The winner of the book giveaway for the Cecilia Grant interview is:
Watch your inbox for an email from Cecilia!
Thank you to everyone who entered!
Where Quiet Dignity is on Indefinite Hiatus
The winner of the book giveaway for the Cecilia Grant interview is:
Watch your inbox for an email from Cecilia!
Thank you to everyone who entered!
I ended up hate-reading the book I blogged about yesterday and managed to get halfway through. I think I’ve punished myself enough. This is a DNF.
In happier news, I’ve been reading a series I like a lot better. Marcus Sakey’s Brilliance series. It’s very well written and though it is fully male-focused, the portrayal of women is at least not completely depressing.
So, look, I recommend the series. I’ve enjoyed reading it. But I have major issues with it — of the “heavy sigh” sort.
Mostly what I notice is that all the character archetypes that are traditionally male in real life are, in this series, also occupied by men. What I feel is that Sakey does a better than average job with his female characters — as far as he takes them. When he thinks about women, he at least gives them some complexity.
What’s distressing to me is that this is heads and shoulders above most books where the reader is assumed male. It is really great that one of the major movers of the story is a woman–even though she’s also a love-interest.
But, you know, there are actually no female characters of agency in the story that are placed there without an explicit, non-imagined sexual/procreative relationship to men. Meaning, they are wives, girlfriends, daughters or sexual partners of other male characters.
What I mean is that, there are major male characters in the story who are only men. While we might imagine they have wives, girlfriends, or daughters, those characters do not exist on the page. For every such woman, the male-partner (as it were) is present in the pages.
It’s as if Sakey could not create a female character who has a significant impact on the fictive world without also placing her in the male sphere– we see the husband or sexual partner in the pages of the book. And this is not true of the male secondary characters.
There is no portrayal of those characters as husbands, fathers, or sons to any other characters — other than a reference or two to the fact that one or two possess wives, daughters or are sexually serviced by a woman.
All the significant female characters orbit at least one man in a relationship capacity. All of them.
Not one of the major secondary impactors in the 2 books so far is a woman. And I kept thinking, huh. How hard would it have been to make one of these characters female? In a world of a new genetic “brilliance” not one of those major secondaries is a woman. Not the data guru, not the scientist, not the Revolutionary, not the two characters who have carved out political and defensive space.
Apparently, women can be brilliant– we are told that, but they have no actual presence in the series without also being positioned relative to their availability as sexual partners (wife, girlfriend, or prostitute) or the result of a man’s procreative efforts.
I am looking forward to reading the 3rd book in the series. I know it will be a great book. But I also know the world of the book will have a male gaze.
There is a problem with this. Because the not really subtle message is women don’t matter unless they’re connected to a man.
But you know what? I’d rather read this that someone who ripped off Sherrilyn Kenyon and plopped in every distasteful, horrific trope about how a man completely controls the woman he loves — and that’s OK because LOVE INTEREST. Sakey does NOT do that.
I say go read his series. And sigh over what it might have been.
This post at Library Journal made me sad. It’s a late commentary on the whole Joe “No Such Thing as a Conflict of Interest” Konrath/Amazon review situation (I blogged about that here) and also slightly about some review abuse (which I have blogged about here – sarcasm version and here – the Swiftian version as well as here – This is just wrong version.
It’s pretty clear the author of the post isn’t fully informed about the whole Amazon review thing and missed entirely the disturbing implications regarding the outing of Harriet Klausner. That’s a whole other post. Here’s what this post is about: (Emphasis added):
Sitting around all day reading romance novels hardly qualifies as a life, and romance novels hardly qualify as books.
But it’s also hard to feel sorry for customers who were duped into buying a “bad” romance novel by a good review. After all, they’re all bad books. It’s not like people are reading romances for their literary quality. I almost feel sorry for the people who get so worked up over this.
Right. Anyway, I left a comment and since comments are moderated there, it’s possible mine won’t be approved. Here’s what I said:
Wow. I was with you, kind of, up until this: “romance novels hardly qualify as books.” I’m so sorry you feel this way. I am, as you may note, an author of romance. Like many readers and writers of Romance, I am not only a college graduate but in possession of a graduate degree. (In English, by the way.)
It’s been my experience that most people who go down the “All Romance is trash” path have in fact never read a romance. There are as well a lot of people who read one romance (often years ago) didn’t like it, and now, based on a sample size in single digits and in no way reflective of Romances being written today, decided that the entire genre must be awful. This mutually assured stupidity conclusion about the genre and the people who read it is, sadly, all too familiar.
There are so many talented, gifted authors of Romance and they come from all backgrounds, some are academics, some are librarians, some are even men. Since I write in the genre, I happen to know a lot of authors of the genre. They are lawyers, PhDs, engineers, technologists, teachers. There are also, by the way, many fine Romance authors who did not go to college, but let me ask you this:
Do you really believe that so many smart, educated women (and a few men) would ALL write awful books with no redeeming value? Are you honestly willing to suggest that’s remotely possible?
Please, please, consider the possibility that you are wrong. Maybe Romance just isn’t the genre for you, but I can assure you there are Romances out there as fine, or finer, than any literature you care to name.
Readers are cheated when a majorly flawed piece of writing receives unfairly favorable reviews.
Books with severe language errors cannot have earned a 5-star review. Correct grammar is not a matter of opinion. The correct usage of a word is not opinion. There are reference books that contain the rules of grammar. Dictionaries contain both the accepted spellings and definition of 99 percent of all words in the English language. There is no excuse for getting these things wrong out of ignorance or sheer lack of interest.
No reader should be required to mentally substitute correct grammar, word usage, and sentence structure in order to make sense of the words the writer actually put on the page.
Readers have a right to assume the writer has written in a purposeful way such that she has, in fact, said what she means. When the connection between words, sentences, and meaning is fundamentally broken, then, objectively, that book does not deserve a 5-Star review. Yet such books do receive 5-star reviews.
I hated Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom. I think that book has serious flaws, but none of them are language flaws. Franzen’s writing is not incoherent. He uses words correctly. My disagreements are with the story he chose to tell and the actions of his characters in that story. Reasonable people can, and have, disagreed with my opinion. I understand why someone might give the book 5 stars. There are, by the way, 1,091 Amazon reviews of this book. The average star rating is three. 307 of them are 5-star reviews. 308 are 1-star. Obviously, opinions differ.
There are two self-published books I’ve read recently and both were dreadful. The writing in both was immature and unprofessional. The plots appealed to me, which is why I bought them, but the execution was so bad, I could not finish either. One of them has 23 reviews on Amazon with a 4.5 star average. The lowest star reviews are 3-stars and there are only three of them. A book that is objectively bad did not get a single 1-star review. That is a completely unfair representation of the objective quality of the book.
Here’s a snippet from one of the reviews:
. . . one word that would express my thoughts of this book, and the only one that I can find is WOW!
Really? Really? The writing is objectively bad. BAD. The heroine is infantile and infantilized. The writing is confusing and muddled. This author brings all the insight and maturity of a five-year-old to her work. None of the reviewers who gave this book five stars said word one about any of the objective flaws. Why? What’s fair to the reader when a book receives a plurality of glowing reviews that omit mention of such egregious writing errors?
In case you think I’m picking on self-published books, how about Hugh Howey’s Wool? Howey was never NY published, and yet Wool is better, yes, better, than most of what comes out of NY. Readers found him, in droves.
There are 2,415 reviews of the Kindle Omnibus version and the star average is five. Wool is an amazing piece of writing, in my opinion. Like Franzen, Howey does not make language errors. If you read Wool, or Freedom, for that matter, you can assume the words were chosen with great care and thought and that the authors thought hard about the stories being told.
Wool and Freedom are a far cry from books written by an author who can’t spell, doesn’t know the difference between past and passed and couldn’t correctly punctuate a sentence if her life depended on it.
Giving books like those 5-stars cheats the reader, and those reviews unfairly increase the ranking of those books.
If you’re an author, take your lumps. Franzen is considered one of America’s greatest writers, and his book has 307 1-star reviews, while books written by authors with less than a third-grade command of language receive not a single 1-star review. How is that fair? Say what you will about Franzen’s book or his blindness to the reality of being a woman in America, I’ve not heard him whine about bad reviews.
If Franzen can suck it up, so can you. If a book like Freedom, which some reviewers called a masterpiece, can end up with an average 3-star review, then surely the rest of us can live with the same result for our books.
This is my my response to this baloney.
It’s a known fact that when book reviewers start blackmailing you for swag, you are a made author. MADE. Effing made in the goddamned shade. It means the USA Today and the NYT lists are just around the corner. Once that happens, triple digit reviews on Amazon are about to explode on your books like a nest of vipers on a bully who just stepped in it. Over at B&N, the Warrior Cats will stop talking about Glitter Cat and Moonkitty and they will buy your book.
I have never been blackmailed for swag. Not one single book reviewer has ever said Carolyn, we would be SO excited to review your book. SO EXCITED! Please send it immediately, but first, we need to have some swag from you. Without that, I’m afraid we’ll accidentally post-date our review to 1977.
No one has ever said, psst. hey you, author nobody ever heard of! Give us a job at your company and we’ll review your book!
God, it’s just SO UNFAIR. No book reviewer will blackmail me.
In order to get around this, I am prepared to to offer you book reviewers swag you can’t get anywhere else. The images are extra-large so you can really take a look.
A 4 star review will get you anything you want from my junk drawer. You’ll notice it is chock full of swag. The gift card has $3.49 cents left on it. For that much money you could get a $3.00 coffee and leave a .49 cent tip. You could buy three .99 cent eBooks and have money left over! That’s my son’s report card over there in the upper left. He got an A+ in Honors Physics. A little white-out and your kid is in the college of his or her choice. Got a pet? Check out the pet brush! The nail clippers are fully functional. Need a pen? You’re covered. Possibly not for long, but hey.
First come first serve.
But here’s something BETTER. For a 5-star review I will let you in on this deal:
Mr. Andrew Liu from Hong Kong is loaded and I am the only person who can help him! This is totally going to work. Wire me $100,000 US and I will contact Mr. Liu on your behalf and send you half the money, less a convenience fee.
Reserve your swag now! Leave a comment.
Before I dive into this topic, let me put it out there that, by any definition, I am a bleeding heart liberal. That’s going to matter to this post.
I have now read several memoires by US Navy SEALs. I’ve also read several non-fiction accounts about Navy SEALs. Here’s a partial list:
Fearless, by Eric Blehm. This is an account of the life and service of SEAL team 6 member Adam Brown, who was killed in action in 2010.
No Easy Day, by Mark Owen and Keven Maurer. This is an account of the raid that killed Osama bin Laden.
American Sniper, Jim DeFelice and Chris Kyle. The service of SEAL sniper Chris Kyle.
Lone Survivor, by Marcus Luttrell and Patrick Robinson. An account of the mission that resulted in Luttrell being stranded in Pashtun territory.
Warrior Elite, by Dick Couch. Follows SEAL class 228
Warrior Soul, by Chuck Pfarrer, his account of his time as a SEAL and his service in Beruit and elsewhere.
I enjoyed every single one of these books, by the way. They help inform elements of my writing. (Well, yes, all my reading does this, but hey, some books are more insight-giving than others.)
But there’s a theme that gets sounded in every single one of them and it pains me.
In each of these books there is always mention (and in the case of Luttrell’s book CONSTANT mention) of how the liberal media and liberal elite hate SEALs and actively attempt to make their jobs harder. This blog post isn’t about whether there might be some people who do feel and act that way. There surely are.
What I want to say, as a bleeding heart liberal and someone whose education probably lands me in the “elite” category, is that not only do I not resent the military, I agree that a prepared military is necessary. There is evil in this world. There are governments, movements, heads of governments and heads of movements who are engaged in moral and ethical evil. I am not sorry that Osama bin Laden is dead. I regret that we live in a world where we haven’t figured out how to exist without violence, but that does not mean I don’t understand why people are moved to revolution or why a people or government have no choice but to pick up arms. I don’t advocate doing nothing when a government or movement is engaged in genocide or when the lives of women are given up to political expediency.
I think Teddy Roosevelt was right when he said, “Speak softly and carry a big stick.” Neville Chamberlain’s appeasement policy cost the lives of millions.
I am profoundly grateful for the sacrifices and dedication of the men and women who serve in our military. They put their lives on the line every single day.
But I’m saddened by the apparent belief, as expressed in these books, that people like me don’t appreciate what Navy SEALs do. I’m even sorrier that somehow people like me have failed to make it known that we do not feel that way.
Believe me I do appreciate it. This blog is my opportunity to express my thanks and admiration to everyone in the military. Even as I wish war was unnecessary.
Normally, I take Joe Konrath with a large grain of salt. He’s opinionated, wildly so, and it’s always interesting to read over-the-top opinions. By and large I’d say I agree with his points about publishing, though I agree less often with the words he chooses. But mostly, I agree with his take on what’s going on the publishing business these days. But I disagree a lot with his Enough Already Post.
In this post, Konrath says he sees nothing wrong with authors sock puppeting reviews of their own books or posting, under an account meant to disguise the author’s identity, negative reviews for competing books.
Every one of those millions of reviewers who trashed a book deliberately did it to harm that book’s sales. That’s the whole point of a one star review
Actually, no. I don’t think Konrath is right on this one. People write 1-star reviews in order to tell other people that they did not like that book. They are expressing an opinion about the book they read. It’s the expression of opinion that’s the whole point of a review, 1-star or 5. To suggest that all 1-star reviews are motivated by malice (“did it to harm that book’s sales”) is ridiculous. It is not malicious to say you did not like a book when, in fact, you did not like that book.
He moves on to muddy his point about 1-star reviews being written for the purpose of deliberate harm with an acknowledgment that people are allowed to express their opinions. Indeed, we are.
In a society that permits people to express their opinion about things, the subjects of those opinions can and do take a beating. When a company puts a product into the stream of commerce, in such a society, consumers of that product are allowed to say what they think, and what they say and think is not always nice. The reviews are not always well-written. Sometimes they’re mean. Sometimes the words are incoherent and sometimes it’s plain the opinion is not well-founded in logic or accuracy. Some reviews are written by people who are not our best and brightest. But the reviews are still the genuine words of someone who experienced the product.
Here’s an example:
I stopped buying Sanford Uniball pens when the pens started breaking long before they ran out of ink. I used to buy them by the box. They were my favorite writing pens. The change in quality made me stop buying them. I have, quite literally, bought dozens of boxes of these pens. I used them, too. And now I don’t because the quality became shoddy. Now I buy Bic pens. They are not shoddy. They are miracle pens that make my writing even better. My star assessment: 1-star.
There is nothing unethical about my posting my opinion of the Sanford Uniball pen. This was, in fact, my true and actual experience of the product. I no longer buy these pens. (I don’t buy Bic pens, though.)
But what if you then found out that, in fact, I am an employee of Bic? Does not my failure to disclose that change how you read that review? Don’t you, as a reader, now wonder if those words are true?
Most of us understand quite well the difference between a reader posting a negative review of a book she did not like and an author who posts a negative review of a competing book under a fake account for the sole purpose harming that book.
The first case is freedom of expression: a real reader expressing her opinion about a book she read. The second case is, pure and simple, deceit and fraud. The author is pretending to be a reader with no skin in the game. The author is using words intended to harm the product he is “reviewing.” By disguising his identity, and therefore his conflict of interest, he is attempting to dupe other readers.
There is nothing right about that. Nothing.
We all know why Mr. Ellory didn’t use his real name in posting those reviews of competing books: if he had, his “review” would have been instantly identifiable as biased. If he had posted those reviews as himself, his reviews would have been read in the proper context and readers could have made an informed decision about how much weight to give to those words. But he didn’t.
1-star reviews by readers who didn’t like a book they read are not unethical. It doesn’t matter if the review is badly written. A reader is entitled to express her opinion about the book.
1-star reviews by authors who disguise their identity so that readers of his words are unaware of the bias are deceitful and unethical.
Let’s not get over that at all.
Each of the three stories takes place around a small home (cue Doyle’s Grange) on a larger estate. As one era passes into the next the elderly couple from the former generation brush paths with the young couple of the next. How is that not prime time catnip? As a well executed concept the home bridges the gaps between the tales, making them stronger collectively than they are alone. As the authors involved in Midnight Scandals are some of the genre’s strongest, this takes us pretty close to perfection.
First up is Carolyn Jewel. Her story of lovers with two unforgivable secrets made me realize I don’t read Carolyn Jewel often enough. (Why don’t I read more Carolyn Jewel?)
It’s My Genre Baby
This was another delicious, detailed, smoldering romance from Carolyn Jewel.
—Rogues Under the Covers
OH MY GOODNESS! What an awesome book! I loved every minute of it. Talk about a page turner that I couldn’t put down. First off, the story line was moving and shocking at the same time. Not Proper Enough kept me wanting more. To be honest it would be one of those books to re-read again. That right there says a lot. So, I hope that you all get a chance to check this book out when it comes out. Plus, you all want to know if Fenris is able to change Eugenia’s opinion of him.
—The Cutest Blog on the Block
With her engaging, complex characters, knowledge of the era and a sharp ear for dialogue, Jewel creates a nicely written, highly sensual and emotional love story.
If you write a book, don’t let anyone read it.
Are you kidding me? Sorry, but authors aren’t entitled to good reviews. Just honest ones, and even that isn’t an entitlement, it would just be the decent thing for someone to do if they decide to share their opinion about a book they’ve read.
But you, the author? Bad reviews happen. Get over it. If you can’t take it, then turn off your Google Alerts and don’t click.