How To Approach Reviewers About Reviewing Your Book

So you’ve written a book, hit that publish button (or gotten picked up by a traditional publisher either big or small), and you want to get a few hopefully-positive reviews and garner a little hype for the literary child you’ve been nurturing for months, maybe even years. That’s great! I’m glad you’re at that stage of things!

I’m here to tell you, though, a lot of people do this step wrong. Very wrong. And often a misstep at this stage means alienating those who could become big fans, and thus convince others to become big fans.

I’ve been reviewing books for over a decade now, and I’ve made many friends who have done the same. And there’s a few common common complaints that we all have about people pitching their book for review. I’m here to break down some of the process for you, to ensure that you and potential reviewers get off on the right foot. Positive reviews might make or break your writing career, or they may not, but believe me, it’s never a good look to alienate yourself right from the get-go.

Don’t send a request for review without checking the reviewer’s policies first. If they have a blog that’s been around for a while chances are they have a section that outlines their review policies, how they handle review copies, and what sort of books they’re open to reviewing. Check that page, and make sure that your book is something they’re open to being pitched. It doesn’t matter if you found the reviewer via their blog, on Goodreads, on Amazon, on YouTube, etc. If they have a linked blog, check it first. If they have their review policies in their profile, check it. And follow the guidelines they lay out.

Sometimes reviewers won’t have this information easily accessible, or might not have any stated policies at all. That’s fine. That’s on them to establish. But at the very least, check to make sure the reviewer deals with books in the same genre as that book you’re pitching. Why waste your time pitching your Wild West romance to someone who only reviews true crime?

Don’t assume that your book is the exception to the reviewer’s rules. Trust me, it isn’t. If someone’s review policies state they’re not accepting new review copies at this time, don’t contact them anyway and say, “Oh, but my book is so awesome that you should want to make an exception.” It isn’t, and we don’t. And trying to insist that you’re above our stated guidelines just establishes you as an author who can’t behave professionally. Nobody wants to deal with someone who can’t respect the rules.

Do use the reviewer’s name in your pitch. If the reviewer doesn’t have their name established somewhere, then at least use the blog name or channel name in your pitch. Personalize it, essentially. This tells the reviewer that you’re not just sending out a bulk email to everyone with an email address in their profile. It tells the reviewer that you have done your research, and that you’ve come to the conclusion that they are probably the right person for the job. That you’re willing to take the time to send out a personalized email, to address to an individual instead of a generic, “Dear reviewer.” Nobody likes to feel like they’re just an unwilling part of a stranger’s mailing list.

If the reviewer has positively reviewed a book you feel is similar to yours, do feel free to mention that in your pitch, and make appropriate comparisons. “I see you really enjoyed “[Title],” and I think you might enjoy “[My Book]” because both have strong themes of anti-disestablishmentarianism and also feature cybernetic kittens in prominent roles.”

A lot of authors include comparisons in their pitches, but I find that maybe only half of them are appropriate comparisons. I’ve seen pitches that include mention a title I reviewed in the past and then pitch their novel that sounds like it has absolutely nothing in common with what I already reviewed. I’ve had authors mention their saw a review I wrote and accurately compared it to their novel but neglected to consider that my review was not a favourable one.

If a reviewer declines to accept your pitch, don’t get angry about it. There are a lot of reasons why someone might not want to read your book right now. Maybe it’s something like you ignoring their review policies, but maybe it’s also something like them just not having the time right now, or having too many other books that they have committed to read and review. Some reviewers will just review books at their leisure, with no set schedule, whereas others devise a timetable months in advance, knowing what they’re going to read and review and when that review will go live. They might simply not have any slots left available for months. You don’t know, and to be frank, they’re not obligated to give you an explanation. Some will, which is great, but if someone gives you a polite, “No thanks,” then let that be the end of it, and move on. Yeah, it sucks that maybe your favourite reviewer doesn’t want to read your book, but they’re not obligated to.

Note that some reviewers might not even give you a reply. To be blunt, more often than not these days, I don’t bother replying to review requests when they come through in my email. What’s my excuse for being so incredibly, iredeemably rude? Well, my review policies say that unless we’ve worked together in the past (ie, you’re an author or publicist that I’ve dealt with previously), then I’m not open to review pitches. I don’t even need one hand to count how many times I’ve been emailed in the past year by people I’ve already got a working relationship with, and I need more than both hands and both feet to count the pitches I’ve gotten from people I’ve never heard of before, trying to convince me to read and review their book. My policies are clearly stated. Either people aren’t checking them, or they’re checking them and just ignoring them. Either way, I don’t have the energy to deal with replying to everyone who probably took more time to type up an email than it would have taken to check whether it was even worth sending an email at all. So if you don’t follow the rules, don’t get angry when you get only silence.

Also don’t get angry if a reviewer gives your book a negative review. I understand that this absolutely sucks, and was probably the polar opposite of what you were hoping for, but unless the reviewer is making personal attacks against you in their review, you don’t really have much ground to stand on if they just didn’t like your book. Accepting a book for review is not the same thing as guaranteeing a positive review. Some reviewers have the policy of, “If I can’t rate it at least 4 stars, then I won’t review it at all,” which is their prerogative, and if that’s the sort of thing you’re looking for, then check their policies to make sure that’s the case and then pitch your book to them. But you have to accept that not everyone will receive your book as well as you want, and that as much as reviewers thrive on books and that many may offer fantastic feedback that authors might want to pay attention to, we’re mostly here for other readers. We’re publicly offering our opinions on books so that other readers with similar tastes might get a better idea of what books they too might enjoy. Reviewers don’t exist to fluff author egos, and we don’t exist solely to advance your careers. If you pitch a book to a reviewer who does negative and/or DNF (Did Not Finish) reviews, you should know that you’re taking your chances.

Which is another reason why you really need to do your due diligence and make sure you’re pitching your book to people who are most likely to enjoy it.

Speaking of, do remember that for 99.999% of reviewers, reviewing is their hobby, not their job. It’s extremely rare that anyone makes significant money reviewing books, unless they’re lucky enough to review for a massive publication, or they have a very popular YouTube channel, or maybe they’re a huge big-name reviewer and have got some Patreon support. But this is a hobby, first and foremost. We work our butts off for our hobbies, usually without any compensation beyond the occasional complimentary book. Some of us might get lucky enough to get some paid editing or publicity work thanks to their blog, but that‘s paid work. Reviewing isn’t paid work. This isn’t our job, even if some of us put in so much effort that it probably ought to be, but it’s still a hobby. If your book earnings break even with the production costs, you still probably earned more money than most reviewers do. Nobody is obligated to read your book as part of their career advancement. Nobody’s blog is going to be made or broken if they don’t read your book specifically. There are always more books than we can conceivably read, and missing out on one isn’t going to ruin us. So remember, reviewers are donating hours of their time when they agree to read and review your book.

What a lot of this boils down to is basically stated in the first point: “Do your due diligence.” Make sure you’re pitching to the right person for the task you want them to perform, and treat them accordingly. I’m fond of saying that if you can’t be bothered to spend 5 minutes researching me as a reviewer, why should I be bothered to spend multiple hours reading and reviewing your book? And I will die on that hill. If you can’t make sure that your book is a genre that I read, if you never bother to find or use my name, if you disrespect the rules I set out for my hobby, then why should I devote many hours to reading your book, taking notes, organizing my thoughts, writing a coherent review, and sharing it with others to try and boost your sales?

I want to hope this article makes a difference. The cynical part of my mind says that it won’t, because the people who need it the most are the ones who don’t check clearly-stated policies or the ones who act like their time is more precious than the time of the person they’re essentially asking a favour of, and those people probably aren’t going to heed this any more than they need the aforementioned policies. But it’s my hope that maybe there’s someone out there who’s starting off on their writing career, hoping to make it in a cutthroat world, and just isn’t sure how to start gathering those much-needed reviews to help them along the way. Maybe that person finds this article and thinks to themselves, “Oh, I wouldn’t have even thought to check for policies; I didn’t know reviewers even established review policies.” Or, “I never really considered that I’m essentially asking someone to work for hours in exchange for a $5.99 ebook; that adds a different perspective that will probably affect how I approach reviewers in the future.” Or even, “The only reviewers who are appropriate to pitch my novel to are also ones who write negative reviews sometimes, and now I’m not so sure that I did a good enough job editing it, so maybe I should hold off publishing and give it one more pass to make sure it’s as polished and ready as it can be.” (If that’s the case, then by damn, can I ever recommend some fantastic editors who will help make your book shine!)

Because I didn’t say all of this to be mean or discouraging. If you’re trying to make a go of it as an author, then I sincerely wish you the best of luck, and I hope that you find the success you’ve worked for. But in the name of success and hard work, if you want to pitch your book to reviewers, then you need to know how to best do it without running the risk of those reviewers just writing you off as someone who isn’t worth it to work with.

2020 Reviews in a Nutshell

In 2020, I reviewed 57 books. I thought it might be a fun idea to do a quick recap of those books and what I thought of them, 2-3 little sentences to remind people of some great books they might not have read yet.

January

the-rage-of-dragons

The Rage of Dragons, by Evan Winter – African-inspired epic fantasy that is so damn good and I’m annoyed with myself that I haven’t read the sequel yet. One of the few, “character becomes the best of the best,” stories that I could really get behind.

The Walled City, by Ryan Graudin – Based on the walled city of Kowloon, definitely set on Earth and in modernish times, but Kowloon had a different name and it felt like it author was afraid to actually commit to claiming accurate representation.

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue, by Mackenzie Lee – Queer historical fantasy that reminded me a lot of Cornelia Funke’s The Thief Lord when it came to the fantastical elements. But with more boners.

The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy, by Mackenzie Lee – Also queer historical fiction, but with an awkward portrayal of an aroace character, some homophobia, convenient disappearances of a woman of colour when the plot calls for it, and far less subtle coolness about the fantastical elements.

The Lady Rogue, by Jenn Bennett – Historical fantasy that took me ages to figure out was historical, because for a huge chunk of the book there was no indication in terms of speech patterns or behaviour. Plus anachronisms. An okay adventure story, though.

Children of Blood and Bone, by Tomi Adeyemi – African YA fantasy that I wanted to like more, but a bunch of the plot felt repetitive and one of the romances felt uncomfortably coercive at times. If not for those things, though, I would have enjoyed it a lot.

Rosemary and Rue, by Seanan McGuire – Really cool urban fantasy with faeries! Some slightly confusing magical mechanics, though friends have insinuated that things might make more sense later on in the series.

The Night Tiger, by Yangsze Choo – Historical fantasy with ambiguous supernatural elements and a really damn compelling story. Choo’s work is so freaking good!

Hunter, by Mercedes Lackey – YA dystopia plus monster-hunting, with commentary on streaming and “always being on.” The main character only seems able to make mistakes when it furthers the plot. It was okay. Nothing special.

February

Dekoboko Sugar Days Deko-boko Sugar Days, by Atsuko Yusen – A cute BL manga about 2 guys discovering their feelings for each other. Brings nothing new to the table, but enjoyable enough.

RePlay, by Saki Tsukahara – I have never before seen the terms “pitcher” and “catcher” be used so un-euphemistically. I mean, it’s a baseball-themed BL manga, but still.

The Fox and the Little Tanuki, vol 1, by Mi Tagawa – Written more for kids than adults, I still adore this folklore-heavy manga and recommend it to pretty much everyone. It has a lot to say about knowing and accepting yourself.

My Hero Academia, vol 1, by Kohei Horikoshi – Like X-Men, but if nearly everybody had a superpower. I can see why so many people love this franchise, though I may or may not continue with it.

March

Range of Ghosts

Range of Ghosts, by Elizabeth Bear – Fantastic world-building, taking inspiration from parts of the world that we don’t usually see featured in fantasy novels. Feels like the setup novel for something bigger, but it’s still really good.

Shattered Pillars, by Elizabeth Bear – Sequel to Range of Ghosts, and it gets a lot more into the real meat of the story. Fascinating take on the way political shifts have tangible effects on the physical world.

The Queen’s Bargain, by Anne Bishop – Aside from wanting to smack Surreal for doing pretty much everything she should know by now not to do, this was a pretty decent addition to the Black Jewels series.

The Immortals, by Jordanna Max Brodsky – Greek deities in modern day, dealing with mystery and mayhem and old grudges. Definitely worth a read if you’re into mythology.

I Still Dream, by James Smythe – Two different takes on what AI could do and become, the personal journey of the woman who really created it in the first place, and a whole lot about how psychology can apply to artificial intelligence. I adored this speculative novel!

April

Of Honey and Wildfires

Of Honey and Wildfires, by Sarah Chorn – Take the Wild West, add magic, add queer characters, and mix in a bunch of phenomenally lyrical writing, and that’s what this book gives you.

One Word Kill, by Mark Lawrence – Time travel paradoxes and D&D geeks in the 80s, and a whole bunch of concepts that made me have to take a moment to contemplate the ramifications of.

Kings of the Wyld, by Nicholas Eames – I admit, I missed some of the, “if adventurers were treated like rockstars,” approach and just accepted this as a damn good brutal yet witty adventure story. Really enjoyed it, and I still have to get around to reading the sequel.

Turning Darkness into Light, by Marie Brennan – A standalone sequel to the Lady Trent books, which very much appealed to my inner archaeologist and linguistics geek. Why are all of Brennan’s books so freaking good?!

May

The Hills Have Spies The Hills Have Spies, by Mercedes Lackey – Instead of dealing with a played-out character, we now deal with the played-out character’s kids. Also, long-established rules about how the world works are broken. Sadly, this is basically modern Valdemar books in a nutshell.

Eye Spy, by Mercedes Lackey – Pretty much the same as the above book, really, only dealing with a different kid. I enjoyed this one more than the previous novel, since it dealt with an uncommon character type. Also, there’s a very blatant Trump analogue, and what I think is an awkward attempt to establish an asexual character.

Spy, Spy Again, by Mercedes Lackey – The last of Mags’s kids gets a book. More weirdness happens that demonstrates that Lackey has kind of lost her edge. I’m sad to see the Valdemar novels end in such a lackluster way.

Finna, by Nino Cipri – Freaking fantastic novella that has a lot of humour and a lot of heart. And also takes potshots at corporate cruelty. I kind of loved it.

Flame in the Mist, by Renee Ahdieh – Japanese historical fiction that didn’t quite seem to know when it was set, and also cribbed some lines from the Memoirs of a Geisha movie. It was okay, it had some good points, but it was also pretty frustrating to read at times.

June

Ormeshadow Ormeshadow, by Priya Sharma – One of those stories that doesn’t even seem like it has fantastical elements until near the very end, which only adds to its impact on the reader. A slow burn, but worth it.

Or What You Will, by Jo Walton – A fourth wall-breaking story about an entity who has been many characters in many novels, trying to get his author to teleport herself into the world of her own books in order to save her from a slow death by cancer. It’s a head trip. It’s Jo Walton, and I love it.

Of Dragons, Feasts and Murders, by Aliette de Bodard – A Dominion of the Fallen side-story involving, well, exactly what the title implies. Though I’ve only read the 1st book in the series, I still really enjoyed this novella.

Silver Phoenix, by Cindy Pon – Felt like I was reading an expanded legend, something right out of mythology. I need more Chinese fantasy in my life after this one.

July

Updraft Updraft, by Fran Wilde – A fascinating world in which people live in towers of living bone, and in which flight is a primary mode of transportation. I really do need to read the sequel!

The Ghosts of Sherwood, by Carrie Vaughn – If Robin Hood had kids, what would they be like? This one focused on his daughter, and her desire to live her life out from under her father’s shadow.

The Heirs of Locksley, by Carrie Vaughn – Focusing on another of Robin Hood’s kids, this time his son, and his looming life as a man and all that entails. Including political mayhem.

Jade City, by Fonda Lee – Technology, magic, and clan warfare, set in a city that shows influence from many East Asian (and Southeast Asian, I believe) cultures. So freaking good!

Silver in the Wood. by Emily Tesh – The immortal Green Man archetype falls in love with a folklorist, and if that doesn’t sound complicated enough, trust me, it gets even more so. Short and sweet and filled to the brim with folklore and local legends.

Drowned Country, by Emily Tesh – Sequel to the above, and still good, though I liked it less than its predecessor. Heavy themes of betrayal and finding one’s purpose in life.

August

The Fox and the Little Tanuki 2 The Fox and the Little Tanuki, vol 2, by Mi Tagawa – I still love this manga. This volume has a whole lot to say about scapegoating and how people shouldn’t be blamed for the circumstances of their birth and how enough cruelty can turn anyone cruel in return. Profound stuff for something aimed at kids!

There Are Things I Can’t Tell You, by Edako Mofumofu – A BL title where the main characters aren’t in high school (which is kind of uncommon), but it still has a lot of the same problematic tropes you find in a lot of BL manga, which is a shame.

A Gentle Noble’s Vacation Recommendation, vol 1, by Momochi, Sando, & Misaki – I don’t know what it is about so many fantasy worlds in manga working by video game rules (“Let’s kill monsters to go up levels and be stronger!”), but here’s another one. Interestingly, it’s an isekai title where the primary setting and the home setting of the protagonist are both secondary worlds, which is really uncommon.

Blue Flag, vol 1, by KAITO – Girl 1 has crush on Guy 1. Guy 1 has a crush on Guy 2, and thinks that Girl 1 also has a crush on Guy 2. Girl 2 has a crush on Girl 1. And I will read the rest of this manga just to find out if everyone ends up in a happy stable group relationship!

Venus in the Blind Spot, by Junji Ito – A collection of shorts from a horror manga master. Some are better than others, but all are good, and all are pretty damn creepy.

Fangs, by Sarah Andersen – A love story between a vampire and a werewolf, and something so cliche shouldn’t be as adorable as Andersen makes it here.

September

Storm Front Storm Front, by Jim Butcher – A decent story, spoiled for me by the unfunny sexism and a protagonist who insists on being “chivalrous” and “gallant” even when it’s actively annoying the women around him. I heard that the series improves as it goes, but after such a poor beginning and so many frustrating moments, I have no desire to continue with it.

Gods of Jade and Shadow, by Silvia Moreno-Garcia – Historical fiction and Mayan gods and trips to the underworld and this book is a whole load of gimme gimme gimme!

Aggretsuko: Metal to the Max – Based on the hit anime, this is a quick set of 3 comic shorts about the characters, and I have to say, a bunch of the humour missed the mark and more than once characters didn’t act or sound as I had come to understand them from the show. Not bad, especially in the art department, but not great either.

October

Within the Sanctuary of Wings Within the Sanctuary of Wings, by Marie Brennan – The final Lady Trent novel, and one that really appeals to my love of anthropology. (Can it still be called anthropology when the culture in question is decidedly more draco than anthro?)

The Magician King, by Lev Grossman – A huge expansion to the overarching story of The Magicians, and one that dealt very heavily in loss and change. Not an easy read, but a compelling one, to be sure.

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue, by V E Schwab – Reminded me a lot of Claire North’s The Sudden Appearance of Hope, at least in initial concept. The follow-through, though, was entirely different, and broke my heart into so many pieces as the story went on. I’m not sure Schwab has ever written anything I’d disliked, to be honest…

November

Come Tumbling Down Come Tumbling Down, by Seanan McGuire – More of Jack and Jill’s story, though mostly Jack’s at this point. I really love the Moors as a setting. Gothic horror is love. Getting emotionally kicked in the heart is also love… sort of.

The Witch and the Beast, vol 1, by Kousuke Satake – Enough twists and turns to the story that I found myself wondering where everything was going to lead, and there’s enough meat to the tale that I’m curious to read more in the future.

The Shadow Queen, by Anne Bishop – Book 1 of Cassidy’s duology, part of the Black Jewels series, and I really love this book and its sequel. So much. They’re both frequent rereads of mine, and for all that they deal with some pretty harsh topics, they give me such hope that hard work and a solid support group can really change things for the better.

Shalador’s Lady, by Anne Bishop – Book 2 of Cassidy’s duology, and one with some very world-changing consequences at stake. Still as beloved to me as the first book, and I lose so much time buried in the story.

December

Remina Remina, by Junji Ito – A sci-fi horror manga that is phenomenally messed up, and really highlights the worst of humanity when a crisis hits. Some of the behaviour in this manga was influenced by a malign presence, but after everything that’s gone down with Covid, sorry, you don’t need an evil demon planet to bring out the worst in people.

The Factory Witches of Lowell, by C S Malerich – Answers the question, “What if women turned to witchcraft in order to make sure they could unionize and be treated fairly in the factories?” Also, gay relationships!

The Magician’s Land, by Lev Grossman – Capping off the Magicians trilogy with a lot of loose ends getting tied up (but not all of them), some subplots that go nowhere (which is kind of typical for this trilogy), and an entire world being destroyed while the nature of gods is debated.

Across the Green Grass Fields, by Seanan McGuire – A standalone novella in the Wayward Children series, and one of my favourites within it. I could read entire novels set in the Hooflands, I really could!

And there you have it! Quick recaps and thoughts of what I reviewed this past year! Will I review as many in 2021? Honestly, who knows? I’d love to, but given the world and my health and whatnot, I’ve stopped trying to make promises like, “I’ll definitely doing a certain amount of something.” I’ll review when I can, which will likely still be around 3-4 books a month on average, but we’ll just have to see how it all goes. I may have slowed down, I may be a zillion times less influential than I used to be, but I’m still in the game for the moment.

I hope your 2020 reading goals went well, and I hope 2021 is even better for us all!

Call for Guest Posts

With the new year coming up, I want to focus on providing more and varied content for Bibliotropic. Reviews are all well and good, and probably won’t be stopping any time soon, but there’s more to a bibliophile’s life than just book reviews.

That’s why I’m putting out the call for guest posts. I have plenty of free spots available here over the coming year, and I want to give you your chance to get a little bit of extra publicity for your work.

There are 2 types of posts that I’m interested in hosting.

Posts from SFF writers

Writers great and small, I want you to talk about some of the inspiration behind what you’re writing now or what you’ve recently written. And by this, I don’t mean stuff about how you’ve written stories since you were a kid and finally got the gumption to go for publication, or how you started writing because your kid loved the bedtime stories you told them. Stories like that are important, don’t get me wrong, but they’re not what I’m looking for here.

No, what I’m looking for is more along the lines of, “I wanted to write a fantasy novel set in a world based on Estonia during the Iron Age, and the reason for that is…” Or, “So my fantasy novel involves a society making the switch to coin money for the first time; humans have really only be using money as we know it for about 3000 years.” Tell me cool stuff about Iron Age Estonia. Tell me cool stuff about how money first came into being. Tell me why that inspired you to the point where you wanted to put it in your novel, or novella, or short story collection. Get me, and other readers, as passionate about these cool things are you are. Make people want to buy and read your book because you made your inspiration sound that interesting!

Don’t forget to include links to where people can buy your book(s), too.

Posts from other creative types

There are so many creative people out there, in the bibliosphere, who don’t always get a chance to have their work highlighted because their work, to be blunt, isn’t a book. We all love books, after all. But you know what else we love? Candles with scents inspired by scenes from your favourite fantasy novels. Jewellery inspired by your favourite sci-fi movie characters. Quilts with pixel-art patterns of characters from video games you love. If it’s geeky, and crafty, I want to see your work. I want to showcase your work. Book-related is preferable, but I’m not about to turn down a post because you knit scarves inspired by SFF TV shows instead of SFF books. I want you to pick some of your best work, the stuff you want to show off to the world, and tell me why you made it. What prompted you to make that cool geeky piece of art? I want to hear all about your creative works.

And yes, if you sell your work online, absolutely include links to your store pages!

Folks, after the hellscape that was 2020, I really want to boost the signals of so many creative people. I want to give them a platform where they can inspire others, and talk about something that interested them enough to create based on it, and I want to (hopefully) help them get a few more sales, a few more fans. This year has been hard enough on us all, and I want 2021 to be better, and if I can do that by giving over some blog space to a little promotion for those of us whose creative endeavours might otherwise go unnoticed, then all the better.

If you’ve got something you want to contribute to this project, then shoot me an email (bibliotropicDOTreviewsATgmailDOTcom) to discuss it, set up a date for your post, all that good stuff. I really look forward to hearing about the things that inspire your work.

Taking the Plunge

So, uh, I officially started offering some book editing services.

And I’m utterly terrified the attempt will fail and I’ll crash and burn horribly. But I think I’m up to the task. I wouldn’t have done this, if I thought otherwise.

As things stand, I’m unemployed due to currently-undiagnosed disability, and a second source of household income would be very helpful in improving quality of life and hanging onto the health I have. I’ve been tossing this idea back and forth for a while, unsure whether there was any point, unsure whether I could handle it, but I’ve crunched the numbers and reviewed the scenarios and I’m 100% sure I can do something that can help authors bringing out the best version of their work.

One of the reasons I am unemployed is that my health at the moment is variable. I could most likely work 35-40 hours a week, but the problem is that I wouldn’t get to dictate those hours. Sometimes I’m up all night and sleep during the day, sometimes my sleep schedule looks like a typical person’s, sometimes I end up sleeping in 2-4 hour chunks multiple times a day. For some odd reason, your typical employer liked their employees to be reliable and adhere to standard assigned hours, and I can’t do that at the moment.

But being awake in the middle of the night doesn’t stop me from being able to edit someone’s book. And the motivation of actual employment that can improve my circumstances is pretty sizable in helping overcome fatigue and a lack of motivation to, say, read for pleasure, or play video games.

So yeah, do take a look at my editing info page, and if what you see works for you in regard to something you’ve written, then shoot me an email and we can discuss things further.

August 2020 in Retrospect

Hard to believe September’s just around the corner. This past month has had a massive heatwave and water shortages in my province, followed by not exactly a cold snap, but the mornings are chilly enough that some of the vegetables in my little garden are taking exception to it. Yay, Canada.

Anyway, last month was Manga Month here, and my goal was to read and review 2-3 titles a week. How did I do with that?

Eh, not so great. For reasons I will get into later.

But, I did get some things accomplished, so there’s that!

Reviews

The Fox and the Little Tanuki, vol 2, by Tagawa Mi
There Are Things I Can’t Tell You, by Mofumofu Edako
A Gentle Noble’s Vacation Recommendation, by Momochi, Sando, & Misaki
Blue Flag, vol 1, by KAITO
Venus in the Blind Spot, by Junji Ito
Fangs, by Sarah Andersen

I know that last one isn’t a manga, but I read it this past month and wanted to say a little about it, so I threw it in anyway. It’s still a story in graphic form, so I’m declaring that it kinda sorta counts a little.

Upcoming in September

And that brings us to what went wrong with Manga Month. I’ve mentioned before that I’m going through some unpredictable health crap lately, and honestly, it’s not done with me. Life is… day-to-day. Some days my pain levels are manageable, I get a decent amount of sleep even if it’s not at normal times, and I can do things. I think I can keep doing things. Then comes the inevitable day when my pain levels are higher or I hit a fatigue flare and everything goes to hell, and my time becomes all about managing. Just… managing, until things improve.

On those days, which are honestly about 50% of the time now, I’m pretty much useless. It has taken me over a week to read some books, because I just don’t have the energy to concentrate to read more than a few pages at a time. I can’t manage to play video games, even ones I’ve already played before and know well. When things get bad, I might not be unable to get out of bed, but I’m not good for much beyond idly staring at the TV, because anything more complicated than that takes brain power that I just don’t have.

Which made it really difficult to read 2-3 volumes of manga a week. And write reviews. It was just too much for me.

I’ve had to made some very difficult decisions these past few months. You see, every month I think, “Okay, I’ll take it easy this month, put a few things on hold, and with some extra rest, I’m sure I’ll be able to handle things normally again next month.” Only, I’ve been doing that since June. And slowly I’ve dropped more and more projects, more and more of my passions, things I really enjoy doing and sharing with other people, because I just can’t handle them with any degree of regularity or confidence anymore.

I strive for a review a week here. I don’t know if I can manage that at the moment.

So, here’s the tough decision: I’m not going to try.

I’m not dropping writing reviews entirely. I’m just not going to stress if I can’t manage 4-5 reviews a month. Not now, not when I’ve got other stuff going on like this. If I can do that, great. If not, no big deal, I’m not going to stress over it and add to my worries. As it is, it’s already difficult to have to admit to myself that even reading books, something that used to be a huge refuge for me, is on occasion becoming too much to handle. That I can’t handle doing even half as much as I could 5 years ago. Whatever’s going on with me right now, it’s taking a lot from me, and trying to not be upset by that is impossible, so I’ll settle instead for just trying to not feel guilty that I’m not able to provide the amount of content I usually do.

Which, let’s face it, is still only a patch on what most review bloggers do these days anyway.

So this “do what I can” plan is in effect going forward, for an indefinite period of time, until I meet with a doctor and figure out what’s wrong with me and get some sort of treatment or management plan going. I want my life to become more than just, “days when I’m barely managing, days when I’m recovering from bad days, and a few actually good days in between.” I want answers, I want a plan, but in the meantime, life really is just trying to cope as best I can, and trying to not be too hard on myself when I struggle.

So, I appreciate everyone’s patience. Fingers crossed that when I meet with a rheumatologist (who even knows when that will be, but I expect I still have some months to wait before I hear anything), they’ll be all, “Aha, I know exactly what’s wrong!” and it’s something that can be managed relatively simply with a couple of daily pills or something. I want to come out of this debacle similarly to how I did when I found out I was incapable of absorbing vitamin B12. It’s a serious condition that could disable or even kill me if left untreated, but treatment is nothing more than an injection of liquid B12 every week. That’s it. Very serious, but also very treatable. That’s kind of what I’m hoping for with this, too.

In the meantime, I hope you all find so many good books to read and to recommend to me, so I can vicariously live through all of my bibliophile friends!

July 2020 in Retrospect

Welp, if I hoped to have improved health by the end of this month, I’m in for a deep disappointment.

Things are how they were in June, essentially. Still in pain, still sleeping sporadically, still no doctor’s appointment. I did find out that I was at least referred to a specialist, though I had to make multiple phone calls to find that out. So I guess that’s something. Now I just have to keep playing the waiting game until I find out when the appointment is for, and then wait a little longer to actually have the appointment, and then maybe I can start getting my life back together.

But I’m getting by. Things aren’t ideal, and I don’t always have the energy to do… well, anything, some days. But I’m getting by. Right now, that’s about as much as I can ask for.

But let’s move away from this train of thought and take a look at the bloggish things I managed to accomplish over the past month, shall we?

Reviews

Updraft, by Fran Wilde
The Ghosts of Sherwood, by Carrie Vaughn
The Heirs of Locksley, by Carrie Vaughn
Jade City, by Fonda Lee
Silver in the Wood, by Emily Tesh
Drowned Country, by Emily Tesh

4 of those titles are novellas rather than novels, and 1 is a review I wrote ages ago and thought I’d posted here but apparently I’d only posted it to Goodreads, but given what I’ve been dealing with this past month, I’m impressed that I managed to get so many titles read and reviewed at all!

I’ve also started going through my Reviews page and adding series information to the listed titles. Both for myself, to better keep track of series I want to continue with, and also for interested readers, who can see at a glance on the page whether something is part of a series or a standalone novel. That’s a work in progress, though, and should be finished some time over the next month.

Upcoming in August

August is going to be another Manga Month here, just like February was. I think I’m going to continue to make February and August “Manga Months.” Those are good months for it. In February, winter feels like it’s just dragging on forever, and some lighter reading is good for me. In August, summer feels like it’s just dragging on forever, and… Well, you get the idea. July has been hot and humid and full of pain, so you know, spending a month focusing on manga will be good for me. It’ll let me get through some backlogged titles, give me an excuse to take it easy, and also take my time on some doorstopper novels that I can post reviews for later, without feeling the content crunch.

So, expect 2-3 volumes of manga to be reviewed each week here during August. Hopefully I can cover some titles that might be of interest to people. I’ll be focusing on queer stories and SFF themes in the manga I read, so keep your eyes peeled for that!

Take care, everyone. I hope things are going well for you, I hope you’re all staying safe and sane amid the ongoing pandemic, and I hope you found some amazing books to read over the past month!

Drowned Country, by Emily Tesh

Buy from Amazon.com, Bookshop, or Barnes & Noble

Author’s website | Publisher’s website
Publication date – August 18, 2020

Summary: Drowned Country is the stunning sequel to Silver in the Wood, Emily Tesh’s lush, folkloric debut. This second volume of the Greenhollow duology once again invites readers to lose themselves in the story of Henry and Tobias, and the magic of a myth they’ve always known.

Even the Wild Man of Greenhollow can’t ignore a summons from his mother, when that mother is the indomitable Adela Silver, practical folklorist. Henry Silver does not relish what he’ll find in the grimy seaside town of Rothport, where once the ancient wood extended before it was drowned beneath the sea—a missing girl, a monster on the loose, or, worst of all, Tobias Finch, who loves him.

Thoughts: Silver in the Wood left readers with a change in stewardship within Greenhollow, the mantle passing from Tobias to Henry, with Tobias now a mortal man and free to leave the Wood. Henry hasn’t exactly taken well to his new role, though, isolating himself in his old house, which is now more of a crumbling ruin than the home he once knew, tending to the Wood mostly by forcing plants to grow when and where he wants them, regardless of the plants’ or Wood’s needs. It’s a visit from his mother that shames him (or perhaps just frustrates him) into leaving where the Wood is and going to where the Wood was, in order to help find a young woman who disappeared in the vicinity of a powerful old vampire. It turns out that Henry is more the vampire’s type than the missing woman, so his mother and Tobias mean to use Henry as bait to lure the vampire out, kill him, and rescue his victim.

I’d say that unsurprisingly, things aren’t quite what they seem, but to be honest, the twist was a bit of a surprise for me. I had settled in for a nice story involving the defeat of a vampire, and what I got instead had more to do with faeries. I can’t say that I saw that coming.

Whereas Silver in the Wood dealt largely with themes of betrayal and purpose, Drowned Country has strong themes of destructive obsession running through it. Maud’s obsession with returning to Fairyland caused problems in her mundane life, resulted in her essentially steamrolling the people sent to help her, but also positioned her to be consumed by a force that would similarly destroy anything to get what it wanted. Henry’s destructive obsession was himself, his own self-indulgence and inability to think beyond, “I am the lord of the wood and have these powers to do with it as I please.” Neither Maud nor Henry were particularly malevolent; it was more that the destructive aspect of their obsession came about because they focused on themselves, to the exclusion of all else, and couldn’t break free from that pattern of thinking to see that their actions had consequences that rippled beyond them.

That’s not to say that a person should be beholden to everyone else’s expectations, especially when those expectations are unreasonable. But there’s a certain amount of give-and-take that can be expected, and ignoring that has its consequences. Maud worried her parents, drawing strangers into the story so that she could be rescued, and her insistence that she was right while everyone else was wrong nearly got multiple people killed, just in the attempt to keep her safe. Henry’s refusal or inability to look outside himself and see that being the Wild Man of Greenhollow involved more than just sitting there and watching/making grass grow was hurting the denizens of the Wood, hurting Henry himself with his isolation and anger and grief. Obsession doesn’t always have to be destructive, but there comes a point where it can become so, where it becomes selfish and harmful, and I think Tesh did a good job of presenting different situations in which this happens.

For most of the story, the relationship between Henry and Tobias was… strained, to say the least. The two had a falling-out, and for good reason, and Henry wavered between trying to rekindle what had once been between them and then deliberately reminding himself that this wasn’t how things were anymore. I have to admit, I wasn’t too keen on that. It does get resolved more toward the end of the novella, but for much of it, I felt like it was going into, “queer people can’t be happy,” territory. Their relationship had failed, their lives would be bitter and lacking without each other, but for legitimately good reasons, trust had been spoiled and being together wasn’t an option for them anymore. And yes, that absolutely happens in relationships, both straight and queer, but it can be tiring to read so many stories where queer couples go through what seems like an inevitable breakup just to bring some tension to the mix. I do like that it was resolved eventually, but the lead-up to that resolution wasn’t exactly enjoyable to read, and I feel like it didn’t really add much to the story.

As interesting as Drowned Country was, I think I liked it less than Silver in the Wood. Partly because of the relationship issues, as I just mentioned, but also partly because in the end, the resolution felt handed to the characters. “Here, have your happy ending, regardless of the fact that you only worked for it for maybe a week, and also the thing causing friction is just gone now so you never have to worry about it again.” It would have been more interesting to see Henry properly come to grips with his new role in life, to pull himself out of his destructive spiral and actually thrive within it, or at least make his peace with it the way Tobias had. Or to take Tobias up on his offer to switch places, for Tobias to resume his role as the Wild Man since he took to it better than Henry did, and for the two of them to live happily that way. Instead, it was just, “Okay, now neither of you has to do this anymore, isn’t that great?!” It felt like a just clear way to wrap up the story, and I do know that this was intended to be a duology and not continue beyond this point, but it was far from satisfying.

I gave this book 3 stars, but if I were to give half-stars in my ratings, it would be 3.5. It wasn’t a bad story, it was well-written, and it definitely had things to say. But the relationship issues and that abrupt ending rather spoiled a lot of it for me, and I didn’t enjoy it as much as I enjoyed the previous novel. Still a good read, and I think most people who liked Silver in the Wood will also like Drowned Country, but for me, it didn’t quite reach the same heights as its predecessor.

(Book provided in exchange for an honest review.)

June 2020 in Retrospect

This past month sure has been a month, hasn’t it? I know I haven’t talked much about it on the blog, but… June has been a bit of a hellish month for me. I’ve been experiencing chronic pain for years, but due to my lousy experiences with medical professionals, I’ve largely just been dealing with it as best I could on my own. But nearly a month ago now, I hit the point where I just can’t do that anymore.

My pain has gotten worse, and I still don’t know why it’s even happening, let alone why it’s now worse than it used to be. It’s affecting my ability to sleep, so lately I’ve just been grabbing a few hours here and there as best I can, on the crappy too-short couch at night (I toss too much to make it worth attempting to sleep in bed with my partner, and not being on any particular sleep schedule doesn’t help that), and in bed during the day, when my partner is busy or at work. Brain fog is making it hard to do anything. I have ongoing muscle weakness that makes it difficult to walk or stand some days. I am, to put it mildly, a fucking mess right now. I’m waiting for an appointment with a rheumatologist, and I’m just hoping that when I see one, I get some answers and a treatment plan and can get bits of my life back.

This is the point where I do the awkward uncomfortable thing and plug the fact that I have a Ko-Fi account, and I’m trying to save up enough to get a new computer chair that won’t make my back and hip pain even worse and isn’t falling apart, so if you have a few spare bucks and like what I do here and want to help out, let’s just say I’m not going to refuse, and I’m going to be ridiculously appreciative.

Also let’s just say that I hope you all had a better June than I did!

But enough of that. Let’s take a look at the few things I managed to accomplish here this past month!

Reviews

Ormeshadow, by Priya Sharma
Or What You Will, by Jo Walton
Of Dragons, Feasts and Murders, by Aliette de Bodard
Silver Phoenix, by Cindy Pon

I didn’t realize that nearly all of the titles I reviewed this month began with the letter O…

I wrote a fun post about all the delightful books I was able to get for my birthday, and I wrote I less fun post about the utter shitstorm of harassment reports rocking the SFF book community, and how, combined with a similar shitstorm in the video game community, I’m starting to wonder if any hobby is actually safe, or worth the risk to be involved in.

I also finished the video series telling the story of the PS1 classic RPG, Chrono Cross (sequel to Chrono Trigger), if anyone’s interested in learning what happens in the game but doesn’t have the 40+ hours to sink into playing it right now.

Upcoming in July

Honestly, at this point, I’m kind of just working on coping and doing the best I can. I want to get out the usual 4-5 reviews, but I can’t guarantee anything, so let’s just say that content is upcoming, and the future will determine what exactly that content even is.

Stay safe and happy, my friends, as best you can, and I hope the future looks brighter for us all.

No More Heroes

It has been a rough fucking week for the SFF book community.

Twitter has been an absolute dumpster fire these past few days. Accusations of sexual misconduct against author Myke Cole, which prompted him to do nothing more than to repost an apology he made in 2018 for similar allegations, not even bothering to make a fresh apology for fresh accusations. Author Sam Sykes also getting accused of sexual misconduct. The discovery that both Mercedes Lackey and Larry Dixon have said some incredibly transphobic things. Mark Lawrence, the guy instrumental in starting the Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off that has helped so many self-published authors find a larger audience, encouraging fans to harass an author who criticized the portrayal of sexual assault in fiction. And that’s just what I’ve seen this past week!

To say nothing of the news of other authors doing similar things to people. I don’t know any of those authors well enough to speak on the subjects, but… sweet holy fuck, I am just so blown away. And exhausted.

Mostly exhausted.

I’m not stranger to discovering that people I once admired have some terrible things, but to be completely honest, there’s only so much of that a person can take before they start to wonder if there’s a point in even liking anything anymore. It sounds hyperbolic, but it’s legitimately how I feel. I can’t tell who is safe to like, who is safe to associate with, who won’t betray me and others down the line when the inevitable revelation comes out that they’ve been little shits the entire time, but were just able to hide it or pressure people into silence for longer than others. I’m seeing the dirty side of so many people whose work I’ve admired and promoted in the past, people whose work has inspired me to want to create wonderful things of my own, and every time it happens, I feel increasingly like there is no safe space to be creative, to try, to enjoy things, because chances are you’re surrounded by people who are privately mocking you for being queer, sexualizing you for being a woman, and ignoring you for not being white.

Rarely on the surface. Not until the shield slips and somebody sees just a little too much and then all the pieces fall into place. The odd comments. The things you overlooked, handwaved as just being “that person being a little weird.” The stories come out, again and again, and you start to think to yourself, “Is anywhere actually safe? Can I even enjoy this hobby without fear that I’m enabling someone else’s bigoted power trip?”

People make mistakes. People learn. But the thing of it is, a lot of these people have had plenty of opportunities to learn, have associated with people who have openly talked about problems in the industry, problems they’ve faced with representation or fair treatment, people who would likely cheerfully give further education to those asking in good faith… and it seems, again, like all of these opportunities have been overlooked, ignored, and the perpetrators of injustice stand there begging for people to give them a second chance, swearing they’ll do better, they’ll try harder, they’ll be stronger allies next time.

You had your chance. You had lots of chances. You have so many opportunities to not do the things you did, to understand why those things were wrong… and you did them anyway.

Why should you be given another chance? Why should people trust you to do better next time when you had so many chances to do better last time, and just didn’t.

Some people do change and improve. I’d love to be able to say that the current batch of accusations, of truth being outed, will lead to a safer and more understanding community.

But the horrible reality is that all it’s done is highlight just how safe it never was, to convince people that it’s not worth it to put their safety on the line, and to crowd out people who might have thrived, were it not for abusers and the risks they pose.

youkillhope

It’s at the point where I’m just hoping that somebody makes a list of safe authors, because right now, I can’t fucking tell who’s safe. People I once thought were safe, were decent, were maybe even friends, aren’t. Weren’t.

And I can’t, in good conscience, keep supporting them.

Arguments always get made for separating the art from the artist. And to a degree, I agree with that sentiment. But only insofar as it means that, say, an author who writes about a rapist isn’t necessarily condoning rape, anymore than an author who writes about a thief is condoning stealing. Authors don’t necessarily share the mindsets of their characters. Hell, just look to Orson Scott Card for a great example of that one. Speaker for the Dead‘s moral lesson was that you can’t judge one culture by another culture’s standards, because everyone has different ways and reasons for doing what they do, and we have to understand that before we pass any judgment. Great lesson. Card, on the other hand, has long worn his homophobia on his sleeve, calling gay people degenerates, pedophiles, the victims of pedophiles. Apparently his own story failed to make much impact on him, since I don’t see a whole lot of, “Don’t judge, because you don’t necessarily understand the truth of the matter,” going on here.

But I can’t stretch that mentality to continuing to read and review and enjoy an author’s books when I know that author has done terrible things, because every book I buy is a royalty payment, or one step closer to a royalty payment. Every review is publicity. It doesn’t matter how much I enjoy a story when I know that the mind who wrote that story is also a mind that thinks harassing or abusing is justified.

I don’t know who’s safe anymore. And every one of you that has been named in this post, every single fucking one of you, has contributed to that.

As I said, I’m no stranger to this sort of disappointment in people. When I first wanted to get into making videos on YouTube, I was heavily inspired by JonTron. Then came the news that he was a racist douchnozzle. I was later inspired by the work of ProJared, who legitimately seemed like a feminist ally, one of the good ones. Until word spread that he cheated on his wife, lied about their open-relationship status, and eventually claimed that it wasn’t cheating because the husband of the woman he cheated with was okay with it. (No comment on the accusations that he exchanged sexual messages with minors, because when last I checked, a lot of that stuff turned out to be without evidence. Also no comment on his ex-wife’s role in the subsequent divorce, because everyone may have flaws but that still doesn’t excuse what Jared did.)  The gaming community has been rocked by racist and sexist scandal after racist and sexist scandal these past few weeks too. Enough disappointments have come from people whose work I was inspired by that I am already afraid for other creators I enjoy, because with the way all this shit is going, they’ll all turn out to be abusers and bigots too. This sort of thing can only happen so many times before you start to doubt yourself, doubt your own judgment and taste, and you wonder if there’s even any point to continuing with the things you love, because, as I’ve repeatedly stated, nowhere feels safe.

Not the places you go. Not the people you associate with.

I can’t blame people for thinking that the only way to keep themselves safe is to back away from everything and to not bother anymore. Time and again, that’s what communities are demonstrating. That’s the message that the marginalized get, over and over and fucking over again.

There are no more heroes.

You can’t trust anybody.

This is the world you have fostered.

Belated Birthday Book Haul!

I know my birthday was technically over a week ago, but I’ve been messed up for a variety of reasons and forgot to post the fantastic book haul that I was able to get my grubby bibliophile hands on!

Written in RedMurder of CrowsVision in Silver
Marked In FleshEtched in BoneLake Silence

Now yes, I have read every single one of these books before, but they were all library books I borrowed while I was on PEI, and since I enjoyed them so much, and really want copies of my own. Similar to Bishop’s Black Jewels novels, these are comfort reads for me (one of these days I’ll probably go into details as to why, because knowing me, you’d think that novels about predators and gender essentialism and a whole load of traumatic events would not be my cup of tea, but… it’s complicated.)

Also I didn’t order a copy of Wild Country, the 2nd spin-off novel, because I got a copy for review a while ago, and while it was okay, it was the one with the lowest priority on my wishlist. I can wait a while to complete the collection, so long as I have the books I enjoy more.

But more than that, I was gifted with some surprise book money from two good friends, so the book haul got to grow even larger!

Silver PhoenixThe Darkest Part of the ForestColdest Girl in Coldtown

I’ve started reading Silver Phoenix and I’m really enjoying it, so that’s off to a good start!

I am so happy to be buried in books right now. :3 I spent so many years not getting books as gifts, not because people thought I didn’t read (seriously, have you even met me?) but because most people around me knew I reviewed and knew I got review copies and either didn’t know what to get me that I might not already have, or just judged it “not worth it” to buy me more books because I already had books, what did I need more for?

The answer to that is, of course, that there are always books that I want. Some I have as ebooks that I’d love physical copies of. Some I’ve read because I got them from the library and would love to read them again, at my leisure. Many books I would love are ones I don’t get as review copies, so I don’t have them, haven’t read them, and want to read them. Book are always a good gift! XD

Oh, and also anything to do with this guy:

velvet

I have an absolute crush on Adam Lambert, his music makes me happy, and so his latest CD was also part of the birthday haul.

Turning 36 may have happened during the year of the apocalypse, but I can’t say that the little things in life don’t still bring me some joy.