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?

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.

Reflections

Today we said goodbye to our minister. The three churches in the parish came together for a service and potluck to mark the occasion. There were gifts and goodbyes, and a few tears shed. She’d only been with us for a year and many of us were sad to see her go. For the year we had her we came to expect the unexpected, seeing her dressed as a church mouse on one occasion and even a clown. She made us laugh and sometimes cry. She helped us to extend ourselves in kindness and be more than we previously were. While we’ve always been a parish that cared, with her we cared even more.

For Easter I gave her a copy of my book. I’m always amazed at what meaning every reader finds in a book, what themes present themselves to that particular reader. I think it all depends upon where we are in our own lives, and if we’re looking for some deeper meaning or simply to be entertained. I’ve had different reactions to my novel. Some people saw it as an entertaining story, while others were left wondering if it was a true story or one that I had made up. Rightly so, our minister saw certain things in the book as a reflection of my life, my beliefs, and things that can only come from the heart.

As we discussed the book, she mentioned how very important the connection of the three generations of women plays in the book. “Remember that as you go ahead in your writing,” she said later. I explained that when I started writing the book, much of what came to me wasn’t at all planned. She completely understood. Of course she would.

I’m often made aware of themes popping up when I’m writing a story even though I don’t knowingly go about putting them there. It just happens, as if the story is being eased in a certain direction all on it’s own. When I started writing Bitter, Sweet, I had no plans of writing about healing plants when I named one of the children Flora. Nor did I know I would be called to reflect upon a memory I had of my father digging gold thread from the ground.

For the most part I try to ignore these things while I’m writing for fear that it will get in the way of the story, but it’s there, running in the background. I’m not oblivious to it. Later, once the story has been written, I can take the time reflect upon these things.

While some stories seem to come directly from the heart, others are complete figments of our imagination, but I’m inclined to think that every story reflects something in the author’s life– thoughts, feeling, beliefs, opinions, memories. The same can be said for any one who is creative. We put our heart and soul in our work. We make it a reflection of who we are, who we’ve been, who we will become. Even our blogs tell something about us. That something is what draws others to come visit.

Lately, I’ve had many moments of reflection in my life. Reflection is never planned. It just happens. It’s important, not just for writers but for all of us. As I think about the next book I’ll write I can’t help but wonder what parts of myself will be layered between the pages. What I am sure of is this, it won’t be planned, it will just happen.

Do you believe that our creative endeavours reflect who we are? For the writers out there— do themes show up in your writing all on their own?

Are You a Book Cheater?

Many people openly admit to being unfaithful to the book they’re reading. They even admit to being involved with, not just two but, multiple books at the same time.

With so many great books out there it’s sometimes difficult to settled down with just one book. Tough to resist, I know. Right now, I’ve got three books pulling on my shirtsleeve, flashing me with their pretty covers. Worse yet they sit there winking whenever I walk past. Flirts!

I’ll admit it’s a big temptation, and sometimes I’m weak and pathetic. I catch myself taking sneak glances at them, even arranging them about on the coffee table just so. But I’ve vowed to be a faithful reader. I’m not about to cheat.  I’m a one-book woman.

So what? It’s a free county, right? We’re free to read one, two, three even four books, heck we can court an entire library shelf if we want. Who’s to stop us?

Exactly.

I’m not going to get into any big moral issues here ‘cause I ain’t your mama. Nor am I here to judge. What I am is curious about the experience of being a book cheater. We can call it research if you want.

So for the sake of research I’ll pose this question. Do you believe it’s possible to love a book, follow the plot and characters when we are not faithful to the book we’re reading? Will we confuse the Bob in one book with the Harry in another? Will we remember that Meg likes coloured stones, hates cottage cheese and is the third child in a family of circus performers who have been travelling about the country since being placed in a witness protection program? Can we fully appreciate a book, and its characters, when we have multiple books on the brain?

I’ve known people who admit they just weren’t that “into” a particular book. Fair enough, every book isn’t for me, and I certainly don’t fall in love with each and every book I read. However, having said that, I do question their ability to judge a book fairly once they admit that they were reading several others at the same time. Instead of a read that should have taken a few days at most, it ended up stretching out for weeks as it was picked up, abandoned for another, and then another, not to mention the two week vacation they took over the Christmas holidays where they refused to read anything more taxing than the noontime special at their favourite restaurant before finally, finally running back begging for a second chance.

For me, a book has always been an experience, a whole little world nestled between the covers, a place for me to submerge myself, a place that will either end up being a good experience or a not so good one. Seems to me that the more books I  choose to become involved with, the more difficult it would be not to whisper Brian’s name when I’m reading about Fred. Talk about embarrassing.

Another thing I can’t imagine is how anyone can rate a book or writing a review if they are attracted to another, or three, at the same time.

 It’s not uncommon to see people listing multiple books as *currently reading* on Goodreads, but is it fair to any book if you show interest in another? Now I’m not attempting to try and tell anyone how to run their reading lives. I’m just curious about how the other half of the book-reading public live.

Confession time:

Are you a book cheater? Do you often romance more than one book at a time? Do you think you can fully appreciate or not appreciate a book when reading multiple books at one time?

Little Stinker

Okay I’ll admit it— I’ve been slack this past week. My WIP has not been worked on at all. It is true, I did put up a blog post but it takes little effort to hit publish once the post is waiting and ready to go. I did manage to reply to comments that came in, but I have a lot of blog reading to catch up on. I’ll try to be a better blogger. 🙂

There’s usually a reason for everything and here’s mine.

We had a visitor this week, and well I was kept kind of busy. Here’s Miss Charlotte’s 11 month picture taken a few hours before she left for home. Yup, that’s right, the little stinker is almost a year old. How the time flies.

Now she’s back home safe and sound. By the sounds of the gurgling I heard on the other end of the phone she’s probably thinking there’s no place like home..

Thanks for visiting, Miss Charlotte.

Did You Like My Book?

So, I’m not THAT brave. I never ask the “Did you like my book?” question when someone mentions having read my book.

Do I hope they enjoyed it?

Do I hope they became emotional involved in the lives of the Burbidges?

Absolutely.

I can say without reservation that without the reader having the book published would have been pointless.

See how important you all are?

I did have one author ask me this  question once and I’ve thought about it quite a little bit especially now that Bitter, Sweet is in the bookstores. I still marvel at what a brave question it was to ask.

Luckily, I did enjoy the book but I’ve wondered what my reaction would have been had I not liked it. Would I have been brave enough to say if I hadn’t? It’s a tough question any way you look at it.

A lot of people who know me have bought the book and of course they’re going to form opinions one way or the other. It’s only natural.  And although I may be as curious as all get out as to what their opinion is they’ll NEVER hear me utter those five little words.

So I’m curious about the rest of you.  Just how brave are you?

To the writers out there—- Do you think you’d ever ask someone if they enjoyed your book? And to the readers— If you disliked a book and the author asked you if you enjoyed it would you be brave enough to say you didn’t, would you lie and say you loved it or would you dodge the question by saying something like, “I found it quite interesting?”

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