No Negative Reviews: Why Readers Will Not Find Negative Reviews Here

no-negative-reviews-This weekend, a dear friend and faithful blog brainstorm/critiquer asked me why I never write a critical review in my “Books of the Month” posts.

My gut reaction and immediate response was, “Because, I do not want to tear people down or hurt their feelings. That is not who I want to be.”

However, since our discussion, the question would not leave me alone. I think she, and you deserve a better thought out answer.

Why No Negative Reviews

When I consider writing critical reviews, my first question is, who am I to set myself up as judge over the quality of an author’s work who has actually made it past all the gatekeepers and critical eyes on the road to publication? Surely, if a book has come far enough to be published by a third-party, there must be someone who will appreciate it. Although I will admit, it might be a limited number of individuals and not necessarily me.

And if a book is self-published, as I novelist, I understand all the love and labor that went into producing it. Who am I that I should tear apart someone’s dream, someone whose hopes are not all that different from my own?

Yes, of course some books are of higher quality than others. Some books can be quite flawed. But I do not want to be the person who points these things out.

The Simpler Reason I Don’t Write Negative Reviews

Then, after all my philosophizing, I had to laugh at myself. There is actually a much simpler reason you will not find negative reviews on Literate Lives. I do not finish reading books that I do not like and therefore cannot count them as books I read in any month.

It took me many years of living with the inner insistence, “You must finish everything you start,” but finally, sensibly, I concluded that life is too short, time is too precious, and there are too many unread books on my shelves for me to finish any book I find to be low in quality or of minimal appeal to me.

Stop Reading Lousy/Unappealing Books

If I am not enjoying a book, fiction or nonfiction, that I am reading, if I do not feel it has anything to offer me, I may give it an additional chapter or two to improve, but if it fails to, I stop reading. You should too.

Value of Book Listings on this Site

So why read the “Books of the Month” posts?

Literate Lives is about creating a community of like-minded readers, writers, and teachers. If you like what you find here, you might like the books I like. (And if you like what you find here, how I’d love to hear about books you have enjoyed!)

The “Books of the Month” posts are more a recommended reading list than a critique or review. They are an invitation to seek out a good read.

The Purpose of “Literate Lives”

In the end, all my initial philosophizing was not a waste. It clarified for me, again, what I want this blog to be. I want to bring light, joy, pleasure, and inspiration to others, and I want to encourage and support readers, writers, parents and teachers in cultivating a reading, writing, thinking, imaginative lives.

Have you read any good books lately? Please use the comment section to respond.

*photo credit: Depositphotos_28904783_original


Reading Log: January & February 2016

61VJJDQF15L._SX335_BO1,204,203,200_January/February 2016 Reading Log

It’s been in “interesting” two months, and I can’t remember where the dividing line falls in the stack of books I’ve read since December. So, here it is: A January/February Reading Log.

  • Soulless by Gail Carriger
  • Writing Science Fiction and Fantasy: 20 Dynamic Essays by Today’s Top Professionals by the Editors of Analog and Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine
  • Who was Edgar Allan Poe? by Jim Gigliotti
  • The Serpent’s Tale by Ariana Franklin
  • Gone Fishing: A Novel in Verse by Tamera Will Wissinger
  • The Enchanter Heir by Cinda Williams Chima
  • The Sorcerer Heir by Cinda Williams Chima
  • Sailing from Byzantium: How a Lost Empire Shaped the World by Colin Wells
  • Egg and Spoon by Gregory Maguire

Reading Reflections

I loved Franklin’s mystery set in 12th century England, and the concluding books of Chima’s Heir Chronicles, were every bit as gripping as those I’d already read.

Lastly, I found Wells’ book fascinating. Between my Greek ancestry and a novel idea I’ve got simmering on a back burner, I find this empire, that lasted more than 1,100 years, mesmerizing. This slim book expanded my knowledge about the western European renaissance, my childhood faith–Greek Orthodoxy, and the world from which generations of my Greek ancestors sprang. I look forward to learning more about it.

What about you?

Have you read any good books lately? Please share authors, titles, and genres so we can all add to our “Books I Want to Read” lists.

Praying in Color: Drawing a New Path to God by Sybil Macbeth

402700I loved this book! I read it in one sitting, just gobbled it up.

In Praying in Color, Macbeth discusses how she is often eager and willing to pray for others, but then finds that her prayer time turns into something more like a series of prayer snippets as her short attention span–and don’t we all have one of those nowadays!–keeps pulling her off topic.

The outcome of her seeking a way to deal with this challenge is the book, Praying in Color. Basically, Macbeth advocates for doodling your prayers. She also emphasizes this has nothing to do with being a skilled artist. These doodled prayers are not intended to be works of art but rather an outpouring of our good wishes for the person or object of our prayer. Once complete, they also serve as visual reminders to continue praying in the days and weeks that follow.

In Praying in Color, Macbeth suggests you allow yourself about a half an hour to sit down with paper, pens, and colored pencils or markers. Write the name of the person or object of your prayers and draw a shape around it. Then as you continue to pray, embellish the shape in whatever manner your thoughts lead you. By utilizing this process, she has found that what once were a minute or two or three brief moments of prayer have been transformed to 30 minutes of dedicated praying.

Furthermore, she shares how this technique can also be used for meditating on scripture (another tough job for those of us blessed with butterfly brains), weighing and discerning complex issues in our lives, and memorization of texts (Something that, as a visual learner, I find challenging. I’m excited to try doodling something I want to memorize soon. In addition, as a Language Arts teacher, I can see great uses for this as another format for responding to reading.

I prayed for a friend of mine who is battling cancer while I listened to this morning’s teaching in church. I just used a pen and an unlined 3/5 card. (I am going to add some color with my colored pencils–because I want to give her the card and the book–she is an artist). I found this did not distract me from the message, and yet, through my pen, I was able to weave a net of healing about her.

Praying in Color is an awesome little book, and I highly recommend it.

A Quick Comprehension Check: Reading Response Exercise #106


Read for at least twenty to thirty minutes.

Reflect & Write

Think about what you have read, and answer the following questions:

  • What happened in today’s reading?
  • What do you think will happen next?
  • Based on what you have read so far, would you recommend this book to others? Why or why not?


Share your responses with your reading partners, or share your response as a comment here on the blog. Remember to mention the title and author of your novel. That way, readers intrigued by your response can check out the book for themselves.

Happy Reading!

Reading Response Exercise #105: What Do You Think?



Read for at least twenty to thirty minutes.


Think about what you have read.

  • What was interesting in this reading?
  • What might have been boring?
  • What do you wish the author might have included before moving on in the story?
  • Explain why you feel the way you do.


Share your responses with your reading partners, or share your response as a comment here on the blog. If commenting here, please mention the title and author of your novel. That way, readers intrigued by your response can check out the book for themselves.

Happy Reading!

Bubble, Bubble, Toil, and Trouble: Characterization Reading Response Exercise #104


Read for at least twenty to thirty minutes.


Choose a character from the passages you have read and job down a few words that you would use to describe him or her. Consider some of the weaknesses of his or her personality.


Predict  how you think this character could end up getting him or herself into trouble.  Include your reasons for  thinking this.. Write your ideas down or discuss with your reading partners

Share your response as a comment here on the blog, and mention the title and author of your novel. That way, readers intrigued by your response can check out the book for themselves.

Happy Reading!

Onomatopoeia and Ssssounds: Reading Response Exercise #103

The format of this reading response exercise is a little different from our usual set up because to do this one, you need to read the instructions first.


Authors use sensory details to help readers understand and experience (vicariously) the setting of a story. Words like roaring or ringing help the reader imagine themselves into the point of view character’s experience. Other sound words include onomatopoeia, specialized words that sound like the sound they describe. Examples include: plop, splat, and thunk.


To complete this reading response exercise, get a piece of paper and a pen or pencil. Sit down and read for at least twenty to thirty minutes. Each time you come across a sound word in your reading, list it along with its page number.


When done reading, choose three sound words from your list. Go back to the page where you found each of them and reread the paragraph in which each was included. For each sound word, consider how the author’s choice of that particular word influenced your perception and experience of the story.


Share your responses with your reading partners, or here as a comment on the blog.

Preschool Literacy


Find a picture book that includes lots of sound words. Read it with your preschooler, asking your child to stop you and repeat the sound word each time he or she hears one. (Help her if the task proves too daunting to do on her own.)


When you have finished reading, ask your preschooler which sound word was his favorite. Ask why.

Write the word (and write it big) on a piece of paper then give it to your preschooler to decorate. (Media options can include: crayons, marking pens, stickers, pictures torn out of magazines and glued on… or anything else you can dream up to play with!)

Post your preschooler’s finished project where it can be enjoyed by family and friends.

Comprehension Clues: Reading Response Exercise #101


Read for at least twenty to thirty minutes.


Think about what you have read. Check your comprehension level by imagining what you think will happen next?

List three clues that support your hypothesis.


Share your responses with your reading partners.

Preschool Literacy


Enjoy the first two-thirds of a picture book with your preschooler.


Stop and ask him what he thinks will happen next.


Listen to your preschooler’s response. Ask her what makes her think what she that this will happen?

Read the rest of the book and discuss how it ends vs. what your preschooler had predicted.

What Would You Do? Reading Response Exercise #97


Read for at least twenty to thirty minutes.


Think about what you have read.

  • How would you feel if you were in the main character’s situation?
  • How would you react?
  • What would you do?


Write either:

  • a journal entry from the main character’s point of view (if you are the journaling sort)
  • or a dialogue between the main character and his or her best friend.


Read and discuss your responses with your reading partners, or post your responses here on the blog. Remember to share the title and author of the book you are reading, so others can be inspired to give it a try.

Preschool Literacy


Enjoy a picture book with your preschooler.

Stop at some point after the plot problem has developed and before it has been solved.


Ask your preschooler what he or she might do in the main character’s situation. Discuss what might be the outcome of the story is its main character chooses this solution.

When done discussing options, read the rest of the story. After its close, discuss how the author chose to resolve the story and how different or similar the author’s approach was from you and your child’s.

Plot a Timeline: Reading Response Exercise #96


Read for at least twenty to thirty minutes.

Reflect and Create:

  • Think about what you have read.
  • Make a timeline of the passages you have just read.
  • Create symbolic “icons” for five of the events in this passage
  • Place the icons on the timeline accompanying the mark for the event they represent.


  • Show your timelines to your reading partners.
  • Discuss the icons and the events they represent. How effectively was each icon in reflecting each event?

Post your timelines as a comment. I’d love to see them. Remember to label them with the title and author of the book you’ve read. You might inspire someone else to give the book a try.