(This is part three in my series on reading and reviewing books. Please read parts one and two if you haven’t already. Thanks!)
Yesterday morning, armed with a brand-new food storage container filled with home-made apple turnovers, I popped into my church’s quilting session. I’ve never made apple turnovers before (or watched them being made), so I looked up ten different recipes online and cobbled together a plan. I used some regular bread dough instead of pastry (easier to work with and sturdier), sliced up a bagful of apples to simmer for filling, and learned by making a few mistakes.
One: cover the dough with a damp cloth while shaping the first turnovers, or the dough dries out. (I managed to salvage it with a bit of extra oil and a flick or two of water, but it was harder to shape.) Two: no matter how gross I find cornstarch (no rational reason for doing so, just an odd aversion), I should give a try rather than plain flour. My filling did thicken, but it didn’t have that lovely smooth texture of a proper pie filling. Three: Even if the recipe calls for one cup of brown sugar, don’t believe it. I reduced the sugar to two-thirds of a cup, but the filling was still too sweet. Four: Buy a silly pastry brush because doing an egg wash by hand (literally) is messy and goopy. (I debated between silicone and natural bristle pastry brushes, and I finally chose natural bristle because the silicone looked too stiff to use on fragile dough.)
How in the world do people roll out apple turnover dough and make them all the same? I know I could do it by using a round circle cutter, but that seems like cheating.
At any rate, I arrived with my armload of apple turnovers, afraid no one would like them. After all, who knows better how to make apple turnovers than a roomful of quilting grannies? 😀 However, they were all so warm, so welcoming, and so thrilled to have me join. When I hesitantly mentioned I had some apple turnovers to share for lunch (with many disclaimers about the funny sizes, funny shapes, and the first time attempting to make them), they said how nice it was. I wonder if they were thinking, “How cute, she did it all by herself!” *giggle* And…I did not bring a single turnover home. Every last one got eaten. Yay!
I knotted squares, ironed fabric, straightened thread spools, draped partially finished quilt tops over tables, and chattered with everyone. Gosh. It was my first time visiting (although I knew one woman from a Bible study, a few others because they are greeters, and two others knew me from handbell practice the night before), and everyone could not have been nicer. I’ll go back tomorrow, and this time I’ve been requested to make more goodies.
How to make Ana happy: Eat the food she makes for you, enjoy it, and ask for more.
Best of all, the oldest granny of the group gave me a moment I treasured all the way home. She showed me how to use a measurement block to put my knots in the center of each square, and she gave me safety pins to mark each center before knotting. I chatted with her about everything from her daughter to cross-stitching to my position on coffee (don’t like it). We talked about the intricacies of “real” quilting (as opposed to the utility quilting we were doing, easy stuff meant to keep people warm rather than an art form in its own right), and I said I didn’t have the patience or spatially analytical mind to get all of the patterns right.
Ana: Is the quilting on ongoing project, or is it a one-time thing?
Granny: Ongoing. There’s another group making quilts for at-risk babies, and they take special orders.
Granny: Those are beautiful.
Ana: They must be done by real quilters.
Granny: Oh, yes.
Ana: Do you do real quilting?
Granny: No! I don’t like all of the fussing.
Ana: Me, either. I never learned. It’s too complicated! My mom used to quilt, though.
Granny: Does your mom laugh a lot, like you?
It’s funny how the sweetest compliments are the ones people don’t realize are a compliment. This 95-year-old granny asked the question in passing, without special emphasis, and as part of continuing the conversation. Yet while I drove home from church, I played back that conversation in my head and blinked back a few tears. The image of a laughing self, someone who must have been raised by a mother who also liked to laugh, is not an image that resonates with my experience with my family. For this elderly woman to hold up that image of myself (albeit after only a few hours of working together), well..it was special. I want to be the sort of person who makes people think I was raised by a woman who loved to laugh. A few others made comments about my enthusiasm, my talent at picking up the handbells right away (gulp! not exactly!), and energy.
What a gift this granny gave me. All last night and this morning, I’ve thought about the effect of one small comment. Thinking about how the words I say can either tear down or build up those around me. Resolving to say more positive words and fewer words of complaint.
On that note, I’d like to introduce a reviewer who has always made an effort to be positive. Regann reviewed both The Vengeance of Mrs. Claus and Becoming Clissine: Bastia, Book One. She earned my respect by writing an intelligent review of Becoming Clissine that demonstrated both respect and understanding of the book. Did she give it five stars? Nope. Did she give both the book and author respect? Absolutely. Let me repeat the review excerpt from the first post in this series, and put it in context:
This is a hard review to write because there were many aspects I liked and disliked about this book. First, the synopsis captured my attention right away because I LOVE feminist dystopian novels and have read The Handmaid’s Tale and The Gate to Women’s Country. I also liked the concept of a matriarchal society where homosexuality is the norm and heterosexuality is taboo and improper. But, this novel was nothing like I expected and the author succeeded in writing such a vivid, original, and unique universe instead of just a story.
Unfortunately this one almost became a DNF to me because I struggled with the age play content. This is the first time I have encountered age play in a novel and it personally makes me uncomfortable. However, reading is an experience and now from experience I know that this type of content is now a hard limit for me. Regardless, I enjoyed the core of the story and will pick up the next in the series. (For the rest of the review, please click here.)
These two paragraphs are a good example of Regann’s philosophy of reviewing and why she is respected as a reviewer. And now, let’s hear from Regann herself!
Hello and thank you for answering questions about reviewing F/F fiction! Please introduce yourself, the site you review for, and the types of books you usually review.
Hello! My name is Regann and I am a Midwestern twenty-something reader and blogger. I started reviewing on Goodreads but had the desire to start a blog so I started Lipstick Lesbian Reviews http://www.lipsticklesbianreviews.com . I review lesbian, F/F, and LGBT books primarily fiction. I also review books that feature F/F dynamics but may not be fully F/F.
Why do you review F/F fiction? What appeals to you about this particular pairing?
Before Goodreads I had no idea there was such an overwhelming selection of lesbian / F/F books! Well first I enjoy F/F because I am a female who dates females 😉 Secondly I enjoy F/F because the dynamic between two females is beautiful, sensual, and there is a connection that cannot be mimicked in other pairings.
What do you find most challenging about writing a review?
Reviews usually flow for me since I write them right after I finish reading so everything is fresh in my mind. Sometimes it can be a challenge to put into words the emotions or feelings I have after reading.
What kind of interaction do you wish from authors? Are you open to discussion with an author about your reviews, or do you prefer your review to stand on its own?
I review out of personal enjoyment and am by no means a professional or a critic. My reviews are very subjective and my own thoughts. I’m an honest person so I won’t sugarcoat a review but I would never bash a book either. The interaction I primarily wish from authors is what a review is for: to find out what one reader thinks of their book. I do enjoy open discussion with authors as well but don’t expect it either. Simple things like retweeting my review or posting a comment makes my day so I’m a pretty easy blogger to please.
What do you wish authors knew about reviews and reviewers? Specifically, what should authors avoid doing or be sure to do when interacting with reviewers?
My first thought about this question is I think authors should avoid seeing a 3 star as a bad review. I’ve always thought a 3 star means the book was good, enjoyable, and recommendable- but maybe not going to be a re-read. Books I rate 3 stars are ones I usually recommend to other readers who are looking for a certain read that maybe wasn’t my favorite of all time. As a reader I am also more influenced by mid-level ratings than one star/5 star ratings.
What is the worst example of author behavior you’ve seen in regards to a review? Feel free to change identifying details to protect the guilty!
I reviewed a book (not F/F or for my blog) and the author asked me to withhold my review if I didn’t give it a 4 or 5 stars. I felt uncomfortable because the author didn’t share this before I read the book and I enjoyed it! I thought only having high ratings posted was misleading other readers.
How can authors best show appreciation for reviewers and encourage you to continue giving your services?
Authors showing anything is appreciated 🙂 Retweeting, leaving a quick comment, etc. are very simple ways that are nice to see once logging on. I also feel very honored when an author asks me to review again as well.