Tag Archives: reading

Books and Beyond: What else or where else do you review?

One of my favorite aspects of book blogging is writing book reviews.  Maybe it speaks to my background as an educator–constantly evaluating and analyzing.  Whatever it is, I love to write reviews and with the advent of the internet have gone beyond reviewing solely books.  In addition to posting my  reviews here, I also submit them to Amazon.com.

Last year I joined Trip Advisor (nat-n-ant) and have since published a few reviews of the hundreds of places we’ve traveled to during our annual summer road trips.  Though Trip Advisor has been recently criticized for review integrity, I love the site and have found many wonderful places to visit and restaurants to try that I might have otherwise missed.  I have notes on so many great places (pictures, too!) and fully intend to post more reviews when I have some free time.   

I also write short book reviews and recommendations for my local library.  Brevity is the key to those mini-reviews–written on an index card–something that can be elusive to a chatterbox such as myself!  I love suggesting great books to other people and recently got some great feedback from a teen volunteer who read Sloppy Firsts by Megan McCafferty at my recommendation.  She told me that she loved the book and read the remaining books in the series to find out what happened to the characters.

At restaurants, I always fill out comment cards complimenting on the good and noting the not-so-good.  When given constructively, feedback is a valuable tool for any company that deals with the public.

So, how about you?  Are you a reviewer of books or other things on sites beyond your blog?  Do you write for Yelp! or some of the others that offer public opinion?

The Agony and The Ecstasy: Summer Reading

18 years ago this week found a desperate, 17-year-old me scrambling to secure a VHS copy of The Elephant Man from my local library because school was starting and I had yet to read the required (and dreaded) Summer Reading assignment*!  Now friends, believe me when I tell you that cribbing on a test was waaay harder before the advent of the internet; Sparknotes and Pink Monkey were the stuff of the procrastinating student’s (read: my) dreams.  Instead, I was shelling out $4.95 at Walden Books for a book version of Cliff Notes.  (The irony that I read a Cliff Notes book to avoid reading the actual novel is not lost on me.)

Almost two decades later I’ve crossed over to the dark side, creating and correcting Summer Reading tests instead of sweating through them, attempting to fool my teacher into believing I read the books with vague references to conflicts, plot structure, and theme in my essays. 

The (only) great thing about my checkered academic history is that I know ALL the tricks because I’ve pulled them.  I assign my students two books for Summer Reading–one classic and one contemporary.  I know that most of them use Sparknotes and the like for the classic…but not for the contemporary one! 

As I was grading Summer Reading quizzes (given the first day of school!) last year, I came across these gems.  The candor!  The wit!  I love my job.  Let’s have a look at a few of my favorites from 2008.  What will 2009 bring?  One can only imagine!


"I didn't read this book because I thought that Sparknotes had every book. So, I was planning on reading it last night but Sparknotes didn't have it. 😦 "

C’mon!  Does it get any better than that?   Well, maybe…


And this, in a nutshell, is why I love my job and adore Summer Reading–if only for the fodder they both provide my blog. 

So, were you a concientious student who always did his/her Summer Reading or were you a hellion like me–waiting until the last possible second to do your school work?!?  Does Summer Reading serve a purpose?  Did your school district spare you (or your kids) from the pain that is Summer Reading?  Inquiring minds want to know.

*The Collector by John Fowles was the other book I was required to read.  When I finally got around to reading the novel (a few months into the school year) it became one of my favorite books! 

For the control freak in you: Choose Your Own Adventure books

In the mid-80s, my school librarian introduced me to the control freak’s dream series: Choose Your Own Adventure books.  I’ll be honest, it was a slice of Nirvana for me, a control freak from a tender age. 

Here I was, an essentially powerless kid, yet I could control the destiny of book characters.  I may have had to go to bed at 7:30 because my mom said so, but I could control the outcome of a book?!  Can I get an amen for my new God Complex?    


Admittedly, this series was a bit dated by the time I showed up on the scene–originally published in the late 1970s while I didn’t come upon it until 1985 or so.  To my chagrin, many of the plots seemed geared toward a more masculine readership, but a few years later I discovered Choose Your Own Adventure-style books with boy-crazy story lines…just my speed.

I’m guilty of rewriting my character’s destiny (many times over) by flipping ahead, turning back and weighing the outcomes of my options before making an ultimate decision.  I was a kid AND a control freak…what can I tell you?

Were you a fan of the CYOA series?  To tell me about it, turn ahead to page COMMENTS.  If you don’t want to tell me, turn back to another blog.

Cen$orsh!p: Do you practice it?

In many countries, people are protected by laws regarding freedom of expression.  Thankfully, I’ve never been marginalized and have the liberty of expressing my opinions without fear of backlash or censorship.  For some, this isn’t the case–just ask Judy Blume, J.D. Salinger, or J.K. Rowling.  The banning of books is a hot-button issue for me (and for many others).

So, how has it come to pass that I find myself censoring someone else? 

Last week I wrote a post that loosely compared literary diets to the USDA’s Food Pyramid.  The feedback from readers was positive and people seemed to connect and see the humor and parallels…until Sunday night.

Sunday evening I found a ‘Pending Comment’ from a new reader.  I read the comment and couldn’t believe what I was reading.  Shut up!  This is lousy…” it read.  The comment went on to detail how my comparison of the Food Pyramid and a reading diet was essentially baseless. 

Reading it, the heat rose in my cheeks…indignation and a touch of humiliation.  My mouse arrow hovered over the ‘Delete Comment’ button for a long minute but I resisted.  I decided to post the comment–I didn’t want to practice censorship on my blog.  But in the end, I didn’t approve the comment and it’s still sitting in my ‘Pending Comments’ queue.  I’m not sure what to do with it.  The woman made some salient points, but the negativity and sheer meaness put me off.

I talked it over with my hubby and he said that I didn’t have to approve any comment I didn’t want to approve.  I argued that since I put myself (via my words) out there, I can’t be a Revisionista, approving only positive comments.  He disagreed, saying that the commentor disparaged me on a personal level, telling me to, “…shut up!”.  I worry that I’m compromising my (and Book, Line, and Sinker’s) integrity by ‘editing away’ this comment.

I guess my inaction could be considered ‘Passive Censorship’–not approving OR deleting the comment.  I’m hanging on to it for now…infringing on the commenter’s right to freedom of expression–censorship from the comfort of my own home.   

Have you had to deal with critical comments or emails related to your blog?  How did you handle them?  Am I compromising this blog’s integrity by blocking comments like these?  Or am I just too sensitive?!?