The Reader Behind That Review You Hated

My last post was about the author behind the book you hated, but in order to make this issue a bit balanced, I decided to write a post about the reviewer. When a bad review comes along, authors probably don’t stop to think about the person who actually took the time to put that review out there and what their purpose was in writing a bad review.

Right now, I’ll tell you that I don’t rate or review books and I’m sure some of you may think I have no business writing a post about the reviewer. Luckily, this is my blog so what I say goes!

Sometimes, I’m completely confused about some of the reviews I’ve read online, especially those reviews for some of the books I absolutely loved. Is that the same book I read? Nope…couldn’t possible be. But it is!  People see things in totally different ways. Just as all writers bring something different to the page so do all readers.

A friend of mine told me she had a difficult time with my last book because she grew up in a home where alcohol was a really big issue and, like the protagonist, Cammie, she didn’t know who her father was. I totally understood why she might find, “Flying with a Broken Wing” a difficult read. Cammie’s aunt Millie is a bootlegger, after all, but I never would have thought of this book as being “difficult” for anyone to read. Many people have found it funny, in fact.  Still, her comment opened my eyes a little bit to the experience that each reader brings to a book. There could be many reasons why someone disliked a book or even wrote a bad review that might not have a thing to do with the story or the writing itself. Perhaps there was something in the book that reminded them of a bad experience they had or one of the characters reminded them of someone who made their lives miserable and they just couldn’t get past that.

We can’t know what all makes up that reader’s life experience, who they are and where they’ve been. Did they grow up in a loving household? Maybe they’re unwell or feeling unloved or lonely. There are so many factors that could go into this. Perhaps the only way they have of expressing their negative feelings is to lash out in words. Perhaps again, they feel an obligation to warn other readers that they’re about to waste their valuable time reading that 500 page book that they determined was gibberish.

One thing I have come to understand about this world I live in and my experience in it, my opinion, and my expression of that opinion, is only important to me (and perhaps the sacred few who value what that opinion might be.) I have lived long enough to know that, while opinions are sometimes important, many times they really are not. What I like or what I don’t like makes absolutely no difference in the big scheme of things. We won’t all like the same book, any more than we’ll all like the same clothes or food or cars or people. Thank goodness!

I’m all for responsible reviews where a reviewer is able to give their opinion about a book, maybe even point out some obvious flaws if they feel so inclined, hopefully in a constructive way. It’s important. Diversity makes this world a better place to live.

Any writer will agree that expressing yourself through words is important. We were born to communicate, but communicating in a responsible way only makes you look classy and maybe earns you some respect along the way if you care about those things. Truthfully, those things aren’t important to everyone. I know that.

I love what author Sue Harrison had to say about my last post. If a novel is too horrible, I simply don’t review it. Why break somebody’s heart because of my (perhaps erroneous) opinion!?!”   Smart lady!

Have you ever given consideration to the reader behind the review? Has your own life experiences ever influenced your reading experience when it came to a certain book? Have you ever wondered about the reader behind that bad review?

The Author Behind That Book You Hate

As young reader I can’t recall ever reading a book and thinking it was horrible. I was much more accepting, much more willing to read a book with open eyes, not critically looking and examining what I believed to be faults in the story or the writing. I just read for the love of reading. I accepted the story for what it was. But then, that’s the beauty of youth, the way we keep our minds and hearts open, and simply allow stories to entertain us without judgment or malice. Weren’t we just the cutest things back then?

Today, it doesn’t seem to be that way. People are reading and reviewing and rating (they have every right to of course) but a part of me can’t help but wonder what happened to plain old reading for enjoyment. Why does everything have to be rated and what it the purpose behind these ratings? Some argue that it helps them decide if they want to read a book, but with so many varying opinions how could you possibly decide if a book is beautifully written or not and worth your time? If twenty people rave on about a book, there are bound to be some who absolutely hate it. Guaranteed.

Having your work out there to be scrutinized by others isn’t the easiest thing in the world, people. Ask any author. But it’s part of the territory, like it or lump it. We write the best story we can and, God willing, we might be able to share it with others. But there’s always going to be someone who won’t care about the work you put into it or what it means to the author to be able to express themselves with the written word. I’m not sure there is any other craft out there that comes under fire the way writing does. People can get nasty. I’ve seen it, myself, in the reviews of some of my favourite books and I wonder what would cause another person to write such nastiness. I’m all for honest reviews. If someone didn’t like a book they didn’t like it.

Behind every book, good or bad, there is a person. Someone who put their heart and soul into the story they want to tell. Hopefully, people will one day read it. And when/if they do, they’ll form opinions. They’ll either like it or they won’t. One thing I know for sure is, we won’t like every book we read, no more than everyone will like the book we write. It’s a fact of life. But being an author, I try to be as objective as I can and while I won’t like every book I read, I certainly respect the writer for creating it. Many, many hours goes into the writing of a book. We write and then we rewrite. Then rewrite some more. It’s a craft worthy of respect.

Honestly, I never used to think about the author behind the book until I became an author myself. I never wondered who they were or what kind of life they had. I only ever thought of them as an author, as if writing was their entire life. Of course, today, an author bio is on the back of books and we can get a small glimpse of who that person behind the book is. But that doesn’t tell a complete story. No bio I’ve read has ever told me that an author is trustworthy, honest or loyal. Or that they’re warm or caring and have a heart as big as the outdoors. I’ve not read a bio that told me how the author worked at perfecting his/her craft, working through the pain of rejection to produce something they truly believe in. Nor would you read in an author bio that someone’s nasty review was so hurtful that the author never wrote that second or third book because they stopped after number one. Nope, you won’t find any of those things in a bio. Although I’m not sure many people would even be interested in any of that and I’m sorry for sounding a little bit cynical at the moment

So while I don’t expect you all to love every book you read maybe you might stop for a moment and consider the author behind that book you either loved or hated.

 

Have you ever given any thought to the author behind the book you loved or  hate? Do you consider the idea that the reviews you write might be read by the author? Would you care?

Guess Who’s Back?

Oh wow! Am I ever glad to be back— proper theme and all. Comet…Darn it. I should have remembered. I mean, one of Santa’s reindeer and all. Thank you, Linda Cassidy Lewis, you’re a genius.  If you were here I’d throw my arms around you and squeeze tight whether you wanted me to or not.  ;)  For the life of me I couldn’t remember the name of my last theme, but you had the answer. Okay, so I’m just a little bit giddy at the moment.  Sometimes the Universe does provide the answer. I can now take my “frig” away. I’m happy.  :)

Okay, So I Frigged It Up Myself

It’s okay to use the word “frig” in a blog post title, right? If not, I guess it’s too late now. But here’s the scoop, the thing I frigged up is my blog. Don’t tell me ya didn’t notice. I hate it. But I guess I’m stuck with it at least for a little while.

A word of advice. Don’t frig with your blog theme while on dial-up. Okay, so who am I kidding.? I don’t think anyone else on the web has dial-up except me. Sheesh!

Do you realize just how many themes are out there on WordPress and just how long they all take to load with a dial-up connection? Try hours!  My dial-up connection is SO slow. Okay, so this is where you ask, How Slow is it? My dial-up connection is so slow that I keep a book handy to read while I’m waiting for pages to load. Seriously, folks. I could have read through an entire volume of encyclopedias by this time. It’s slowly killing me. Anyway, since I can’t remember the name of the theme I had before I can’t even scroll through the “unloaded” themes and reactivate it.

So for now, I’m stuck with this one. Dial-up. Pffff.  Sorry, but for now, maybe forever it’s my reality, my curse for living in a wooded area where I can’t have access to the only “high speed” (and I put that in quotes as it’s the slowest high speed there is) available. So, send me a few good vibes so that I can figure this out and get my old theme back.  Frig.

 

The Twelfth of Never

You ask how much I need you
Must I explain
I need you, oh my darlin’
Like roses need rain
You ask how long I’ll love you
I’ll tell you true
Until the “Twelfth of Never”
I’ll still be loving you

Hold me close
Never let me go
Hold me close
Melt my heart like April snow

I’ll love you ’til the bluebells forget to bloom
I’ll love you ’til the clover has lost its perfume
I’ll love you ’til the poets run outta rhyme
Until the “Twelfth of Never”
And that’s a long, long time
Until the “Twelfth of Never”
And that’s a long, long time
That’s a long, long time
That’s a long, long time

Has something in your life ever triggered a song to rise to the surface? I woke up with the Twelfth of Never rattling around my head. The version from the seventies– Donny Osmond– that I was crazy about at the time.  And just a little bit in love with Donny for a few short months. Weren’t most of us who grew up in the era?

But why the Twelfth of Never?  April snow, that’s  why. Whenever we have April snow you can be sure I’m singing this song. You know, the line “Melt my heart like April snow ”  just won’t get out of my head.

april snow

It might have seemed like an April Fool’s joke, but no, Mother Nature decided to “Let there be snow,’ and this is what had me singing sappy love songs on the 25th of April. Just when we’d been tricked into thinking that spring had arrived. I snapped this photo of some Canada  geese that have been hanging around our property lately earlier in the week.

geese

Spring is out there. I guess we need to be a bit more patient…Again.

Is there a certain song that comes to mind during different times in your life? What song is it? Are you old enough, or young enough, to remember the Twelfth of Never?

Book Giveaway!

Lynn Davidson is giving away a copy of “Flying With a Broken Wing,” on her blog. Hey, that’s my book! If you’d like the chance to  win a copy head on over. Here’s the link.  In the meantime I’ll share this photo with you. I just love it. I know it’s early for Peonies but I don’t really care. It seems that spring has finally arrived and I can hardly wait for them to bloom. With the winter we had who can blame me? Oh, and Happy Easter!

237

 

“Flying” to South Africa

A few weeks back this photo arrived in my inbox from Madelyn Bowers of New Germany. I love it when you all send me photos of my book in other locations. Not only does my book get to travel, but it shows me that there are so many thoughtful people in the world who are indulging this author’s travel fantasy by  taking my book with them around the globe. Now THAT’S really special.

GEMadelyn, and her husband, Peter, were in South Africa visiting their daughter recently. Madelyn writes, “I took along your book (she is a journalist and writer so I try to keep  her in touch with local authors as she grew up here) and it went to Cape Town with us.  We did a bus tour and stopped at Table Mountain.  Unfortunately it was foggy on the mountain so we didn’t go up, but at lower cable station you have a good view of Cape Town.  Apparently it is
about 302 m above sea level.  So that is where the picture is taken.”

This is SO cool. Keep sending the photos. I love sharing them. Thanks Madelyn.  :)

Amy’s Marathon of Books—Guest Blog Post

I’m so excited to announce that Amy Mathers has kindly agreed to be a guest on my blog today. Perhaps you’ve already hear of Amy and her Marathon of Books. She’s been getting quite a bit of media covering and, yes, she even appeared on Canada AM a few weeks back! The buzz around Amy and her “Marathon of Books,” began back in December and continues to grow. If you care about books, teen books in particular, I hope you’ll support Amy and her quest to raise $100,000 dollars to endow a Canadian teen book award. I know you’ll be inspired by Amy’s story and her determination to help promote teen fiction in this country. To date Amy has raised $10,000 dollars toward her goal. I think that’s an amazing feat in itself. If you’d like to support Amy, why not pop on over to her website HERE and find out how. 
Dear Laura Best Blog Readers,
AmyMy name is Amy Mathers and Laura has kindly invited me to write a guest post for her website. I am currently reading my way across Canada with Canadian teen fiction books. My Marathon of Books is a year-long venture and I have been reading a book a day since January 1st. I started my reading journey in St. John’s, Newfoundland by reading books either set in St. John’s or written by authors either born or living in St. John’s. I’m going province by province and territory by territory, and after 90 days of reading I am now reading my way through Quebec.
The goal of my Marathon of Books is to raise money to fund a Canadian teen fiction book award to be given out on a yearly basis by the Canadian Children’s Book Centre. Currently they award six cash Canadian children’s book awards at a yearly awards gala, but none of them are specifically for teen fiction.
As a volunteer for the Canadian Children’s Book Centre and an avid fan of teen literature, I felt not having a specific teen award to support the efforts of our incredibly talented Canadian teen fiction authors was a real gap, and one that I hoped I could do something about.
You see, books have played an important role in my life. I was born with a genetic illness called Glycogen Storage Disease (GSD), type 3A. It’s considered to be a metabolic disease, but also a type of muscular dystrophy. My type affects the liver, heart, and muscles, and my case was so severe that I needed and received a liver transplant when I was five, and then a heart transplant when I was 27. I am now 31 years old.
Terry Fox is my hero, and I love the message he sent to Canadians through Marathon of Hope that people dealing with disabilities and illness could still live the lives they wanted to live despite their limitations.
But having a muscular dystrophy made me different than Fox, and even different than Rick Hansen. I use an electric wheelchair for mid to long distances and while dealing with chronic illness my whole life long has given me the fortitude of a marathon runner, I am not physically able to be one.
Instead of being a runner, I am a reader, and I realised that I could be like Fox and Hansen in a different way, by reading my way across Canada instead of running or pushing myself in a manual wheelchair. It’s a journey of the mind through literature, and I am experiencing everything Canada has to offer.
A typical marathon day starts with me reading a book that can range from just under a hundred pages to over 400 pages. I take the rest of the day to think about and write a review to prove that I’ve read the book and hopefully promote it, and also a daily Tumblr post to let my followers know about my reading experiences.
Some nights I’m up pretty late finishing my writing, because depending on how my body is doing that day and if I had other events going on, my brain can take time to work things out. Also, while I had figured out that I could read about 10 pages in six minutes, I didn’t take into account page size, spacing, and font size which affects my reading speed on a daily basis. Terry Fox could run a kilometre in about six minutes, and so every ten pages I read counts a kilometre across Canada in my Marathon of Books. I’m up to 19,532 pages of reading, which translates to 1953.2 kilometres travelled across Canada.
My favourite part about my Marathon of Books is that I’ve had tremendous author support. I’ve heard from the likes of Deborah Ellis, Eric Walters, Vicki Grant, Gordon Korman, and, of course, Laura Best. I’ve read so many books that I probably would have never heard about or picked up before my journey, and I love getting to review each one and brag about the talent our country has. Also, with all of the books that helped me through my life, letting me experience what I couldn’t physically and providing me with the mental strength I needed to face my situation, not to mention my profound love of Canada and its health care system, I can’t help but feel that my Marathon of Books is a wonderful way for me to say thank you for all that I have been given.
I hope you’ll visit my website, www.amysmarathonofbooks.ca, to read my reviews and for more information. I’ve already reviewed Laura Best’s Bitter, Sweet which you can read here: http://amysmarathonofbooks.ca/bitter-sweet/. Also, I encourage you to take the 13 Book Challenge and read your own way across Canada through reading one teen fiction book from each province and territory. If you do take the challenge, I hope you will get in touch with me and tell me about your reading journey.
Warmly,
Amy Mathers
Thank you Amy. It’s been such a pleasure to have you visit my blog. I wish you all the best and will continue to watch your progress in the coming months!
You can follow Amy on twitter,  Goodreads Facebook, tumblr and Youtube.

Author! Author!

Writer, Sandra Phinney has a series on her website called, Author! Author! You’ll find an interview with me there if you pop on over. Find out about how, “Flying With a Broken Wing” came into being. Oh, and Sandra says to feel free to post question! Here’s the link.  Sandraphinney.com.  Hope to see some of your there!

 

 

Author Unknown

Have you ever wondered who Anonymous is? Now, I’m speaking about Anonymous in the literary sense. You know, those  people who penned the perfect poem, the absolute sublime quote that gets to the heart of our very existence. The internet is filled with these lyrical expressions that all go under the name of Anonymous or Unknown, or Author Unknown. But that is impossible of course. Someone somewhere knows, or knew, who that unknown scribe was, the scribe themselves if no one else. Words do not miraculously appear into the world all on their own. There has to be someone behind them.

A bit of poking around and I quickly discovered mountains of anonymous quotes. Here are a few that I kind of like. Seriously, the list could go on forever.

“Everyone is entitled to be stupid, but some abuse the privilege.” 

 “Everything has been figured out, except how to live.” 

 “Life is not what you live but what you love” 

 “A wise man can see more from the bottom of a well than a fool can from a mountain 

 “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” 

I’m sure there are instances where the writer didn’t start out as “Anonymous” but somewhere along the way someone used their quote without remembering who the author was and, presto, they suddenly became “Anonymous.” But for the most part I think of these anonymous writers as people who perhaps wanted to draw more attention to their words of wisdom then themselves.

I do think there is something to be said about the anonymous writer, who can set their inner most thoughts down without fear or judgment of those around them. Writing is one of those professions that really puts the writer out there under public scrutiny. You only need look at some of the book reviews on Goodreads to know what I’m talking about. I’ve read some pretty despairing comments about some of my best beloved authors and books that I absolutely loved.

Expressing oneself though the written word is a little tricky by times— words of course being as powerful as they are whether spoken, written or thought. It is our way of communicating, of showing others another way of viewing the world. While some try to force their idea onto others, many people use words as a vehicle to put their ideas, believes, values, and thoughts about life into the world, and hopefully, others will appreciate what the author has to say. Some writers do this by creating people, places and events, and if we take time to examine the words within those stories we’ll often find some hidden treasure. Other writers don’t shy away from what it is they wish to express. They can get down to the real nitty-gritty of what’s on their minds. And thank goodness for that since not everyone is interested in treasure-hunting nor do they have the tools to unlock those buried nuggets. Some of us simply read for the love of a good story, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

I have wondered from time to time what words would surface in my writing if I were anonymous. I do think that it would make a difference in the stories, or even blog posts, that I might produce. I’m sure there are times when many writers pull back, even a little, for fear of what others might think or wonder about them. I’ve had people say, “I don’t know what thoughts go through your head” or that my thoughts even scare them. Honestly, I think we all have our share of scary thoughts that go no farther than our own minds. Writers put these thoughts on paper for everyone to see, and that’s where the difference comes in.

Anonymous brings freedom with it, the shedding off of people’s judgment of our words and perhaps we’d be more willing to share the thoughts of “Anonymous”, hand down those precious words though the ages than, say, some writer with the last name “Best.” That’s just an example, I’m not insinuating that my words are profound or at all inspiring, but you know what I mean.

Have you ever given thought to the “Anonymous” writer? If you were “Anonymous” do you think it would change the way you express yourself in the world?

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