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Difficult Roads Lead to Beautiful Destinations

This post must start with a huge THANK YOU. I am overwhelmed by direct messages from wonderful people offering get well wishes after my mishap at the end of October. That thing called ‘human inquisitiveness’ has also prompted this post; people want to know what happened. A brief review follows.

Saturday 28 October 2017. Working with our 19-year-old son, Sasha on a DIY project in the ‘little girls’ bedroom. Ha ha, they are 11 and 13 years. Not little anymore . . .

After a few hours of enjoyable work, I became tired and had an uncomfortable ache from hip to toes in my left leg. Recognising and ignoring it, I blamed the nervous system illness I have had for many years but we decided we had done enough for the day and our stomachs growled. So we packed away the tools.

Sasha gave me an appraising look and told me to go downstairs, he would finish. I didn’t want to quit yet. It’s not that often that we have the time to work together but five-minutes later the pain had increased so intensely I couldn’t stand. I knew then that this wasn’t the regular pain thing.

Helped to bed but not able to remember the journey is an interesting experience that has gone in my ‘notes to include in writing’ file. I was upstairs, then I wasn’t and found myself falling into a very dark place where exquisite pain was the companion. I take morphine to manage daily pain, the regular dose and the boosters had no effect , so I asked for a glass of rum (I don’t drink spirits). It had the desired effect, and I slept for a short while.

On waking, I discovered only one position that didn’t make me want to scream, bite into the pillows . . . but it wasn’t practical; my upper body was at right angles to my legs and there was little space for Sarah to join me in the bed later. It was suggested that an ambulance be called but I didn’t want that because the thought of more fuss and movement was very unappealing. I don’t want to recall the following thirty-six hours until the point where I gave in and agreed that an ambulance was necessary. Nor do I want to revisit the journey from bed to the ambulance. Those guys were great, but they had no magic wands except a powerful ambulance and a siren with blue light to get us through the roadworks joining the main route from home to Carcassonne.

Nobody was expecting Christmas trees while we travelled around the Carcassonne ring road at 120 KPH. Expletives from the driver followed by a thud and scraping sound beneath the vehicle diverted our attention. Recovering his composure, he explained that a car and trailer carrying unfettered Christmas trees had shed part of its load. We were dragging some of it along on the under carriage. After a few radio exchanges he said he wasn’t going to stop, and we carried our new load the remaining four kilometres into the ‘Urgence’ bay.

Colleagues detached the tree and were excited to receive their first Christmas tree of the season which they proudly stood in a corner; standing at over two metres tall. No damage to the ambulance. The triage team, examined and attached three liquids that brought a quick drugged haze and an emergency MRI scan that showed a disk in my lower back had moved into the spinal canal.

Seven long immobile days later, I was transferred to a specialist hospital near Toulouse where on 04 November; a surgeon removed the disk and performed a spinal fusion operation. The next day, I got out of bed and walked. They performed a miracle! The pain in the leg has reduced considerably, but it’s going to be a long road to complete recovery. My usual optimism will take care of that.

That’s the story and one I must say was not enjoyable to relate. Yet look at the positives; the skill and dedication of everybody involved was humbling. The ‘get well wishes’ too have played a great part in recovery.

Back and work now relinking to the positive thread I left behind almost six weeks ago.

The dusty world of Star Ratings

There’s plenty of debate around involving book reviewers and readers about what prompts them to award five star reviews (or less). So I decided to explore thoughts posted on ‘Goodreads.com.’ I discovered how people don’t share the same criteria for awarding five stars. Star ratings become a very dusty issue.

Similarly, I remember considerably heated discussions during one of my postgraduate courses at university about the assessment of feedback given by students on a range of courses. We are human beings and our assessment criteria vary considerably. There are differences just as there are similarities but where we are at any given point in our lives affects how we think about things.

I’m not going to write a conclusion to this post and after reading the opinions of readers and a few writers from Goodreads, you may understand why. Reviewing a book is based on the reader’s opinion. A five star for one is not the same for another and less than five stars does not make a book poor. Also, how can you compare five stars given to a J.K Rowling book and one by Tolstoy?

I am sure some would argue that a problem comes to light when the public notices that a book on Amazon only has four stars. How many will pause to consider the issues? Perhaps it’s time for Amazon and others to abandon star ratings because they are misleading and at best, only a guide.

The number of comments to one thread on Goodreads shows what a ‘hot’ subject it is.

“This past week I have reviewed two or three books on here and on my blog. Looking back, I’ve realized that I gave them all 5 stars. Now on other book blogs that I follow, there is usually some sort of mention that the blogger never gives out five stars lightly. I’d like to think that I don’t give them lightly, but now I’m not so sure.”

“My main “criteria” for a five-star read is if I would go back and re-read it. There are many books that I enjoy, but I wouldn’t necessarily read them again.”

“I rate from 1-5 stars, with a Did Not Finish ‘DNF’ option as well. I do have more 4 and 3 stars than 5, but I am not stingy with them either.”

“I think if you have a clear understanding of the types of books you like, and you pick those up more than others, than you will end up with more 5 star ratings.”

“Authors don’t view a blogger giving their book 5 stars as it being perfect. They view it as the blogger loving the book.

On that same note, most authors will feel the blogger really didn’t care for the book if it’s not a 4 or 5. I know when I see a 3 star review for my books the first thing that comes to mind is the blogger was indifferent about it. They didn’t love it. They didn’t hate it. It was eh. Not all bloggers feel this way, however, which makes the whole thing confusing.

I know I received a 3 star review for one of my books over the weekend from a blogger and she did nothing but praise the book throughout her whole review.

The other thing I think bloggers need to consider when they are rating a book is how they would search out a book themselves. I know readers that tend to avoid books that don’t have at least a 4 star average. If you’re one of those, should you be giving a book you enjoyed a rating below 4 stars?”

And in response to that . . .  

“I know that when I give 5 stars, it’s because I absolutely adored it.

And I will definitely start considering the rating in terms of how I search for books. I really try not to even look at the stars though. I’ll read though a few reviews and decide from there. 3 stars for me is “I liked it, but it wasn’t my cup of tea.” I don’t think it’s horrible, but I do think other readers might enjoy it more.”

“I give 5 stars to books that I consider favorites. I don’t re-read books, so that isn’t a criterion. But a 5 is a book I loved and would recommend to lots of people. I sometimes have a long run of 5 star books. I tend to give more 4 stars than anything, though.”

“If I give a 3, I didn’t love it. I didn’t hate it. It was just eh. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it to a lot of people. I usually try to mention positives in the review, though, and give thoughts on who might enjoy the book more than I did. But just because I don’t focus on the bad doesn’t mean I didn’t really mean to give it a 3. I’m just not the type of reviewer to rant about how bad a book is. Even if I give a book a 2, I explain what bothered me, but try to spin some positives since someone else might like it better.”

“I read and review Indie mysteries/romantic suspense and the subgenres of the above because I’m also a mystery & romantic suspense Indie Author. I love to be able to give 5 stars and I have a point system on which do it: originality in plot, character, etc. even if I’m not “in love” with the book.”

“If I can’t give a book a 4 or a 5 I won’t post a review. I did a 3 star once and felt so bad about it I removed it.”

“I don’t use star ratings on my own blog because I think that the reasons why I liked/didn’t like a book are more important than an arbitrary number of stars. I could give a five star rating to something like The Hunger Games but also to Dostoevsky, even though there’s really no basis by which to compare the two.”

“I do give 5 stars. And it’s usually for books that were perfect for me. It usually has something to do with me wanting to reread the book. If I want to reread the book right after I’ve finished it (and it sometimes happens) I have a 5 stars review.
I rarely do a review for less than 3.5 stars. I do them, but I try to be honest and respectful, as with every other review.”

“I give 5 stars if the book deserves it… there’s no criteria which I base my rating… if the book is really mind-blowingly good then I give 5 stars but there are many possible reasons for a book to be mind-blowingly good for me ha-ha! If I liked the book but I wouldn’t consider re-reading it then I’d give it a 4 stars or less.”

“I’ll be completely honest, I don’t think I’ve ever given a 5 star rating, and that’s nothing to do with me not thinking the book is great, or not wanting to reread it (I do a lot of rereading), I just see a 5 as being unobtainably perfect. Similarly though, I rarely give out a rating of one star, a book has to be really bad for me to go that low.”

“Basically if I give your book 4 stars, I loved it (to be honest I give out a lot of 4 stars, I love reading I can’t help it!), 3 stars I really enjoyed it (and would read any sequels), 2 stars I enjoyed it a bit (and would read sequels if I run out of other books), 1 star I didn’t like. I don’t not finish books often enough for that to even matter!

I like to think that I don’t give out a lot of five stars either, but I feel like I’m giving out more five stars than I should be. My criteria are just that I absolutely loved the book, and it in some way or another changed my life. (The way I view things, my beliefs, etc.)”

“This question had been bugging me when I started doing book reviews. All said and done I respect the time and effort any writers puts in the book making process.”

“If I gave 5 star to all the books I read then the ones that truly deserve it will not have a meaning. So whenever I give a 3star or 4star I give my reasons also. I really hope the authors understand that and not get me wrong. I love all books but there are some which leaves a lot of questions in my mind as a reader.”

“I tend to love the majority of books that I read but for me to give out a 5 star review…it has to be excellent. I think I have a given a few.”

“People tend to choose to read the sort of books that they know they’re going to like, or have a strong interest in. Therefore most keen readers are probably often going to give a 4 or 5 star rating.”

“I do give them out, and my main criteria is enjoyment. If that book produced a smile, a sigh or a laugh, chances are you’ll get a good review from me. Many of the books I like are ones I’ve rated here on GR. To be honest, I don’t generally list the books I hated because I hate tearing down a fellow author’s works. I just prefer not to refer to the book at all in that case.”

I” agree that I don’t like to list books I don’t enjoy. I prefer to have a positive attitude to everything, including books.”

“I agree that I don’t like to list books I don’t enjoy. I prefer to have a positive attitude to everything, including books.”

“Me too. There’s already too much negativity in the world. :)”

“I go back and forth on this subject. There’s no perfect book in my opinion, but if the book related to me on a personal level – if I learned something from that book, if I laughed in a way I haven’t in a long time, if I cried, if some of the experiences in the book mirrored my own experience… I give the book a 5 Star.”

“I do give 5 star reviews if I feel the book deserves it based on story-telling skill and how I felt when reading the book. Did I smile the whole time? Did it actually scare me??? Did I cry? Sometimes I will even overlook some errors if I felt it was a really fantastically told story with fresh or newly approached ideas.

I do give 1 and 2 star reviews occasionally, but never if I was *asked* to review. I can’t bring myself to mark a book under 3 stars if the author personally asked for my opinion. Because really, that’s all that a review is – it’s the reader’s opinion. If I do get a book that I can’t in good faith give at least 3 stars, I will tell the reader why. I won’t post a review. Because maybe the author just needed someone to give them a fair chance and will make changes.

So because I feel that it costs me nothing (usually… sometimes you do get an unfortunate book that is so terrible you feel you’ve wasted time reading it), I am not overly stingy with my 5 star reviews. Not if I feel the author told a great tale and deserves a high recommendation.

That being said, my 4 star reviews are also high marks, but maybe there are lots of errors that disrupt the flow, or 3 stars if I had trouble following the story.

Basically, I do this for enjoyment because I love to read, I’m enjoying connecting with other writers, and if I can help someone out, why the heck not?”

“Five stars books are, to me, those that are not only wonderfully written but also leave a lasting impact. Some books let you know right away whether or not they’ll be memorable.

So, yes, I give five star reviews. I don’t believe five star reviews should be withheld on the basis that “nothing is perfect.””

“I give 5 star reviews based pretty much only on my level of enjoyment. It’s my blog, not the Olympics so I don’t really deduct points for grammar if I still thoroughly enjoyed the book. I will note it though. If something kept me from loving the read then I will explain that in the review. That being said I am in no way afraid to give a one star review either.”

“One last comment about 5 star reviews: These are worth their weight in gold to Amazon Authors, and I preach, to whoever will listen, to go thank those readers who’ve taken the time to give a 5 star review. Heck I’ve been known to thank 3 star reviewers!

As a book blogger, I think I’ve gotten more thank yous for 3-star reviews than 5-star reviews. I find my 3-star reviews have more feedback and constructive criticism than my 5-star reviews, which tend to be more gushing, I love this book type rants.

My criteria for giving a 5 star review is it must change my life. It must be a book which I’ll reread many times over and it really clicks on some level.

I do my reviews in a similar manner to how I deal with editing clients. I read the book objectively and then write the reviews in a balanced and constructive manner. This means that I do have 3 star reviews where I pull the book apart and I’ll probably have 1 and 2 star reviews at some point too.”

“For me to give 5 stars to a book I would have to be hooked on it, sitting up late even though I am going to work the next morning, think about the book when not reading it, looking forward to getting back to it, be emotionally tugged at by the book, re-read the book again, immediately recommend the book to friends and family before finishing etc.”

“When I give out 5 star ratings, I determine it based on the level of enjoyment, how much I enjoy the plot, the characters, the world-building, the romance, and the writing.”

“Yes….I give 5 stars when I really enjoy a book. The book has to blow my mind in ALL THE WAYS possible. It must be epic! 4 stars are for really good books that made me feel a sense of accomplishment by reading them, like I’ve just found secret treasure or something like that, and 3 stars are books that were just fun to read. Anything lower than that means I didn’t enjoy the book at all.”

“So far this year I’ve only given 3 books five stars and I loved them all/ wanted to read them again immediately/ recommended and raved about them for all to hear.
On the other side; I never give one star reviews though because I have to really hate a book for that and I tend to not finish them.”

“I don’t use stars on my own blog; here on Goodreads I have given out a handful of five-stars to books I really, really enjoyed and plan to reread as time allows. Four stars is books I really enjoyed reading once, but don’t feel the urge to hold on to forever.

Three stars are for books that are average. I didn’t waste my time reading them, but didn’t thrill to it either…or they were enjoyable but had some problems that lowered the rating (For example, an otherwise good book that has a gaping plot hole, or an unappealing main character.).

Two stars is for books that I actively disliked or are of relatively low quality. These are about as rare as five stars, because I usually avoid reading them to begin with. And one star is for the worst of the worst; I’ve only done that for one or two books.

I find that in general reading the 3 and 2 star reviews of a book is more helpful than the five star reviews. They tend to be more complete and point up issues I might have problems with myself.”

“I give 5 stars if I was (a) entertained to the point where I walked away thinking, ‘wow!’, or (b) the story and technical merits of the book were outstanding.

If it’s a darn good story, but still have minor issues, I give it a four.

If I had major issues with it, I’ll start weighing those against what I like and see if I come out in the 2 or 3 star range.”

“I think I’m a book snob, though. I can find the errors, the inconsistencies, the technical issues and if I’m pulled out of the story enough, I take the stars away. Even for well-beloved authors. I don’t mean to be, I just can’t help it!”

“For me, a 5 star book is a book that affected me strongly. It doesn’t necessarily have to be perfect… because I think you’re right in asking, “Is there truly a perfect book?” (I’d say no, lol.) But it does have to mean something to me. I may not always want to go back and re-read it – because maybe it affected me in a way that made me cry my eyes out, – but it has to have some kind of influence in my life. :)”

“I definitely give out 5 star reviews, and rather regularly. 5 stars isn’t ‘perfect’, nothing in life ever is. If you look closely at works published by the major houses that have been through multiple editors, copy editors, and such you’ll find minor editing errors (one of such my sister called me about at 4 am one time, but that’s another story). It’s about how much I enjoyed the book as a whole. For me, if it’s a book that I couldn’t put down, can’t stop thinking about, and/or want to read again then it’s probably a 5 star. That said, if there are issues that detract from the overall enjoyment of the story.

To be honest, my blog/reviews are rather light on the 1 & 2 star end. I won’t review a book on my blog that I didn’t finish, and if I’m not enjoying the book then I probably will put it down and pick up something else instead. I’ve been told that this is a ‘bad habit’ but hey, I’d like to enjoy my spare time. I’m also very selective about the books I accept to review, focusing on the ones that interest me, so the times that I come across something that doesn’t capture my attention aren’t that common.

And to sum up my ramble… I definitely give out 5 star reviews whenever I feel that the book warrants it. And it basically comes down to that. What I think. My reviews are based solely on my opinions when I put down the book. I don’t go and count the ratings I’ve given out lately, but rather put down the book and say ‘this was a __ star book’”

 

Positive, Dynamic Solutions

I’m not feeling at my best today. A rather negative way to begin an article but really, we all have that feeling at some point or another. I guess you know what I’m talking about.

When I feel this way, I search for escape. The problem is though; I have a nervous system illness that is irritated when the air pressure drops.

Finding my way out . . .

Chronic pain is extremely distracting there is no doubt, and so far I’ve not managed to find a way erase it. That said, there are ways to push it into the background so I can get on with my life.

Adopt a growth mindset. I read and engage with the work of Deepak Chopra and many others. Deepak said research has shown that when adversity strikes, happier people tend to see creative opportunities, while unhappier people see adversity.

“It’s programmed through childhood through a phenomenon called mirror neurons,” he says. “If you saw people complaining all the time when you were a kid, that’s what you do. Your neurons mirror the behavior.”

Going back to 1999 when I had the accident that started this illness, I adopted a mantra and repeated to myself whenever the going got tough.

Positive, Dynamic Solutions

When it went off the1 to 10 scale, I searched for something positive to distract and distance myself from the pain. Sometimes I failed, there were times when I stumbled but I always picked myself up.

The Internet was a shadow of what it is today but there were opportunities and I seized a few and developed an ‘eZine; ‘ I guess you might call it a motivational blog. Writing positive articles was life changing; the positive comments from almost 5000 readers were almost secondary to the learning I experienced through researching and writing the articles.

A visit to the doctor one day slammed my positive attitude so hard that I fell into a deep slumber for several months. He increased the so-called pain relieving opiates to the maximum dose and staying awake during the day was a challenge in itself. He also told me it was “unlikely” I would ever walk again. The diagnosis forced my employer to retire me.

Nevertheless, I changed my drugged mindset, stepped away from the problem and looked for opportunities by increasing my input to KEYZine, my online blog. It wasn’t known as a blog yet, that term hadn’t surfaced.

I also decided to engage the enemy by learning everything I could about the illness. I started to accept it and get on with my life. I engaged what Deepak calls the “unfriendlies.” He talked about them as people; my unfriendlies were an illness causing debilitating pain and a society discriminating against me because I couldn’t participate as expected.

It took a while but with lots of study and incredible support from my partner and our family, I am back on my mountain bike and skiing Pyrenean slopes when the snow falls. I have dozens of books to write and thousands more to read. Medication is necessary at very low levels and like today, following a long journey yesterday evening, the pain occasionally resurfaces only to be forced back again after I engage and challenge.

Deepak Chopra said,

“Adopt a growth mindset

Engage the “unfriendlies

Read”

I do those things every day and they have led to Positive, Dynamic Solutions

 

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