Book Reviews Again: 2013 365 Challenge #279

What I'm currently reading

What I’m currently reading

For a stubborn person I can be easily led. Present me with a reasoned argument, or merely an impassioned one, and I may well come round to your way of thinking. It’s not that I don’t have my own opinions, more that I don’t have faith in them. If you tell me I’m wrong, there’s a strong chance I might agree with you just because I’m used to being wrong.

That’s why I don’t read book reviews, especially for books I’ve read. I remember researching a post for this blog, and looking up Memoirs of a Geisha. I loved the book, but most of the reviews I read said it was historically and culturally inaccurate, yada yada. I felt bad for liking it – as if I had been fooled, gullible me, by the writing and led like a mindless sheep to an understanding of a culture that was inaccurate. (I’m a history graduate and I hate getting the facts wrong, even though I know there is no such thing as one right version of events)

I came across the problem again when I listed the book I’m currently reading on Goodreads – Pawn of Prophecy by David Eddings – and happened to see some reviews.

I’ve read the book – the entire set of ten it is from – a dozen times. The characters were my friends when I had no others, (in the days before Facebook, Twitter and WordPress, when friends were found in books rather than online).

I’ve chosen to read it now to break me out of my critiquing cycle, like putting on a comfy sweater. So reading reviews calling it formulaic and lacking in originality was not what I needed to hear. What if it’s true? Does that make me somehow inferior for loving the book and being totally engrossed by the characters? What if I start picking faults? Like when someone points out your favourite actor has a funny nose (Buffy) and then you can’t see anything else and your favourite show is ruined forever.

Goodreads' change of policy post

Goodreads’ change of policy post

I read a post on Kristen Lamb’s blog a while ago about authors not writing reviews and it supported why I don’t like leaving reviews unless I loved, loved, loved a book. I do still write them for the indies that I enjoyed reading, particularly because indies need the support (and because I hope the karma will pass round to me one day!) But I do feel reviews are not all that helpful for books.

Shannon Thompson wrote a post on Facebook on Friday about the new Goodreads’ change in policy, saying she was upset to see people defending their right to be trolls. If all you want to do in a review is insult the author, then really what are reviews worth? (If you want to see our discussion on the subject, visit Shannon’s FB page.)

Anyway, I’m not sure of the point of my ramble except I’m trying hard to ignore the world and enjoy the book I have loved each of the last ten or eleven times I read it (though I am noticing the ‘telling rather than showing’ and the adverbs. It was the first book in the series, so I’m being tolerant!) I might even write a review explaining why I love it so much, but I can’t advise you to read it: what if you hated it? 🙂

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Below is the next installment in my novel Two-Hundred Steps Home: written in daily posts since 1st January as part of my 2013 365 Challenge. Read about the challenge here.You can catch up by downloading the free ebook volumes on the right hand side of the blog:

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Claire brushed the curtain aside and peered round into the bay. Kim lay with her eyes closed and Jeff sat beside her, gripping her hand with both of his. He looked up at the movement.

“Claire! Welcome home.”

She pulled the curtain closed behind her and took a step forward. “Thanks, Jeff. I think you’re the only person pleased to see me.” Then, realising this wasn’t her drama, she forced a smile on her lips. “Kim’s looking better this morning.”

“Yes, your visit really helped. The nurse said she slept well for the first time last night. Just as well, someone from PLAN is coming in to see her soon.”

“PLAN?” Claire wondered for a moment if that was what Dotty had said she was working for, but couldn’t remember. She prayed the young girl wasn’t about to turn up here as well. An hour in the car had been more than enough time with her endless enthusiasm.

“Psychiatric Liaison people. To see if Kim is safe to come home, or whether she needs to go to a secure ward.”

“Oh.” Claire looked around for another chair and carried it over next to Jeff’s. “What do you think?”

Jeff dropped his head, although he didn’t let go of his wife’s hand. “I don’t know.” He exhaled loudly, as if breathing out his doubt. “What a mess. Who knew an accidental pregnancy could have such awful repercussions.”

Claire sat in silence, unwilling to probe. The weeks she’d spent gallivanting around New Zealand felt dirty, somehow, when she considered what Kim and Jeff had been going through in her absence.

As the silence stretched on, Claire tried to sift through the questions in her mind to find one that was safe to ask. How’s married life, or How’s work? weren’t exactly appropriate. She was just grateful that Jeff apparently felt no blame towards her for her own role in the catastrophe.

As if sensing her thoughts, Jeff raised his head finally. “It was never your fault, you know. I wish Michael had kept his stupid mouth shut, of course. It wasn’t the end to the wedding we had hoped for. Kim’s boss went off on one, with the whole cast taking sides. Kim took it well, though. Fought her own: said she’d sue him for being a misogynistic bastard if he took her role away.” He paused and a smile flickered across his face. “She was magnificent: you’d have been proud.” He sighed.

“It was all fine for a few days. Then she got cramps; she was in agony. When we got to the hospital they said it was too late.” His face crumpled and Claire realised, for the first time, that Kim wasn’t the only one who had lost a baby.

Jeff’s eyes were red when he raised his head to look at her. “And then when they said she couldn’t have any more kids. It broke her, you know. I didn’t realise she really wanted to be a mother – we never talked about it that much. Maybe you don’t realise you want something until someone tells you you can’t have it.”

He fell silent and they sat listening to the sound of Kim’s breathing. When Jeff spoke again his voice was low. “After that, she wasn’t Kim anymore. She cried all the time, at the tiniest thing: TV adverts, pictures of kids, pregnant women in the street. The doctors diagnosed her with depression and gave her some pills but she wouldn’t take them. Said they made her feel worse. And then …” He stopped.

Claire knew what happened next; she’d been there, in a manner of speaking. Her mind was full of words but none seemed adequate. How could you relate to someone who had been through so much? She wanted to do something to help. Whatever Jeff said, it was still partially her fault.

“If it helps with the psych assessment, I’m happy to come and stay for a while, look after Kim.”

“What about your job? I thought you were starting a new job this week?”

Claire thought guiltily about Conor, everything she owned him and how much he’d put his own neck on the line to hire her. She thought about how much she was looking forward to getting back to work, having a purpose again. Not to mention some money to pay off her credit cards.”

She shrugged. “It’s just a job.”

***

4 thoughts on “Book Reviews Again: 2013 365 Challenge #279

  1. Reviews are such an odd thing, I’ve read a few; more when the book I’m looking at has an even split of 5&4 stars versus 3&2&1 stars. If the 3 and below are ridiculous (such as one which said, ‘I haven’t read it yet!’) then I’ll most likely buy. I read the reviews because I don’t 100% trust the blurb – because most publishing houses big up the book. They have to really, who’d buy if the blurb says, actually this book is interesting right up to the last quarter, when the author lost interest and wrapped it up, fast! For Indies, of course, they are very important. Personal attacks aren’t warranted – that’s the keyboard warrior again. Sad people.
    Enjoy your re-reads. Let the story win you over. Who gives a stuff if someone uses adverbs? Rules in writing change like the wind. What was allowed for Dickens wouldn’t pass muster now. Forget the rules…… enjoy the story.

  2. Pingback: Terry Pratchett: Fact and Fantasy | writermummy

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