t actually need to be eating all the cakes they practice on. Lucky me!

Renee's cake

Her cake is admittedly better than mine. But then, she’s not a beginner either. And it tasted good too. No cake mixes in her cabinets. Again, lucky us!

So that’s all folks. That’s my month of April in 14 pictures. I had fun with it. I think I’ll do it again next month. I’d like to say I’ll make it a monthly thing. But, honestly, I’m not good about sticking to such commitments. So, instead I’ll say, it’s going to be my goal to do a month in pictures at the end of each month. What do you think?

Taking A Moment To Check Myself

A few moments ago I received a message on Goodreads that started out:

I’ve been thinking about messaging you and asking you to check out my book for a few days, but I was quite nervous considering how critical and honest your reviews are. Then, I told myself that I might as well and that every review I read from you had a pretty good and constructive critique, so at least I might learn what to make better next time. The harsh feedback is always what I learn the best from. (Though obviously, I’d still like to think that you would enjoy the book, lol)

And I suppose I could gripe about getting hit up on Goodreads for a review, instead of the request coming through the the process I’ve set up here on the blog. (No, I’ll never pass up  an opportunity to point out how many people don’t follow directions, in the hopes of correcting the trend.) But I almost feel like this wasn’t a formal enough request to warrant it. Or maybe I’m just so distracted by something else in it that I can’t be bothered.

nervous woman-Image by Eleatell from PixabayThe thing that most struck me about this message is the author saying she “was quite nervous considering how critical and honest your reviews areThe harsh feedback…*” Yes, the comment is couched in compliments, but it still really made me stop and think. (For the record, I’m not calling the author in question out in any manner. She neither insulted nor upset me; just caused me to consider her word choice, never a bad thing.)

One would think being honest could never be a unappreciated. But anyone who truly believes that hasn’t spent much time in the book reviewing community while we endlessly debate what should and shouldn’t be included in a review. A large contingent lives by “If you have nothing nice to say, say nothing at all.”

And critique has it’s place, of course, even harsh critique. But the phrasing, the admittal of nervousness to ask me to review their work is awful close to implying that my reviews come across as overtly critical, as in primarily focusing on the negative. Is this how I come across, I wondered.

I’ve been writing reviews here on the blog, Goodreads, and Amazon for 7+ years. And it’s an unfortunate reality that familiarity breeds contempt. I don’t mean this to suggest I find books, authors, or reviews/reviewers contemptible⍣. But rather, it would be quite easy to have let myself slip into a mental space in which I throw out reviews easily, without giving enough gravity to how they might be received.

Yes, there are all sorts of caveats here. Reviews are for readers, not authors. I’m not obligated to be polite when saying I dislike something. I’m 100% not required to keep my trap shut if I dislike something. I am allowed to be as rude, churlish, and bitchy as I like, etc. etc. etc. But the reality is that that’s not the real me. I am generally one of those people that want their say (will insist on it), but don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings.

woman-Image by Eleatell from PixabayAnd the comment above makes me wonder if I’ve let myself be a little too laissez faire lately and come across as an angry harridan with nothing positive to say, instead of a considered reviewer that also happens to be honest when she dislikes a book. That’s not the same thing and not the reviewer I want to be. I don’t want authors to be afraid of me or my words.

I hope that isn’t giving myself too much importance. One person being nervous, does not a tyrant make. But this was a good reminder to be mindful of my general mien, not just each individual review. A reviewer can be judged by the whole of their work as easily as any individual piece of it.

Goodreads stats as of 3/30/3021

So far this year, I’m averaging just about an even 3★ rating, which makes sense. I feel like that’s how it should be. Most books I neither love nor hate, and I would hope for a roughly even number of books I do. But if I stop and think of some of the reviews I’ve written recently, I can think of some that I probably could have been more diplomatic in my phrasing. The question is, should I have been? Or does honest vitriol have a place too? Where is the line that allows for that without tripping the reviewer over into bitch territory?

I’d like authors to know they’ll get an honest review from me, but also trust that I won’t be needlessly cruel if their book and I don’t get along. I’ll probably never be bubbly enough, as a person, to be seen as a softball reviewer (and I wouldn’t want to be). I just don’t think I have enough of the fan-girl in me. But I also don’t want to be the reviewer that everyone knows will trash their book for the sheer joy of it. That really isn’t who I am or why I do this. It’s not where my joy comes from!

So, I’m taking this opportunity to recenter, to step back and ensure that I am more thoughtful and considered in my words and reviews from here on out. Maybe it’s not needed and everything was fine to start with. But honestly, can trying being more considerate ever put you in bad stead? (Can you be in bad stead, or only good…hmmm?)

And yes, in case you’re curious, I agreed to read the book in question above and I hope with my whole heart to love it.


 

*On a complete side note, it’s been my anecdotal experience that this is one of the primary differences between male and female authors seeking reviews. I 100% can’t imagine a male author preceding their review request with an admittal that they are nervous about it.

⍣OK, maybe there is a small, self-aggrandizing subset that I could do without.