I’m a voracious reader and it’s completely the fault of my parents.
I grew up in a strict Irish household. For most of my childhood we had one television and it was kept in the living room so our tv watching hours were regulated. We didn’t have video games until around my teen years when we got a Super Nintendo (we were behind the times even at that point as the Super was NOT the latest model). Most of my growing up years were spent outside and with books.
I was reading Shakespeare and Dickens while my peers were into teen idol type magazines. I was not allowed teen idol magazines.
I’m not complaining especially as I’ve been able to entertain myself when there’s no electricity, internet, etc because I can pick up a book which functions even when there’s no modern tech around. Though recently I did lose my internet for 47 hrs and 51 minutes (thanks for that Spectrum) and I did NOT handle it well. I don’t handle sudden changes well that I haven’t planned for – personality flaw.
I tell you all this so you can understand that going from avid reader that consumes 1-5 books / day to an online reviewer seemed like a natural extension. It just seemed like the importance of the written word in modern society has been going on a steep decline and I wanted to jump in to remind people how AMAZING books can be, how important they are to free thinking – HELLO?! Does anyone remember the plot of Orwell’s 1984?
When I got into reviewing books I started just doing it on sites like Goodreads, Amazon, etc. Eventually I wanted one place to house my thoughts, help me remember the great ones, so I created my website and began reading even more so I could get more reviews out to help more people.
For a while it was really great. I met some fantastic authors and even more readers who shared my passion. This was just tons of fun to be part of a community I didn’t even know existed. Reviewing also helped me branch out my normal interests and expand into books I never would’ve given a second glance at before. I was finally able to balance my non-fiction and fiction intake, stretch my brain muscle for the first time since graduating with my degree in Psychology.
Yes, receiving the occasional free book was just the icing on the cake.
But there was a dark side I had never encountered before.
Knowing the amount of work and sacrifice authors take I felt a huge responsibility to be honest and thorough when providing my opinion particularly if I didn’t like a book. I never made anything personal but of course it’s always feels personal when someone doesn’t like your ‘baby’.
Admittedly I was taken aback the first few times I had an author resort to cyber-bullying because they were unhappy I didn’t like their book. But I let it go and never used social media to call anyone out – from talking to some fellow bloggers I learned that goes with the territory especially if it’s a newbie or indie author. Apparently the more established authors, particularly if they’re represented by a big name House, don’t take the chance due to the potential for legal issues.
This past Fall I finally had to take a break. I was really excited because I was headed to publishing 600 reviews by the end of 2017 – YES, I did in fact read and take notes on almost 600 books last year. I had an author and his editor scour my social media then use my life in their attacks against me. Normally my more personal media is locked down as a protection for my daughters but some things had slipped through and going after my kids is a line that should never be crossed.
I quit reviewing. I kept reading, I just didn’t talk about it online anymore. I’ve kept in touch with a few authors but for the most part went back to my pre-online focused life.
So why am I coming back out? Oddly, and don’t laugh too hard at this, it’s because of Faleena Hopkins AKA #byefaleena who is currently known as the instigator of #cockygate.
If you haven’t heard about this I highly suggest you look into it for the sheer entertainment and drama of it all. Very briefly, it is my understanding she trademarked the word “cocky” and in a specific font that she did not own and was not legally allowed to trademark (fail on the part of the government for not catching that one). After she received her trademark she proceeded to go after romance authors who had books with the word “cocky” in the title and tell them to either change the title or she’d have their books taken down from Amazon (which actually happened but Amazon has since put a stop to it and reinstated the books). Of course the normal legal threats of suing for money, etc were included.
In the ensuing days of this I’ve seen thousands of readers, reviewers, bloggers, and authors band together. Complete strangers are banding together to protect authors, reviewers and bloggers who have been harmed by this. Apparently Amazon was so concerned at one point of being sued by Hopkins they took a wider initiative to begin removing reviews that even had the word “cocky” in it despite the reviews not even being on Hopkins’ books!
It made me realize the power of speaking out instead of hiding. That just because someone publishes a book it doesn’t make them somehow above the law or even just above common decency.
I’ve made sure to lock down what I needed to and in the future if someone thinks making fun of my daughters due to their autism is a good retort to my pointing out they should get the spelling/grammar errors and continuity issues fixed then I know it’s okay to speak out.