Sunday Lowdown #113

WEEKLY HIGHLIGHTS

Jeez, I have to stop writing my Sunday Lowdown post on Saturday night. By the time I get here, I’m hyper aware that I haven’t had a nap, there’s no Jeopardy! on Saturdays, and it’s likely I’ve had a meltdown in traffic or a store.

There were some highlights this week, though. I bailed from Goodreads. That’s right; after thirteen years I’ve stopped using it and switched to The Story Graph. My main reasons were 1) I’m only getting notifications from spam bots with porn sites in their bios liking my posts, 2) None of my actual friends are responding to my comments because Goodreads doesn’t seem to think it’s important to notify us of when we get a real comment (I don’t notice these missed replies until I’m scrolling through the home page), 3) Their recommendations don’t match anything I want to read and instead reflect what Amazon, their parent company, wants to sell.

On The Story Graph, the recommendations are so close to the kind of thing I would read, and I’ve already added several books to my TBR. I love that there is a DNF button and you can add content warnings to a book to help readers avoid things they don’t want/need in their reading lives. The interface is much cleaner and professional looking that Goodreads, which has always had the appearance of an open-source platform that needs love. The Story Graph has an app that works! Biscuit and I are over there already. You can search for me by looking up my email address, grabthelapels@gmail.com. Granted, The Story Graph does not have a comment section, but I have you guys. And pretty much any stranger I wrote to on Goodreads was a suspicious weirdo, choosing terse language instead of being a helpful book person.

Nick and I are scheduled for our first vaccines on April 7th. Indiana was supposed to go down to 16+ on March 31st, but a guy who works for Nick texted the team on March 29th that the appointment site for the state quietly dropped the age to thirty. I frog hopped out of the shower when Nick told me and jumped on the site to sign up, sitting there dripping all over the place and not even caring if I would be late for work as I queued up in the digital “waiting room.” My manager would have forgiven me. I’m glad we found out early because come March 31st, over 100,000 appointments were made on that site. I sent Nick’s minion (what’s the real word for someone you manage? Underling? Person who is employed?) flowers at work the next day. That may seem odd, but I read recently that most men receive flowers as a gift for the first time at their own funerals. I wrote on the card “you are a good dude.” Instead of call the vaccine “the jab” like most folks in these parts, I give a more gentle name: “the pweek.” Like, a cute little sound of a needle entering your skin. I keep singing, “Next week ’till the pweek!” Perhaps this is getting tiresome to Nick.

Now that spring is here and it’s snowing and 70 Fahrenheit in the same week, we decided to buy a “buddy pass” to a miniature golf place called Ninja Golf! (the exclamation was their choice, not mine). So far, we’ve only eaten ice cream there with names like “Play Doh” and “Michigan Pot Hole” and drank French press coffee on the outside picnic tables, but I appreciate local businesses that cut a deal to couples without children. Some other local businesses will have a big sale day on their site for literally everyone — college students, grandparents, people with kids — except a couple. How bizarre is it that our new coffee place is a mini golf course??? I’ve used the word “bizarre” about 1,000 times this past week. Am I in a vocabulary rut? Is life really getting more bizarre each week?? Either way, it’s official; Nick is my buddy and I have a mini golf pass to prove it. I’m going to get my birthday cake a Ninja Golf! and make use of my discount ASAP. I mean, if you’re going to have two pandemic birthdays, you might as well support both ninjas and golf while eating a cake both the flavor and color of your choosing.

THIS WEEK’S BLOG POSTS

I will never get enough Zora Neale Hurston. Even Zora at her worst is better that most writers at their best. Though Moses, Man of the Mountain is based on the Biblical tale, I wouldn’t call this Christian fiction. I’d lean toward fable, parable, maybe even humor. In Hurston’s hands, every tale is masterfully told. For those who have tried Their Eyes Were Watching God and struggled with the southern Florida dialect, there is none to be found here, so you should try it.

Despite being hilarious, salty, and charming in her Zoom author event for her newest book, It’s Not All Downhill from Here, Terry McMillan didn’t impress me so much with her writing. Too many characters and loads of concern trolling made it hard to listen to this audiobook. Try a novel like Who Asked You? by McMillan instead.

NEXT WEEK’S BLOG POSTS

The classic novel The Street by Ann Petry had been in my box of owned books TBR for a few years. I can’t remember why I suggested the former book blogger Roshni read this one in particular with me, but I did and we both loved it. Roshni and I did a video chat while I sat in frigid Indiana and she B&B’d in Hawaii for a month, aligning our five hour time difference to something reasonable. Set in Harlem, The Street felt familiar to me until I got to the surprising end. Review Tuesday.

On Thursday, I’m trying out another Terry McMillan book. I Almost Forgot About You was much better than my last McMillan read, and I had fun talking about it with Biscuit, as we read it together. It’s a fun, feminine book about a woman in her 50s contacting all the men she believes she loved and telling them they mattered to her after she finds out one of them has been dead for five years and she didn’t know.

BOOKS ADDED TO THE TBR PILE

Owned Books on TBR at Beginning of Year: 242
Owned Books on TBR Today: 231

231 is the same number as last week because I bought a book, one that The Story Graph recommended to me and sounded perfect, but is self-published and thus not available at libraries. I also added another recommended by The Story Graph that is easily procured at a library.

38 comments

  1. Pweek – I like it! I did not even FEEL mine going in: I’m quite glad I got a light reaction so I knew I’d had it (I did see the doctor with the syringe, so I know I did get one!). Good luck for it – we both felt unwell for about 26 hours but not too bad. Very sleepy. And when we got our text saying we could book ours, we leapt worund the house like over-excited teenagers!

    I’m going to read both Terry McMillens when I get them but bearing your notes in mind.

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    • Maybe It’s Not All Downhill from Here will read differently in text, whereas I listened to the audiobook read by the author. I know I enjoyed I Almost Forgot About You a lot more, and that was paperback.

      It’s amazing how some folks can wield a needle and you don’t even know it, but other seem to do it more like a lawn dart. Why are those people so bad at what they’re doing?

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I love StoryGraph! It’s so functional and nice to us. Goodreads is just a mess… I will look you up there.

    Your mini-golf adventure sounds great. I, too, would be happy to support ninjas and golf if I got to choose my own cake flavor and color! And huzzah for the shot! I got my first one last week. My arm was a little sore later and it might have given me a headache (might have just been hungry, hard to say), but was fine otherwise.

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    • Both the website and the “app” on my phone are lovely to use. I wonder if they’re going to add the social feature and let people comment. Mostly, I tend to have questions for people, but the creators of the site kind of avoided that by allowing readers to include content warnings and describe the speed, emotions, etc.

      Because I live in an area where the weather goes up and down, I constantly have a headache. Any change of 10 degrees or more throws me off. I signed up for Pfizer, though, and based on what I’m hearing it’s fewer side effects.

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      • I don’t think the StoryGraph creator will add in the social media aspects. She’s said before that she doesn’t want it to become a contest-like platform where people try to rack up as many followers as possible to sound cool or something. That’s why you can’t see who is following you. I like that about it. It’s nice not to get random messages from Karen in Arkansas about something you posted three years ago.

        I got the Pfizer shot, and that was my experience– not much in the way of side effects except for a sore arm (which I took ibuprofen for) and maybe the headache. Otherwise, no problems at all.

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        • That’s a good point about it not being like a contest. Because Goodreads puts the reviews with the most likes at that top, I’m just seeing the same goofballs over and over, and anything Roxane Gay reviews is at the top even though I tend to not agree with her reviews….There are also the folks who write that they’re excited about a book, get hundreds of likes, and still haven’t read it or reviewed it, but they’re at the top. I hadn’t realized that until you mentioned it, but I do like the non-competitive social media aspect of The Story Graph.

          I never used to get a sore arm, but my last few flu shots have made my arm all tired, like I pulled a muscle. I’m wondering if the Pfizer will be quite similar for me.

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          • I like the non-competetive aspects of StoryGraph, too. I also like that you can’t review or rate a book unless you have marked it as Read, which cuts out the people who will give their favorite author’s upcoming book 5 stars, even if they never actually read it.

            I’ve always gotten a sore arm with vaccines. Usually it’s just a little soreness, but with this one I couldn’t raise my arm above my shoulder for a bit. An ibuprofen did the trick, though.

            Liked by 1 person

  3. Hmmm, The Story Graph sounds interesting. However, every time I try one of these new book apps, I don’t usually hang in there for very long. You’re correct about all the problems with GR though. I absolutely HATE that you don’t get notifications for comments. I have to imagine it’s one of the biggest complaints on the website for years but they just don’t fix it. It can’t be THAT difficult to change can it?

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    • There is a button on Goodreads that lets you download all your stuff and then you upload it to Story Graph. I was hesitant at first because I’ve been on Goodreads since 2008, but what really sold me is the way Story Graph actually recommends really cool books I’d never heard of. If you give it a try, let me know where to find you!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Moving from Goodreads to Storygraph just seems so daunting given my ridiculously large database though I may be tempted eventually,
    I hope the good dude appreciated his flowers 🙂

    Wishing you a great reading week

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    • There is a button on Goodreads that lets you download all your stuff and then you upload it to Story Graph, so you don’t have to move anything manually. The only change I did was go through and mark books “read” that I did not finish to the actually DNF button on Story Graph. I love that. You can also provide a reason for why you DNF a book.

      I’m pretty sure he did!

      I hope you read some great books, too, Shelley 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I’ve never been on GR so when I get home I’ll have a look at Story Graph. Mum sent me flowers for my big O because she couldn’t be there. Have I ever had flowers before ? I don’t think so. Luckily Millie gave me a big vase as a house warming present a few years ago so I had something to put them in. Do I give flowers? Yes (Sweet Williams if I’m feeling cute, or sunflowers or liliums).

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    • I looked up those Sweet Williams, and they’re gorgeous. I love how they have a different effect on the eye when you’re far away and when you’re closer.

      I started with Goodreads in 2008, five years before Grab the Lapels, and appreciated the social aspect. However, now that I get more interactions on GTL and no one is getting notified of my comments on Goodreads, Story Graph is a great tool to find new books and track your reading. Biscuit said she appreciates these sites because she forgets what she reads only to discover an hour into an audiobook that she’s already listened to that one.

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    • There is a button on Goodreads that lets you download all your stuff and then you upload it to Story Graph. The only manual thing I did was change all the books I DNF from “read” to “DNF,” because Goodreads didn’t have that option.

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  6. Yay! So happy for you that you’ll get your vaccine this week! My dad found out he can get his early so he’s booked this week, which is a huge relief as his health isn’t great. And it’s one step closer to getting to see my family again!

    I love the idea that your local coffee place is also a mini golf spot! Hopefully many excellent games and coffees are in your future!

    I will have to check out StoryGraph; I keep hearing good things from other bloggers. I don’t have strong feelings for or against Goodreads but I find I barely use it. And I definitely don’t love that it is owned by Amazon.

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    • Because Goodreads is owned by Amazon, it really tries to get you to read certain books. Plus, if someone creates a random shelf — for instance, I have one for books that are at the library — then Goodreads assumes that means those books are all similar in content, so the recommendations are wonky. I would see stuff that wasn’t even close to my reading preferences. I hope you come over to Story Graph and look me up. There is a button on Goodreads that lets you download all your stuff and then you upload it to Story Graph. The only manual thing I did was change all the books I DNF from “read” to “DNF,” because Goodreads didn’t have that option.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I will have to look around on Story Graph and see if it works for me. I mostly use Goodreads to keep track of books, I don’t interact much or look for recommendations there. I do get frustrated by the lack of a DNF option because I just end up deleting the book but then feel like my effort doesn’t count for anything! If I make the switch I’ll definitely look you up.

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  7. So glad you’ve been able to book your vaccines! I’m meeting a friend this week (outside) for the first time in a year, because she’s immunosuppressed and has been shielding but she’s finally had her vaccine! Normally we meet every couple of months for coffee, and although we’ve done video calls it hasn’t been the same. She’s so enjoying being able to go outside again, even though she is being very careful and sensible.

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    • Once she has her second vaccine, as do you, will the two of you be comfortable meeting indoors? I feel like I’ve got caged-dog syndrome. Okay, that’s not a real name, but have you ever crate trained a dog and then eventually you leave the door open, but it doesn’t come out because it’s comfortable there? I’m wondering if we’re all going to be crate-trained dogs in the summer.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I don’t think it will be legal for us to meet indoors until at least mid-late May, if then. Once I am able to meet people indoors, though, I’m very eager to do so! I’m still feeling grumpy about the fact that none of my friends have seen my flat even though I’ve been living here a year – I love hosting people so I’m very much looking forward to being able to do so again.

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        • Oh! I didn’t even think about the legality. We’re so laissez faire in the U.S. right now (not that it’s a good thing).

          I forgot you moved into a new apartment! I used to see lots of gardening photos from you, and learned about vegetables that aren’t common in U.S. grocery stores. Are you still gardening much?

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          • Sadly I have no garden in the new place – I do have a tiny balcony but it’s been taken over by feral pigeons, which is pretty much the only thing I don’t like about my flat. I am on a waiting list for the local allotments, so I am hoping that I’ll be able to start gardening again soon – I really miss it!

            Liked by 1 person

  8. Never heard of Story Graph, and honestly, I do wonder sometimes why I am on Goodreads. Is it because I like to track how many books I’m reading? Perhaps. I do like seeing what other people are saying about books that I’m running a book club for, but I suppose I don’t need an account for that. Hmmm, is this something I can cut out of my life for good and make it simpler?

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  9. I am on GoodReads but I don’t really use it in any serious way. I used to be on LibraryThing but that was for its listing and export functions. What do you want to get out of StoryGraph?

    Oh, and well done with your vaccination. I must say I (and Mr Gums) detest the word “jab” which they are using here too. We used to say “needle” or “shot” or why not just “injection”. Oh, I know, it’s a whole three syllables, and that’s just too hard for everyone to say, clearly. But “jab” is such a crass word.

    It will be months before I get my injection … as we have to be over 70 here for the first round. Mr Gums, like Bill, has just turned 70 but we have to find a clinic as our own doctor isn’t doing it. Oh well …

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    • I’m disappointed for you that you won’t be able to get your vaccine for months, but I’m also heartened by stories I’ve heard of life in Australia. People don’t have to wear masks and some of life is going on as normal. Granted, I don’t remember which Australian blogger said this, nor which part of Australia.

      I originally set myself up with Goodreads in 2008 as a way to track books. Then, I got more social, but as the site was taken over by Amazon and it’s had several issues for years that aren’t being fixed, the social part has become unusable. Another blogger pointed out to me that Goodreads has a competitive aspect: folks who have the most likes on their review are at the top. Thus, I’m seeing the same reviewers repeatedly, including people who have not read the book but simply added it and said they were excited to read it.

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      • Would you believe I had my first injection today! Just like that. We booked at 8:30am and were done at 10am. AstraZeneca… Hmmm… Should be ok. My husband was eligible and they didn’t question doing us as a job lot though my birthday said I’m the next group.

        I guess I’ve noticed none of that in GoodReads because I don’t engage at all in the social aspect. I list my books and very occasionally check out some reviews, but GR reviews aren’t really of interest to me, because they are rarely crafted the way critics, reviewers and bloggers do. Us that snooty?

        I wrote this on Friday and didn’t send it!

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