Tag Archives: Readers

Special Guest: Bella F

It’s that time again, my lovelies! The third Saturday of each month wherein I ask a [strictly] reader to come and share his or her thoughts. (Well, okay, so authors are welcome too, but space is solely  for those with only their reader hats firmly on.) Ms. Bella is also a lifesaver, as she stepped in. I loved this post and her thoughts. I also can’t wait to hear your responses to her questions!

“In Western Civilization, our elders are books.”―Gary Snyder           

Every now and then something inexplicable happens to me and it seems like the universe is trying to speak to me through others. It’s a very Oprah thing to think, I know. But lately I can’t help but feel that the universe conspires to speak to us with little coincidences that happen in ways that statistically make them much more than coincidence. This is mystifying yet wondrous to me because I’m not one who believes in fate, lol!

One of the main ways I experience this phenomenon is through random books that seemingly fall in my lap. Sometimes just the right book lands in my hands for reading at just the right time. It’s more than serendipity because it’s more than just finding an enjoyable book or a fun new series. It is more of a synchronicity that happens, just when I need it most in my life. It feels like a sort of connection happens more than just a coincidence.

I once read somewhere that books are powerful because they are people talking to mass audiences not only in different places but also in different times, able to reach out to future generations and to people other mediums aren’t capable of reaching. I think about this when I read a book that particularly moves me or challenges me in ways I hadn’t expected. When I feel a personal paradigm shift occurring from simply reading a book (a technology that is centuries old!), I marvel at how amazing it is that reading and the process of internalizing the story can impact me so much.

Even more impressive to me is that the majority of the stories that do this to me most are fiction. I think it’s common to think fiction is just for fun but I find that, for me, it’s often more transformative than anything nonfiction I’ve ever read. The biggest surprise was when I began reading romance novels in 2008 and I realized they were some of the most life-altering reads for me. Pretty good for a genre often dismissed as trashy, superficial, and of no literary value, huh?

There have been a lot of books in my life. All made their mark on me and in some way added to the person I am now. But among them all there are outliers; books that stand out because they seemingly came from out of nowhere, weren’t on my radar at all, and yet somehow find me and get me to read them at just the exact time when they are capable of meaning so much to me.  I most recently experienced this with a book called Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion. It was a book I’d heard great things about when it released but I wasn’t really planning on reading it. Then I won a copy and was asked to discuss it with a book club! It has turned out to be a favorite for me, and the writing was so good it had me thinking about all kinds of aspects of my life in different ways.

So how about y’all: Any books in your life ever seem to be kismet for you? Does it happen to you often, do you have just a few outliers, or is it something that hasn’t happened to you in your reading life? What was the last book that seemed like the universe sent it to you just when you needed it most?

Riding the Curve

A topic that everyone seems to talk about, but nobody (well, ok, so few are) is open about is reviews. So what am I going to do? Beat that horse carcass, of course! I’ve written about reviews before when I was with TGTBTU, and recently (okay, so a while ago. I’ve been delaying publishing this post a lot.) I believe it was Jessica who linked to a thoughtful post about reviews. When I’ve asked about them in the past, many readers say they like the one star reviews. Some say they only buy books based on one star reviews.

Well, I guess that horse might still have some life in it, because I’m going to talk about something else. Grading to a curve. I didn’t like the concept of them in undergrad, and they definitely made my life miserable in law school, but now… I can see a point to them. Well, in general. Do I think someone who has a 94% in a class should get a B+ just to fit the curve? No. Will I “assign grades” to books based on that system? Of course not.

In fact, I’m even playing with the idea of no grades. Total rebel right? There are objective and subjective aspects to grades… and nobody’s ever going to be entirely satisfied. My point and explanation is… while reviewers generally try to be as objective as possible… a tiny part of it is subjective. It happens the same way in academia. (Like if you have a particularly stupid class, people who might’ve been getting C’s a previous year will be getting A’s this semester.) And no matter what a teacher/professor says, his or her pet is going to come out better in the subjective “class participation” grade component. Grades gives us some sort of basis, or measurement.

The word “average” has acquired such a negative connotation. Perhaps “status quo” would be better received. That fancy Latin makes it smarter and thus better, of course. It’s a middle point. Many books are good. Dare I say most books are good? After all someone out there thought they were publishable. And thus, marketable and profitable. Books aren’t sold and printed on good will, there’s someone out there who thinks it’s a good business decision. The point of the book then, is to make money for both the publisher and author.

That point being understood, we should expect most books out there to be good. Consequently, a book that gets an average grade, could very well be good, and generally is. There are just ones out there that surpass it. They’re above average. Superior. Fantastic. Those are your B and A books. Four of five stars, books, hearts, coffee cups, apples, flames, whatever. Double it and you get the same thing – it just seems better.

There are many arguments as to whether reviews are objective or subjective… or whether reviews can possibly even be objective. I don’t want to go there. What I am curious about, however, is, do you “grade” books on a curve? Whether consciously or unconsciously? And this is a question across the board – not just for reviewers. Because everyone thinks “I like book X better than book Y… but not quite as much as book Z.” That’s a system of some sort, right?

I have to admit, I never would have thought I’d use a curve, even an informal one. (I definitely don’t have a checklist or sit there making a side by side comparison of each book or a group of books.) However, I will have to say that I’ve sometimes agonized over grades because I wavered between them, and went to check previous books I liked more or less, and looked at what grades those books got. I feel that in that at least, most people can be objective. I almost think you have to make the comparisons in order to make it work.

The question is then… do you want to see grades or not? Do you care to? While so many people shy away from assigning a grade, it seems those who look at reviews gravitate towards those first. The grade is a summary of the review in a one image or letter/character statement, that tells what the reader thought of the book. Good, Bad, or Awesome. I have to say that when buying books, if I’m looking at reviews, I want to see the grade. I actually oftentimes avoid the text of the reviews, because I don’t want any spoilers, or to be influenced by someone else’s opinions or reactions.

In the end – what do you look at in reviews? Do you look at reviews? It’s always been rather ironic – and yet something I freely admit… I don’t love reviews. Oftentimes I avoid them for the aforementioned reasons. And yet I write them. Guess I am one opinionated bitch. *angelface*

News and a Plea… of sorts…

So you obviously know about my fledgling blog if you’re here. (And can I just tell you how jazzed I am that you are? Big sloppy thank yous!) Anyway, I’m trying to make this thing sustainable, and I have the attention span of a two year old (that’s being generous). Those two are rather conflicting purposes? Concepts? Truths?

My point is, I scheduled in advance then. I’ve asked a few authors to guest blog. Not as book tours or anything like that (though I’m open to the potentiality of those  – you can contact me on the nifty form you see above) – just as a… fun thing and a “regularly scheduled programming” type thing for my blog. Also, it keeps me accountable and on the ball. I also didn’t want this to turn into a promo blog because, well that’s not my purpose. I love pimping out authors and sharing the awesome book love, but that’s not my goal so I’ve got guest reader bloggers lined up too. Nearly through 2012. Yes, through. This is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, so it’s thrilling to get the chance now. I’ve only had one outright rejection, and a few non-responses. [You can see the “schedule” as it were on the nice little calendar page.]

Which takes us to my plea. Does anyone know how to add a widget to a wordpress blog page? The kicker is… this is a free blog. I know if I pay to have it hosted somewhere, then it’d be easy and I’d just edit the HTML/CSS/whatever. (Ok, so I’m not techy but I could figure it out.) The thing is, I’m poor. I’ve got to keep this thing free, unless the magic money fairy visits me and plants a money tree in the back yard that flowers USD perpetually, or I win the lottery, the probability of either of those things happening feels about equal to the likelihood of me finding a job… < / bitterness > You get the point. So… would that be possible? Having a calendar widget type thing in a new page without having to go into CSS editing since I can’t with a free blog? I’d love to have something in calendar view that’s actually a calendar. Anyone? Help?

And, back to your “regularly scheduled programming.” I considered for about 5 seconds doing daily posts. That’s not going to happen. So I thought about three a week, then was scared I’d run out of content, so I’m planning on updating every Tuesday, and Saturday. These Thursday posts – well they serve dual purposes. For me to tell you about how this is all going to go down, and also to have a bit more content since this blog is so very new.

The first Tuesday of every month I’ll be having a “Guest Author & A Giveaway.” February is slightly different because Marie Force will be visiting with us the third Tuesday, because Alexandra Hawkins won’t actually be doing a guest post due to her schedule. June is also different because it’s my birthday month, and if I can’t do it up big on my own blog… well that’s not a concern because I can. The third Saturday of every month will be a guest blog post from a reader. First up, we have Rowena, who was incredibly kind and generous and agreed to be my first v̶i̶c̶t̶i̶m̶reader guest.

Photo credit to Salvatore Vuono & http://www.freedigitalphotos.net

If there’s ever “breaking news” [hah- cuz I’m so on top of things] you know, I’ll toss that in there. Or another fundraising drive like Social Good day. 🙂 So there you have it. Now you know what to expect, and you can keep me accountable! Also come February I expect to schedule posts at say 12:03 AM instead of 11:03 AM EST… Yes, they are arbitrary and random times. Kinda like me! 😉

*Incidentally, if you’ve emailed me but I never responded… I’ve learned from some other people that my email account has been… well, a brat, and rejecting things? Generally a second try works – but… do please try again! I’m not ignoring you, promise! And even though I’m bad with email I’m usually not that bad…