Monday Morning Stepback: Defining Sluttiness, Buying Followers, and the TBR App

1. Links of Interest from the week that was

Avidbookreader is talking about Digital Backlists You Probably Don’t Know About.

How Kindle Handles Typos from GalleyCat (reporting on a Wired column)

Long, but worth it. A report on a speech by Coetzee on censorship at UT’s LBJ Library (from Maud Newton)

Victoria Janssen on The Bashful Hero.

I’ve never been a huge fan of the romance novel hero who’s physically large and good at everything and gorgeous to boot. Except, I don’t mind that combination of traits if the hero is bashful about being good at everything, or embarrassed because he’s so tall, or just interesting in some way.

At Novel Matters, Ariel Longhorn on Reading and Discernment. Her post focuses on her identity as a Christian and whether she should read or reject books that represent views that challenge her faith.

At Abe Books, Beth Carswell on Reading and Seething: Books That Make Us Angry (via Books, Inq). Check out their very diverse list, which happens to include a sparkly, angsty vampire.

The UK Observer had a neat piece on covers.

What possible discussions took place in Germany, for instance, when publishers first received the manuscript for Martin Amis’s House of Meetings – a novel that describes the misery of life in a Russian gulag – and set to work on a cover that featured six figures body-popping in the windows of a modern apartment block? What prompted Italian book designers to give junior wizard Harry Potter a hat shaped like a mouse, and why did the French opt against the monochrome design that jacketed Jonathan Safran Foer’s Everything is Illuminated in the UK and the US, concocting instead a watercolour of somebody fondling a woman’s breasts?

Ever wondered how to get a direct link to a tweet? The Book Vixen explains how.

At The Millions, an enthusiastic attitude to the TBR pile: The Joy of Unread Books:

I have about 800 unread books on my shelves. Some would find this excessive, and they would probably be right. But I take comfort in knowing that I will have appropriate reading material whatever my mood, that I will be spoiled for choice whenever I want a book, and that I will never, ever run out of new stories.[2] From the cover design, the back blurb, and general absorption of cultural knowledge, I have a strong idea of what each one of my unread books is like.

Take a look at the new Vanity Fair cover, featuring World cup athletes. Some are saying it objectifies men, and/or is “gay pornish”. Both seem to be objections to it. What do you think?

What do you think about The Pregnant Heroine? Sandy Heather at AAR says:

However, as I’ve grown older (or maybe because I’ve since had two of my own babies) I can’t seem to make myself turn off reality and find the pregnant heroine sexy. When the heroine discovers she’s pregnant, my mind automatically goes to prenatal vitamins, folic acid, or even birth defects. I can’t help it; I’m a worrier. I think about nausea, vomiting, and the even more unpleasant things that go along with late pregnancy. Yes, pregnancy is a beautiful and a life-changing experience for which little else can compare, but it’s also physically draining at times and at others downright unpleasant. For me, nowadays, it’s just not romantic in a sexy, steamy way.

Having just read Jo Goodman’s All I Ever Needed, I admit to being completely thrown out of the story by how often and how far into the heroine’s pregnancy she gets it on with the hero. I wondered, “is Sophia’s nonchalance typical or even believable for Regency era pregnant women?”.

The funniest thing I read last week was a debate about Miley Cyrus’s new song and video in The Sexist. I am pretty sure it is one of the worst 5 songs I have ever heard in my entire life. As Amanda puts her view:

It’s just important to make the distinction between OH MY DISNEY GIRL SEXY AVIAN COSTUME WHAT ARE THEY DOING TO OUR CHILDREN! and saying, Hey, it must be hard to be a Girl, Not Yet A Woman in the spotlight and be criticized no matter how you want to grow into adulthood. I will say that the song kind of sucks, in a not-criticizing-her-burgeoning-sexuality kind of way.

Feministe on Defining Sluttiness. Here quoting Sady Doyle, who participated on a panel at Harvard’s Rethinking Virginity conference:

The fact that anyone can be labeled a slut, at any time, with any level of sexual activity under their belt, and the fact that sluttiness is a moving target, makes it clear that slut-shaming isn’t just about controlling how much sex women have*. If you can be called a slut without so much as kissing another person, then it stands to reason that your slut status must be based on something besides your level of sexual experience or activity. And often, it is. It’s based on what people assume about you just by looking at you – at your body, your clothes and the way you move through the world. Once you realize that, it becomes obvious that the slut label isn’t just about controlling how much sex women have: It’s about controlling how we dress, how we walk, how we talk, how we dance, how much we drink, who we talk to, how we feel about our own desires and so on and so on.

Angela of Save Black Romance on Dorothy Koomson, Race and Culture:

However, I admit to feeling funny while reading both books. More than once I stopped to ask “Where are the black people?” or “Doesn’t Kendra/Kamryn ever date any black guys?” and I was often weirded out by how, well, “white” Kendra and Kamryn sounded.

BookEnds LLC on the question of whether there is or should be a Morality Clause in YA fiction.

2. Romanceland items: goodbyes, the TBR App, and growing your blog the new fashioned way

Good bye to Romance Buy The Book and Royal Reviews, although the former will be back after summer and the latter will continue to blog as individuals.

I had just discovered Royal Reviews, and was really surprised to see how young it was and how many readers it had. It’s funny how some sites take off and some don’t (by which I mean, specifically, “DAMN THEM ALL TO HELL!!!”). I have no idea how the folks at Royal Reviews grew that review site, so this is not about them, but I will take this as an opportunity to rant a little about using prizes to get more followers. I am really sick of all the tweets coming in to my stream with “Follow Susie! She needs to get to XX followers. Bigger prizes the more followers she gets!”.

People have a right to grow their blogs or their Twitter followers count however they want, and I have a right to say what I think about the practice. IMO, there is a difference between having contests and deliberately growing your blog by giving away bigger prizes the more followers you get. And the difference is this: one of them is pathetic and the other isn’t. I’ll leave you to decide which I think is is which.

Finally, the TBR App was released last week by Smart Bitches/Dear Author. The app is free for your iTouch or iPhone. Here is the description:

To Be Read is an iPhone app for the romance reader. It includes content and reviews from Dear Author and Smart Bitches Trashy Books to help you build your romance To Be Read pile. It also includes free reads from some of the best names in romance fiction.

And about the site,, which appears to be a host for the different projects like Save the Contemporary and DABWAHA:

To Be Read is a collaborative site designed to bring you up to date romance news, reviews, and recommendations. Conceived by Sarah Wendell from Smart Bitches Trashy Books and Jane Litte from Dear Author, To Be Read is designed to help you build your To Be Read pile, one romance novel at a time.

I downloaded the TBR app, which is free. I confess I do not understand why they called it a TBR app instead of “Smart Bitches Dear Author App”. You can’t bookmark reviews, or search them, or create a list of books to buy. As Christina commented at the SBTB site:

Hmm, maybe I’m missing something here, but I don’t see a way to actually make a TBR LIST in the app. Having all the reviews in one place is great and all, but if you can’t actually use it to make a list of the books you want to get…. Well, what’s the point?

The app is basically a dedicated app for those two blogs. Except it is not even as useful as just bookmarking them and reading their mobile versions on your iPhone, because the TBR app does not include comments, which are often really great at both sites.

One cool feature of the TBR app is the free content, including work by Sherry Thomas and Jill Shalvis. The free content is not that attractive to me, personally, because (a) I hate reading on my iTouch, and (b) there is a glut of free content out there already, and (c) I already have too much to read, but I am sure this will be a big hit for others. If you mainly use those two blogs to get book recs, or if you don’t care about comments and like the easy access the app provides to DA and SBTB, it is worth looking into in its current version.

Those folks deserve a ton of credit for creating the very first romance app. I know they are soliciting feedback, and continuing to make changes, and I may well be thrilled with a later version, just as many are thrilled with the current one. But this one, for me personally, not so much.

It did make me long for a LibraryThing app, though. There is a Goodreads app, but I would have to switch over to Goodreads. Has anyone tried it?

This whole app thing related to blogs raises a question for me, and I’ll end this section by asking it. Right now, I have separate apps for a few different news sites: HuffPo, NYT, Guardian, etc. I don’t expect HuffPo to carry NYT news or vice versa. Is this where we are headed with romance? Will there be an AAR app? A TGTBTU app? A Mrs. Giggles app? And will that be a great thing? A mixed thing? A thing only for the relatively few who actually own a iphone or itouch? Or something else?

3. Personal

My inlaws have just left, and we have the house to ourselves. Mr. RRR is where he can be found all summer long: in the garden. I finished my annual report and completed all of my grade rosters. It is fucking freezing here in Maine today, but I don’t care because after I finish this post I am going to grab my Kindle and curl up on the couch with my Slanket and have a readathon!

I am going to attend RomCon in July. I had decided this prior to the change of venue of RWA for several reasons too boring to contemplate (will attend RWA in 2011 in NYC), but now I am very glad I made that decision because there is no way in hell I would spend a minute inside a convention center while at WDW, one of my favorite places on earth. I have an extra RomCon ticket for the $125 admission which I will give away shortly on this blog. I noticed that for the Book Bloggers Convention in NYC later this month in conjunction with BEA, they are keeping a list of attendees. I thought it would be fun to do the same. So, if you are attending RomCon, comment here.


PS. Have you ever noticed that women fiction bloggers always have their own signatures? I decided to get me one for fun:

19 responses

  1. I am really sick of all the tweets coming in to my stream with “Follow Susie! She needs to get to XX followers. Bigger prizes the more followers she gets!”.

    I HATE this! Plus Blogger X or Author Y telling people not to bother entering a contest unless they follow them on Twitter and/or subscribe to their blog. Urgh! Don’t they realise that the people already following them are likely to be fans and buy their new book/read their blog anyway? Surely it would be in their interests to attract new fans. And what’s to stop someone following them in order to enter the contest, then unfollowing them as soon as the winner(s) is announced? It doesn’t seem logical to me.


  2. I am all excited I made the Stepback!

    Will look forward to your RomCon reports. I am attending Readercon instead.

    My Jane Eyre posts will go up this Friday-Sunday, the 14th-16th.


  3. Maybe I am just being obtuse, but why do we have to distinguish between “black” romance and “white” romance? I can honestly say that the color or ethnicity of the H/h and /or their friends is not the reason I choose to read a book of any genre, and it irritates me that even now we have black, white, asian, jewish or whatever romance. Why don’t we just have romances?


  4. Thanks for the link to “Defining Sluttiness”; I don’t think I’d have stumbled across it otherwise, but it’s very interesting. I do agree about sluttiness being something of a moving target. As a volunteer, I work with kids who are 9-11, and I’m surprised at how much the concept is already taking hold with them. There is so much gossip about how x is slutty or y dresses like a slut, etc.. Even with kids who are not mature enough to completely get the idea yet, we still have to deal with the slut label being used to control all kinds of behavior in girls and women. I find it very sad.

    Do you read the Jezebel blog? This type of topic comes up fairly often there. I don’t get time to go over there every day, but I do browse it once a week or so.


  5. I totally agree with you on the contest thing.

    BTW, I use the Goodreads app constantly. It’s pretty intuitive, and although it’s obviously not as robust as the actual site, I’m able to search by title or author, add books to my different shelves, mark a TBR, note my place in a book, rate a book, write a review, and comment on reviews.

    I use it when I finish a book and I’m nowhere near my laptop. My goal this year is to track all my reads, so this app has been very useful in that regard.


  6. Such a plethora of possibilities … but in the interest of getting through my Monday morning to-do list, I’d like to focus on my favourite bashful hero — Hugo, hero of Georgette Heyer’s Unknown Ajax.

    What makes him perfect is that he actually is a hero and yet he plays the part of the gormless buffoon to a turn. It’s what everyone “expects” from him. I’m sure I’ll think of others but he came immediately to mind.


  7. This whole app thing related to blogs raises a question for me, and I’ll end this section by asking it. Right now, I have separate apps for a few different news sites: HuffPo, NYT, Guardian, etc. I don’t expect HuffPo to carry NYT news or vice versa. Is this where we are headed with romance? Will there be an AAR app? A TGTBTU app? A Mrs. Giggles app? And will that be a great thing? A mixed thing? A thing only for the relatively few who actually own a iphone or itouch? Or something else?

    Don’t know about for the mobile stuff but it already exists for the most part with feeds. And I think many of them can convert to mobile.

    Can you tell I don’t have or use one? A PDA thingy, I mean. I do, however, use plenty of feeds. ;-)

    And you can even get feeds from both Twitter and Facebooks and most social networking sites.


  8. About pregnancy, you know I have met some women-not a lot, but more than just a few, who actually do say they felt sexier while pregnant.

    It’s weird to me, because I just felt… BLEH…while pregnant. Although that didn’t keep me from getting it on pretty late into pregnancy… *G*


  9. I use both LibraryThing (full membership) and Goodreads, and I love them both, but they’re very different. LibraryThing is a better organizational tool, gives you a better list of the books you own, more ways to tag them, more information on the book itself.

    Goodreads is better as a book-related social networking tool. It’s great for knowing what your friends are reading, it pushes out your reviews (if you write them) to your friends, it’s more like Facebook if Facebook couldn’t be arsed about anything but your bookshelves. One annoying thing it does: it tries to get your log-in info for your email, and then spams your contact list with Goodreads invites. Or, it did when I signed up. But, it’s easy to just not give them that information.

    Because I’m a social reader, I end up using Goodreads more. But I’d never spend a weekend entering all my old books into the site, which I did immediately with LibraryThing. I really don’t think they fill the same need. LibraryThink is like a light online personal library catalog. Goodreads is like a social media reader advisory. I use both when I have the time, but neither is necessary to life. (If anyone wants to friend me on Google Reader, I’m Jocelyn Zombie on there, as on Twitter).


  10. Oh, one note. I’m sure you can do this w/library Thing, but you can import your books into Goodreads, so you don’t need to enter then one by one. Thank goodness! Or I never would have done it.


  11. @katiebabs: Why thank you.

    @SarahT: I really hope the trend ends soon.

    @Victoria Janssen: I look forward to your Jane Eyre posts.

    @Jill Sorenson: Yeah, but I would rather Just follow whom you want and talk with them, and if you aren’t an idiot or a jerk, a good percentage will follow you back.

    @daisy: It’s great if you choose a wide variety of romances, but I think the classifications exist … because race exists. I hasten to add that Angela’s post was really about the differences in culture as well as race.

    @Lynn Spencer: IMO, sluttiness is a diffuse and chameleon-like concept that serves to harm women in a number of ways. I think we need to remember this when we talk about rape, especially. I do check out Jezebel but haven’t lately. Thanks for reminding me.

    @Janet W: Thanks for the suggestion. Hope you made good headway on that to do list.

    @BevBB: Yes but the difference is that in the feeder, all the feeds from Twitter and blogs are in ONE app, Google. If I hit “back”, I go back to the list of feeds from all the different sources.

    If we had apps for each blog, they would be separated by different icons, such that if I wanted to stop looking at blog A and start looking at blog B, I would have to close one app and open a new app.

    It’s not a big deal, but it is a difference.

    @Shiloh Walker: I am in different to it personally, but if I had to choose, I think I prefer not.

    @Jocelyn Z.: Wow! That is really helpful. Thank you. I am also a full LibraryThing member, and I agree with you on its strengths. Now if they would only make that app. their website says it is coming soon.

    @Lori: thank you for the tip.


  12. What Jocelyn already said re: LibraryThing and GoodReads. I only use LibraryThing, and that’s because I really was only looking for a way to catalog my TBR and keepers. With my own blog, Twitter and Facebook accounts, the last thing I need is another social networking platform to talk about books on. I mean, that’s why I blog. Why repeat myself over two different platforms?

    Re: apps – they totally fly under my radar since I don’t have a cell phone that uses “apps” and I’m more likely to gouge my eyes out before getting an iPad or iTouch (Mr. Jobs and I have “issues”). But then I’m the girl who just got a cell phone capable of text about a year ago. I’m such a dinosaur when it comes to mobile devices. Seriously. But certainly they are the wave of the future. Lots of talks about apps in the library community these days…..


  13. I’m supposed to inherit my husband’s iTouch at some point and look forward to trying the GoodReads app — though a paperbackswap app would be even better, since that’s where my TBR list is. And the thought of moving the whole thing over to GoodReads… oh lord.


  14. As far as the Vanity Fair cover is concerned, well, it may objectify men but I’m cool with it! Looks good to me anyways!!

    @ Daisy – I thought that too. But then I thought, is that just because I’m white? I dont’ know what I dont’ know. (I’m open to enlightenment though!) :)


  15. When I saw that AAR Sandy has children, I did a double take. I’d conversed with Sandy at various RWA Nationals, and never got that impression.

    I linked through to the article and phew, very relieved to discover that Sandy has not been hiding SECRET BABIES! from me. The article was actually written by AAR Heather.


  16. Hey Jessica, thanks for the link. More importantly, I hope you find a few authors/books to try and review for us :-)


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