Category Archives: Disclosures

A Brief Explanation Of My Review Policy

Recently, a publicist offered me a free copy of a book that she was representing. In return, she hoped that I would post a review here on Windypundit. Based on her description of the novel as a legal thriller, I said “sure” and she sent me an e-book version for my Kindle.

The book had a terrific opening chapter, filled with well-observed scene setting and rich detail, and leading up to the murder that would presumably drive the plot for the rest of the book. Or it would have, if the author had known how to structure a book-length plot. Ultimately, I finished the book out of duty, but it wasn’t very good. It certainly didn’t fit my definition of a legal thriller.

Since I had promised to do a review, I wanted to let the publicist know my opinion. So I wrote back,

Thank you for the opportunity to review [Book Title] by [Author]. I’m sorry to say, however, that I didn’t like it very much. [Author] writes some good scenes, but the the story loses its way, the characters’ motivations are hard to understand, the romance between the protagonists comes out of nowhere, and the author’s fascination with young women who are attracted to prominent older men is a little creepy.

I was downplaying the problems with the book. Even having finished it, I’m still not clear on what the conflict is. I mean, there was a murder at the beginning, but nobody seemed to be trying to solve it. Then there’s some stuff about corrupt businessmen and Mexican drug lords and missing drug money that eventually takes over the plot. And now that I’m thinking about it, I don’t remember the protagonists ever actually figuring out who the murderer was. And the solution to their problems came out of nowhere, involving a character we’d never heard of before.

Heck, for the first half of the book, I couldn’t even be sure who the protagonists were, other than the young wife of the murder victim. It seemed like all the male characters were well-off alpha males who wanted to fuck the younger female characters. Eventually, one of those males (an obvious surrogate for the author) emerged as the protagonist when he gets the hots for the young widow, who for no clear reason I can determine, has secretly fallen for him as well — in one hideous scene even masturbating while saying his name.

Anyway, I was sure the publicist didn’t want a negative review, and I didn’t really want to write a negative review, so I offered us both a way out:

I’m certainly willing to keep up my end of the bargain and publish a review, but it would have to reflect these shortcomings, and I would not recommend the book to my readers. On the other hand, if you would rather I didn’t post a negative review of the book, I have no problem killing the review.

The publicist agreed, so I won’t be reviewing the book or naming it in this post.

I realize this sounds a bit like I’m hiding a bad review as favor for a publicist who gave me a free book (perhaps in hopes of getting more free books) so I feel I should explain myself. I’m trying to review books (or movies or music or whatever) in a way that will help out my readers.

In the case of a big-time book release that gets a lot of publicity, my readers will have hundreds of sources of information about the book, and few of them will care what a small-time blogger like me thinks. When the next book by J.K Rowling or Stephen King comes out, a review by me would be unlikely to influence anyone’s decision to buy it.

The same is true for non-fiction — probably nobody will use my review to decide whether to buy the next book by Bob Woodward, Ann Coulter, or Paul Krugman. That won’t stop me from writing about those books if I think I have something I want to say (I am a blogger, after all), but I’ll be only one of many voices with an opinion.

When it comes to smaller book releases — defined as books that most people have never heard of — the logic changes a bit. If I write a positive review of a relatively obscure book — such as Fragment by Warren Fahy or Shifted by Colin D. Jones — there’s a chance that I might convince you to try it, and there’s a chance that you’ll like it. So my review might, in some small way, improve your life. I’d like to think that’s possible.

On the other hand, if I write a review that totally trashes a book that you never heard of — Operation Damocles, by Oscar L. Fellows, for example, is a really bad book that you should never read — what’s your likely response? You probably won’t read it. Which is exactly the same thing you would have done if I hadn’t published a review, since you didn’t even know it existed until I mentioned it. Writing a review that changes nothing doesn’t seem like a good use of my time.

So if you notice that I don’t publish a lot of negative reviews, especially of fiction, that’s the reason why. Trashing obscure works accomplishes nothing for either of us. We’ll both be better off if I try to find gems.


In my latest attempt to make blogging pay well enough to afford new camera equipment, I’ve started displaying Chitika search-targeted advertising. The cool thing about this is that all of you who read my blog regularly won’t be seeing any additional ads because of it.

When somebody out there clicks on a link to Windypundit in the result set from a search engine like Google, their browser sends the URL of the search page in the Referer header line of the HTTP request. The Chitika system parses each Referer URL and, if it’s from a search engine rather than a link from a fellow blogger, extracts the search terms and uses them to select a banner ad.

On the other hand, those of you who visit my page from your browser favorites or feed reader won’t have to see the ads. Neither will people who get here via a blogroll link or a link from a web post.

According to Chitika, studies have shown that regular visitors to a site are annoyed by intrusive ads and are far less likely to click on them than people who stumble across the site in a search engine. So limiting the ads this way should allow me to use much more blatant and intrusive ads to snare search visitors without degrading the experience of my beloved regular readers.

It will be cool if it works.

Healthcare Blogging To Come

In the coming weeks and months, I’m planning to try to dilute some of the legal blogging on Windypundit with a little blogging about the healthcare crisis in this country.

I should admit right here at the start that I’m woefully ignorant of how the healthcare industry works. It’s the biggest industry in the world, and it will only become more important as I get older, so it seems I ought to start learning more about it. Blogging seems like one way to do that.

I plan to investigate several questions, such as

  • Where can I get good information about our healthcare system?
  • Is there a healthcare crisis?
  • What’s wrong with our healthcare system?
  • Who or what is responsible for the problem?
  • Can it be fixed?
  • How do we fix it?
  • Would a single-payer system be better?

I’m not entirely sure where to start. Ideally, I’d like to just buy a good book about our healthcare system and build from there using online resources, but this is such a contentious issue that there’s a lot of biased information out there, and I don’t know how to separate the good from the bad.

I’ll probably just tear off a piece of the problem I understand and work out from there.

By the way, I’m posting this in the Disclosures department because one of the supposed problems with our current healthcare system is the large amount of money spent on bureaucracy, and my readers should therefore be told that a large share of my income is derived from helping companies stay on top of the paperwork for their employees’ healthcare benefits.

Wish me luck.

Adorama Camera

Adorama Camera

Want to help me out at no cost to you? Read on.

I buy most of my photographic equipment from Adorama Camera.

Their site is well-organized and easy to search. For example, check out this page on 35mm & Digital SLR lenses (the link might be broken if you’re looking at this article in my archives). As I type this, it shows 708 lenses.

You can choose to filter the lenses by manufacturer, digital/film, focal length, and style of lens mount. The filter choices are pretty flexible, in that you don’t just drill down by manufacture; instead, you select as many manufactures as you want to see. You can also select from several different filter categories at the same time. For example, you can choose to see all macro or fisheye lenses made by Sigma and Tamron for the Nikon lens mount. The query finds 8 of them.

The adorama site has a good checkout process and provides detailed tracking information. They also have excellent customer service if you have questions about an order.

I mention all this because I just signed up for the Adorama affiliates program. If you click the Adorama banner at the top of this article or any other Adorama banner on this page (there’s one in the left-hand column right now) I get a piece of the action if you buy something from following that link.

(It’s a tiny percentage, but if only a few people decide to buy a Linhof Kardan Master GTL 4×5 view camera, Windypundit will cover its hosting costs for the year!)

So, check out Adorama and see if you can find what you want. Shop around. Compare prices. If you like what you see at Adorama, click through to them from my site and place your order.

I’d certainly appreciate it. Thanks.

I’ve joined the affiliate program. If you follow a link from here to Amazon and order something, I make money.