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Bookish thoughts 19 July: critics & authors as friends; cutting review pages & more!

book news Bookish thoughts 19 July: critics & authors as friends; cutting review pages & more!

RIASS stuff:

Book Review: The Innocent by Taylor Stevens'Rating: star Bookish thoughts 19 July: critics & authors as friends; cutting review pages & more!star Bookish thoughts 19 July: critics & authors as friends; cutting review pages & more!halfstar Bookish thoughts 19 July: critics & authors as friends; cutting review pages & more!blankstar Bookish thoughts 19 July: critics & authors as friends; cutting review pages & more!blankstar Bookish thoughts 19 July: critics & authors as friends; cutting review pages & more!

Book Review: The Viking's Touch by Joanna Fulford'Rating: star Bookish thoughts 19 July: critics & authors as friends; cutting review pages & more!star Bookish thoughts 19 July: critics & authors as friends; cutting review pages & more!halfstar Bookish thoughts 19 July: critics & authors as friends; cutting review pages & more!blankstar Bookish thoughts 19 July: critics & authors as friends; cutting review pages & more!blankstar Bookish thoughts 19 July: critics & authors as friends; cutting review pages & more!

Giveaway: One Breath Away by Heather Gudenkauf'(open to US/Canadian readers)

Other bookish stuff:

'Can book critics and authors become friends?'What's different about this vibrant new worldis that the writers I'm chatting with or about online'sometimes are'the same ones who are writing the books about which I'm to remain impartialAmid the exchange of ideas and kudos, it's hard to shake the feeling we're all part of a family, sometimes noisy and contentious, but mostly good-natured, even loving.

My critical thoughts: After yesterdays discussion about a direct line of payment from author to reviewer resulting in a blurring of role margins, wherein a reviewer then becomes a publicist, I was chatting with Harvey Freedenberg about how the internet is slowly collapsing the boundaries between author and reviewer, and what this means.

Todays authors are encouraged to have multiple identities. Not only are they a person who writes books, but theyre also a miniature promo vehicle as well. In part this is likely due to slashed promotional budgets, but Id say its also influenced by our growing interest in celebrity culture (something thats even happening in politicsconsider how in Aus weve shifted away from party politics and more towards a presidential politics approach). Authors are encouraged to blog, tweet, sign books, go on tour, and really, engage with fans in as many ways as possible. Its inevitable, then, that theyre going to find themselves developing relationships with reviewers, particularly since para-professional reviewers from online sources are likely to move in similar circles.

With many of my review requests coming directly from authors, I, like Harvey, have found myself in the position of reviewing books written by people I know, or am at least vaguely acquainted with. Those written by very close friends Ill decline to review, but what of those written by Twitter buddies, or people Ive crossed paths with via email or Facebook or randomly at a book launch? How am I to write an entirely impartial review when an author, lovely as they may be, is doing the equivalent of looking over my shoulder as I write?

I do my utmost to be fair in my reviews, and as far as Im aware the content in my reviews or appreciation of a given book hasnt been influenced by my relationship with an author, but I dont deny that Im much more aware of what Im writing and how when I know an author personally. Rather than reading and writing in a vacuum, we now do so very much within a communityand as the recent Goodreads furore has shown, its a community that doesnt always sit back and let one speechify and soapbox to their bookish hearts content.

The flip side of the coin is that neither are authors safe from reviews. Weve all seen authors advised against reading their reviews, or against getting pulled into discussions of their work. But is this possible any more when users can @ reply authors on Twitter, tag them on Facebook and Good Reads, or email through links? Not to mention those pesky Google alerts. Unless youre Cormac McCarthy, is it really possible for authors and reviewers not to cross paths? Particularly since many perform both roles themselves?

The Canberra Times is going to cut its book pages'The Canberra Times book review pages will no longer be filled locally; instead content will be produced by reviewers in Melbourne and Sydney.

My hackish thoughts: Another day, another slash and hack of book review pages. But while in this instance, the books section is not actually being cut as such, it might as well be. Apparently the page space will remain, but the reviews will be provided by reviewers from other papers, and though this is only my speculation, Id imagine that there will also be some syndication/reprinting going on, rather than the production of entirely new content. While its gladdening to see that the books space will remain, the problem is that almost the entire east coast of Australia is going to be served by only a handful of reviewers. And while these reviewers are no doubt proficient and engaging, how are they expected to have any sort meaningful conversation or discussion when theirs are the only voices? Criticism and critical thought rely on dissension and opposing considerations, and by increasingly narrowing these options, we risk not only losing critical voices, but may also see the stagnation of those voices.

The implications for breadth of review are also clear: necessarily, fewer works will be reviewed, and no doubt those reviews will be in line with a given reviewers skills, taste, and expertise.

The internet gets up to mischief on Rotten Tomatoes, leading to some banning and deletion:'If a critic abuses our trust by linking to something thats not a review, we will take action up to and including removing them from the Tomatometer. If a critic doesnt take their reputation seriously, then neither will we, says Matt Atchity of Rotten Tomatoes.

My rotten thoughts: It seems that everyones getting into fights on the internet these days. The issue with the internet is that on the internet, everyones got a pundit, and they can shout away (like Im doing now. Hi, Mum!) without the consequences that would otherwise follow in a public situation. Not only that, but theres the deliciousness of anonymity, and a sort of Lord of the Flies-ness that seems to bring out the absolute worst in everyone. 'Um, okay, thats my Great Aunt Bertha spiel out of the way. Anyway, this link is mostly of interest to me because of the 'recent crap-storm on GoodReads, where authors and bloggers have come to electronic fisticuffs, and also because of the recent launch of iDreamBooks, which aims to be a Rotten Tomatoes for books. Im curious to see whether these bizarre online behaviour norms end up causing mischief in the book world as well as the film world.

Store Closures Give Scholastics book fairs room to shine

A celebration of Australian YA fiction

Killing our Monsters: On Stephen Kings Magic'No one except King challenges us so relentlessly, to be brave. To kill our monsters. That's because he's a believer ' to him, it's not schlock. And because he believes his own horseshit, we swallow it too.

Celia Rees on the appeal of vilified women as characters'I always like women who are 'vilified'. They have usually lived unconventional lives and have done something, or written something not to the liking of the (male) establishment. That makes them interesting on two counts:' interesting anyway, I like people who break rather than make the rules, and interesting to me as a writer of historical fiction.

My quick thoughts: Great points from Celia, and to be honest, these things are often true of contemporary women as wellwere so more readily vilified than men. On a bookish note, these sorts of characters also have an attribute of activeness that is always welcome in a character. After all, who wants to read about someone whos passive? Being active, or even reactive, is surely a key trait in an engaging protagonist in an historical fiction context, as given the historical lack of opportunities for women and the strict social norms keeping them meek and quiet and in their place, well, one imagines that proper women would be rather less interesting to read about than the ones who go about breaking the rules.

Star-crossed Romance: Why is love in Urban Fantasy novels so unhappy?

My quick thoughts:'Because its all about teh dramaz and the emo angst, thats why. Actually, Ive always wondered at the lack of happy relationships in fiction in general, and wonder whether its because weve all internalised the first line of'Anna Karenina'and feel that happy relationships are too conflict-free and dull to bother with.

An interview with Jennifer Weiner (audio), contains commentary on the topics of'replying to readers on Twitter, Goodreads, and trying not to look at reviews.

Bad Reviews: I Can Handle Them, and So Should You, says John Scalzi.'In sum: bad reviews happen. Some reviewers are meanies. Eye for an eye leads to blindness.

Whats happening with my publisher contract?'In which publishing is slow, and the world is changing around it.

The DOJ ebooks suit could 'wipe out the publishing industry as we know'it'

The Melbourne Writers Festival programme has been launched!

Terrifying book covers

Jane Austen: The Video Game

A cool event coming up at Melbourne Uni: 'How Language is Lived, Loved and Lost in a Globalising World'


  1. Thx to @readinasitting for continuing this discussion Ive written about on critics & authors as friends:

  2. Tricky. MT @HarvF: Thx to @readinasitting for continuing this discussion about..critics & authors as friends:

  3. viz Scholastic I was rather pleased and surprised to see Ash, by Malinda Lo, at my sons school fair here in New England a whie ago! And they seem to do pretty well in general with cover diversity. Do you suppose that Scholastic tailors its offerings to particular regions?

    • Stephanie /

      Thanks for stopping by, Charlotte! Interesting point about Scholastic tailoring its offerings. That wouldnt surprise me at allit only makes sense for a company to do that. I think the thing that bothers me really is that any particular company should become the major provider of books to schools/young readers, particularly in contexts where young readers or parents have few other avenues to access reading material.

  4. Have you tried that JA game? He he he couldnt stop laughing! Im going to try it when I have some time LOL. Thanks for bringing it to my attention! I just love time-wasters ha ha ha

    • Stephanie /

      My pleasure, Tien! I havent had a chance to try it yetno time, Im afraidbut I will!

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