Carolyn Crane's Double Cross: An excellent book that could have been WAY better

Carolyn Crane's Double Cross: An excellent book that could have been WAY better

I read Carolyn Crane’s debut urban fantasy Mind Games and loved it. So I was thrilled when she asked me to “beta read” its sequel, Double Cross, out this week. This was the first time a fiction writer had asked me to read her work prior to final edits and publication. “Just read it like you normally would”, Carolyn said, “and let me know if something doesn’t work.” I can do that, I thought.

In fact, once I got to thinking about it, I realized that I could do that and so much more.

I printed out the document, got out my highlighter, my red pen, and my scissors, and settled in for a long night. I slowly read Double Cross. I read it again, super fast. My Rabbi called on synagogue business, and, inspired, I reread it right to left, back to front. I read it while holding it up to a mirror and turning the pages slowly as I alternated crying jags with hysterical laughter. Finally, in an effort to free myself once and for all from the rigid linearity that sequentially numbered pages — and an author who perhaps underestimated my true talents, and therefore, extreme usefulness —  forced upon me, I removed them one by one and tossed them around the room, looking for new and unexpected juxtapositions as they glided to the floor.

It was 5:00am when I was ready to send Carolyn my list of suggested changes, which I reproduce below in full:

Dear Carolyn,

Thanks for giving me the chance to read Double Cross. I made the following changes:

1. New title: Double Double Toil and Trouble Cross — to alert readers to the hidden Shakespearean themes and mystify literary types at the same time

2. Halloween tie in: Start with a new spookier title (see #1), and make one bold cover change: place a recently carved jack-o-lantern at Justine’s feet, to impart  multiple new meanings –domestic and feminine —  to the knife she wields, and to catch the eye of those Walmart shoppers searching for candy corn

3. More complexity: Mind Games introduced a love triangle. It was good, but that geometrical shape has been done to death. We need to kick it up a notch with a love trapezoid. To that end, I added a new character, Otto’s long lost twin brother, Blotto, whose personality is perfectly expressed by his nickname, “Beer Cap.”

4. The setting of Double Cross is futuristic. I like how you represent the new world with words like “highcap”, “zing”, “descrambler”, “glory hour”, and “disillusion”, but why stop at adding a few nouns and verbs? To really make the reader feel the difference, I’ve taken the liberty of eliminating all articles such as “the” and “a”.

5. Your book is written in the present tense. As luck — yours, of course — would have it, I recently found out this is no longer the thing. Doesn’t it make more sense to write urban fantasy in a future tense? And isn’t future perfect a delicious irony for a quasi-dystopian novel? And doesn’t your book need more irony, especially at the meta levels, by which I mean the levels only a dog or PhD in English can hear? I confess I chuckled to myself every time I changed a line like “It’s like cool velvet fire on my tongue.” to “It will have been like cool velvet fire on my tongue.”

6. More cucumbers.

7. I hesitate to criticize, but I think you may have taken the word “sequel” a bit too literally. Readers already know Justine as the morally tortured disillusionist. It’s old news that she doesn’t like using her hypochondria to “zing” the stuffing out of the bad guys. Readers want to be shocked. Have you heard the expression “wall banger?” Take it from me: that’s the sign you are really having an impact. So I added a chapter. We’ll call it Chapter 9 and 3/4: In Which Justine Finds Religion. She spends the rest of the book in quiet prayer and meditation, interrupted only by occasional visits to shut ins.

8. You mention that the book will be shelved with romance, despite the fact that it does not technically fit the genre definition. I am happy to report that I have added (a) special smells for both Packard and Otto (“sandalwood and highcap” and “woodsmoke and highcap”), (b) a shower masturbation scene for each major character, (c) a secret baby who grows up to be a virgin widow, and (d) 5,000 adverbs. Voila! It is now a bona fide romance!

Yours sincerely,

Jessica

Alas, my suggestions were not incorporated into the final version of Double Cross. Carolyn explained that while she absolutely loved every single one of them, her editor was being a real PITA and refused to budge. I do understand how these things happen, and can only hope that Carolyn gets a new editor with a little more insight, balls, and vision for Book 3.

Ok, seriously now, I loved the book, I was very flattered to be asked to read it, I loved being able to make suggestions, and I loved it that one or two of them were actually taken up. For folks who have read the first book, this one is faster, lighter (not in tone, but in the sense of less worldbuilding), and more romantic (no HEA, but more emphasis on Justine’s love life). The main niggle for me as a beta reader was a switch in attitude of one major character towards another that felt too quick and thus a little jarring. It’s the kind of thing that I think an author may not catch, reading the book in small pieces, but that someone reading it front to to back will notice. It’s amazing to see how just a few new lines made that problem go away completely. It was a really fun, rewarding experience, and I feel like I have a little more insight on the writing and publishing process as a result. So thank you, Carolyn!

Monday Morning Stepback: Bloggers vs Critics, Persuasion, the Canon

The Weekly Links, Opinion, and Personal/Blog Updates Post

Links of Interest

NetGalley already has 10,000 people signed up to receive digital ARCs (via PW). I am not one of them, but I am starting to ask myself why the hell not.

Speaking of digital, a new study suggests that folks who use ereaders not only buy more books, we read more books, too.

This post by Karen Marie Moning makes me never want to go to Fevercon or hang out with her fans.

Thanks to @thebookmaven for linking to the wonderful blog of Lisa Bonchek Adams, who blogs about her life, including surviving breast cancer, the sudden untimely death of a family member, and the physical challenges faced by one of her children. Read this post, a poem about the anniversary of her double mastectomy. I’ve decided to teach my senior seminar in the spring on narrative medicine, and I will certainly be pointing my students in the direction of this blog.

Thanks to @avidreaderket for RTing something from The Tomorrow Museum, another wonderful new-to-me blog which explores the impact of technology on the arts. When I saw the latest post is about Paris, Texas, and its connection to social media today, I was hooked.

Prompted by this essay (and hundreds of comments) by author Maureen Johnson, What Kate’s Reading is reflecting on gender and the canon.

Johnson:

So, we’re thinking about boys and girls and what they read. The assumption, as I understand it, is that females are flexible and accepting creatures who can read absolutely anything. We’re like acrobats. We can tie our legs over our heads. Bring it on. There is nothing we cannot handle. Boys, on the other hand, are much more delicately balanced. To ask them to read “girl” stories (whatever those might be) will cause the whole venture to fall apart. They are finely tuned, like Formula One cars, which require preheated fluids and warmed tires in order to operate—as opposed to girls, who are like pickup trucks or big, family-style SUVs. We can go anywhere, through anything, on any old literary fuel you put in us.

Largely because we have little choice in the matter.

Kate:

Ever since that young age, I’ve always been a proponent of reading what appeals to you, whatever it may be. I still haven’t read Jack London. I still do read romances, biographies, and other good and great literature. I also feel very fortunate that I’ve always been very up front about my reading and have never been called a sissy or whatever for being an avid reader. But it also occurs to me that even at a young age, I was unconsciously realizing, via books, tv, and movies, that we still live in a man’s world, and I was doing my best to reject masculine-centric concepts in my books.

Here’s a different take on this issue, with a focus on race instead of gender, In Praise of Dead White Men by writer, broadcaster and “hip-hop intellectual” Lindsay Johns:

Sadly, the canon has a serious image problem amongst black people, too. Many see it as the preserve of white public schoolboys, taught in fusty classrooms by doddery Oxbridge tutors. We have been led to see it as whitey’s birthright, not ours. Meanwhile anti-racist educationalists and black community leaders rail against a racist curriculum which does not meet the cultural needs of their students, with some calling for “black schools” in which black culture—rather than an elite white culture—can be taught.

But the literary canon should not be the preserve of any one race. As both a writer of colour and an ardent (but not uncritical) devotee of the canon, I have little time for people who say that black people cannot relate to books written 2,000 years ago by a bunch of dead white guys, or that Maya Angelou is better than Shakespeare. This denies us our shared humanity across racial divides.

Interested in the new annotated edition of Pride and Prejudice? Jane Austen World gives you the scoop, complete with review, excerpts, photos and interview with the editor.

Ashlyn Chase talks about dealing with writerly competition at the Casablanca Authors Blog, featuring this choice bit of advice:

Now, here’s a story I heard that made me so mad I’ll have to say my mantra a few times after I type it. I wasn’t there, so I can’t verify its validity, but the woman who told me about it attended this author’s speech and I think she’s a trustworthy source.

She said the author she was listening to was a well-known NY Times best seller. What she said was “If you don’t cut your competition down with rotten anonymous reviews, you don’t care about your career.”

One commenter has the right attitude:

I’m going to put the best possible spin on this and decide that this means all my bad anonymous reviews are from jealous writers and not readers who just think I can’t write!

If creative feminist women like Adrian Piper did not do analytic philosophy, I don’t think I could have stuck with this career. She is one of my inspirations. So thanks to Feministe for pointing me in the direction of her 2003 essay/poem Dear Editor. Read it now.

From critic Jonathan Mayhew (via The Critical Sphere)

Here’s a novel idea: literary works are about exactly what they seem to be about. Wallace Stevens’s poetry is about the relation between the poetic imagination and reality. Ezra Pound’s work is about economics and his own particular view of history. Honor plays are about honor. Homer is about Homeric heroes and their code of behavior. Unamuno’s Abel Sánchez is about its announced and ostensible theme: envy. “Howl” is about how the best minds of his generation have been destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked. If I have read any poem or novel I know what it is about.

From the New Yorker’s Book Bench, worries that Amazon is going to start making people pay for previews.

As the chilly time of the year decends for many of us, Pistols and Petticoats is offering a week’s worth of hearty soup recipes starting tomorrow.

I am Late to the Party But It Is Apparently Still Underway, so…

I happened to hear a Cambridge Forum discussion on NPR last week (taped earlier this year, I believe)  featuring literary and cultural critic Daniel Mendelsohn and former editor of The New York Times Book Review Charles “Chip” McGrath, purportedly examining the ways in which criticism itself is a creative act, but actually slamming bloggers. Click here to watch. I tweeted about it, prompting Ron Hogan to listen in and blog about it here. And we got, at Novel Readings, another great post about it.  If you don’t have time to listen to the 90 minute program, here are some choice selections:

They start out by distinguishing reviews from criticism, which have different aims, forms, and souls — although they seem to think reviewing is a species of criticism, so it’s never clear. Reviews are more immediate and more commercial, for the benefit of an audience of consumers. There is an evaluative, service oriented function of reviewing, but criticism is an “act of dissection that aims to understand what a a work of [art] is.” Reviews tend to be shorter. They note that when it comes to reviewers, you have to agree with them for the review to be useful to you. But you can read a critic with whom you disagree and get a lot out of it. Reviews do not stand the test of time, says McGrath, implying that criticism does. In defense of reviewers, Mendelsohn notes the time pressure reviewers who write for dailies or weeklies are under. They both imply that the greater time and care critics can take with their subjects is more likely to produce a critique that is “right”.

Pretty much every statement begins, either explicitly or implicitly with, “I don’t want to belittle reviewing, but…”

McGrath laments the “thumbs up or thumbs down mentality” of our reviewing culture. He regrets that the Times has more and more influence as other reviewing outlets disappear. And then a long discussion of blogging ensues.

Mendelsohn: “The 800 pound gorilla in the conversation is that there are in fact more venues…than there ever have been in the history of the planet because of the internet. … The official institutional vehicles for expressing opinions … are shrinking and the reason they’re shrinking is that there is a giant technological revolution taking place and that what is replacing those venues are the private expressions of opinions and deliveries of news about cultural production which is the blogosphere, and not just blogs but also smaller online publications that actually have a certain kind of efficiency and mobility that the old behemoths maybe didn’t. So the question that remains is … precisely because of the essentially private quality of 89% of this new “criticism” —  let’s call it for the time being — there aren’t in place the checks and balances and standards and editorial procedures that we are used to because we come from the world of the dinoasaurs.

This was originally my problem with the blog reviews or blogging for which I caught a lot of punishment online when I first questioned this, but it seemed incredible to me that a person could you know [laughing] essentially write a review of something and not be edited, you know, it just seemed extraordinary that you could just say anything about anything and there were no fact checkers, there was nobody like you [Chip] telling someone “Well do you really think it’s fair to say that” and “Aren’t you going overboard?” … that it was just this sort of unchecked effusion and to my mind the problem is that the tone devolves very quickly. … And I’m not saying this is always the case, and as we both know there are excellent blogger-reviewers and litblogs… so I don’t want to get into that because then we won’t get anywhere, but I just do think that when you have a fact checker, and when you have an editor, you stray more seldom into what I see as a kind of snarky ad hominem, vicious tone that I often detect in these new essentially private expressions of opinions about culture.  It’s not always the case, but you could never say, in the New York Times, the kinds of things that you can say sitting in front of your laptop. And that worries me, because it fits into this thing [about thumbs up/thumbs down, and the speed of blogging rendering wrong opinions].

And the instantaneity of so much personal, computer, online writing [smiles] and expression, I think is a problem when what you’re aiming for is either reviewing or criticim. Your first impression, your angry response to somebody, all of that we can’t do because we have to wait…and I think that’s a benefit in terms of criticism.

McGrath: “I tend to agree. The people in the blogosphere — and there are a lot of them, are tickled  — I am speaking now of the literary blogs which are the ones I pay the most attention to — are tickled to see the newspaper reviewing go down because they feel empowered and they feel in fact it is precisely their freedom from these institutional constraints that makes them valuable. These are people that for whatever reason feel that they couldn’t have, or didn’t have the patience, or the connections to [write real reviews for real media outlets] and now they have a pulpit and now they don’t have to tow the institutional line, and now they don’t have to buy into the biases, real or imagined. And there may be some truth to that…

[On] the business of snarkiness. Snark is the lingua franca of the blogosphere. Though I have detected just recently signs that the blogopshere is growing up. There is a growing civility, which can’t come a moment too soon. A lot of what used to pass for critical discourse … was just vitriolic and irresponsible. On the other hand, you could argue that some of it, not all of it, is a breath of fresh air. It’s conversational, and they can say things you can’t say.”

Mendelsohn “This more personal expressionistic approach… obviously does provide a balance to more traditional and more fettered kinds of expression about culture. … I’m not afraid of fisticuffs but there are rules and the ad hominem rule is  one that a lot of these people don’t understand … that you can talk about people’s work, but you cannot talk about people. … And it certainly has … sparked an amazing amount of discussion by all kinds of people about what criticism is and what purposes it serves. And that can’t be bad.”

McGrath: “But you know what is bad, and I have a very specific complaint about the blogosphere  … it doesn’t pay. It’s assumed that the work you do on the blogopshere is for free. To me that’s troubling. But there’s a larger issue here which is that I’m concerned that there is a notion, a kind of critical discourse carried on by people who are rich enough or crazy enough to work for nothing. And it’s also when there are no financial strings attached, that’s also when … some of the things you are talking about … like editing, like responsible reporting, I think they also disappear very quickly and you get … replacing the traditional marketplace where work was rewarded [with pay] for its merit. Now the new marketplace is the marketplace of hits. A piece on the internet is valuable precisely and only in terms of how many people go to it.”

Mendelsohn: “Right, right. It’s a new economy of criticism. It’s exactly the inverse of the old economy, because if what matters is not dollars per word … but hits per piece, then you’re going to write the kinds of pieces that are going to get the most attention, and getting attention … is not necessarily concentric with saying judicious, intelligent, considered things. One would almost say quite the opposite [McGrath sniggers]…. right? …  that the more outrageous and crazy you are, that the more people will go to see what you’ve said. … The new economy, not necessarily, but almost inevitably, encourages the kind of production which is about entertainment rather than criticism, which is … from the Greek word “to judge”, so a faculty of judiciousness at some point in the history of the world was thought to inhere in what criticism should be, and if what you’re trying to get is the most people to look at you, then [judiciousness doesn't matter as much as nastiness].”

[On professionalism:] It’s not so much about money, but the fact that I think that what I do when someone pays me to write criticism or review is qualitatively different because I am being paid by an insittuoon to produce a certain kind of object. It is  a public endeavor … and that is necessarily different from if I were to say the same thing on my blog it would have a different apect and quality and character … I’m not just saying what I think … I’m saying something to the people who are reading the NY Review. It’s a public function. I’m not just sitting there expressing myself. And I think that’s somehow different, and I haven’t exactly worked out why it’s different, but it feels different.”

I’m writing for people … I’m not writing for me. I’m performing a service for an audience of people, and we are engaged in a kind of public exchange, because they have the right to write back and talk about what I wrote…so I just feel if I wrote the same words, and I was just typing on my laptop and posting it on Facebook, the whole activity would be entirely different. And my awareness that I am engaged in a public discourse affects the way I put things. … It’s a civic and civil exercise. I am talking in public about things that are important to the public because it’s part of our about our public culture. …  It’s not just me sitting in my underwear  at 3:00am being pissed off because I didn’t like a movie, which I think is different, and that may be old fashioned, but I don’t care.”

They move on to discussing Twitter — “God help us” —  and “way things are drifting” (not upwards, I assure you), suggesting that it is the brevity of the “thumbs up, thumbs down” culture that’s the problem. But then they turn around and say that bloggers are too wordy and write too reviews that are too long — they need an editor! The whole thing reeked of a conclusion in search of an argument.  35 minutes in and I have learned nothing about criticism as a creative enterprise. I have put up with McGrath saying that bloggers — you know, the guy in his underwear in his basement, writing for free —  are the elite and the New York establishmentarians — you know, the ones with the copy editors and fact checkers and nice offices and salaries and invitations to the Cambridge Forum —  are the proletariat of critical world. I kept listening when he asserted that getting paid for writing reviews (or “criticism”? — it doesn’t matter, as this distinction quickly revealed itself to be code for “print journalism versus bloggers” anyway) makes them better, and somehow less susceptible to corruption of any kind, and I diligently bracketed what I know about the highly trafficked digital presence of all the traditional media outlets, not to mention said traditional media’s own damn blogs (Jacket Copy? Book Bench? Guardian Books Blog? Paper Cuts? Hellooooooo?). I tried not to look at all the draft review posts I — like most book bloggers —  have going, posts which I revisit and revise several times before going live — a process I can take my time with, by the way, because I am NOT ON DEADLINE. I even put aside pesky philosophical questions such as “when is something inevitable but not necessary?” and “under what possible definition of ‘public’ is blogging not a public endeavor?” But I could not, at last, ignore the loud clanging of the hypocrisy bell when Mendelsohn — whose chief complaint against the bloggers is that they are not real critics who want to get it right, but mere “opinionators”  —  could come up with no better justification for that view than “it feels different”. Heck, even a blogger could do better than that.

On the blog this week…maybe

A discussion of Carolyn Crane’s Double Cross

A review of Persuasion — by Thursday

Part One of a summary of Cordelia Fine’s Delusions of Gender

A post on nonverbal signaling of the hero in the romance novel

A picture of my kitchen, which should be done done done by midweek *crossing fingers*

HAPPY WEEK!

It Takes A Village to Redo A Blog … some thank yous and an update

Several changes have been made to improve the reading experience since the new layout went live last week. I hope readers experience a clean look and easy interface which puts written content and user friendliness first. And if not, you can just suck it stick to the comfort of your feed reader.

Thanks to Shelley Kay of Webcrafters for the new logo and blog layout. Until I started the process, I did not realize how hard it would be to find an image of a woman reading a book that was neither “librarian sexy”, nor “Bambi sexy”, nor “frumpy/unsexy”.

Thanks to Kenda of Lurv a la Mode and Carolyn Crane –whose second book, Double Cross is coming out this week — for advice on the blog (and logo) before it went live. I never noticed fonts until you guys came into my life.

Thanks to Kristen of Fantasy Cafe and her partner in crime for revising the blog layout this weekend, when they could have been relaxing or doing whatever newlyweds do (the dishes, I think).

Thanks to Ann Somerville and @mcvane who have offered help and advice along the way.

Thanks to all the readers who took the time to make helpful suggestions in this thread.

Thanks to Tess Gerritsen whose blog filled the large hole where my imagination, originality, and creativity should be.

Enjoy your Sunday!

Review: Match Me If You Can, by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

MMIYC (2005) is the 6th book in Phillips’ Chicago Stars series.  The Chicago Stars are an NFL team populated by gorgeous, rich, successful white men with Ivy League educations. The men are driven, daring, bold, self-assured, intelligent, sexy, and great in bed. But they are also — by the end at least — monogamous, caring, giving, respectful, self-aware, and make plenty of time for family. In SEP’s world, the relationships are kind of like the companionate marriages of early American farm life — two spheres, different roles, mutual respect (with the exception, I realize, of Phoebe Somerville, but I can explain that one away). By the end of an SEP novel, the women have it all: a fantastic egalitarian relationship, two successful wealth-generating careers (usually at least one of the couple is the best in the country at what he or she does) and beautiful children who somehow never need a nanny. This is pure fantasy, and it’s romance novel writing at its absolute best. Even though reading Phillips requires me to bracket a hell of a lot of what I know about the real world, I love this book, and pretty much everything this woman writes.

Heath Champion is a kind of Jerry Maguire — there’s even a reference to the film character played by Tom Cruise in the book. Known as “The Python”, he’s the top sports agent in the US, wedded to his cell phone, his clients, the rush of success, and the almighty dollar. Heath’s a charmer and has no trouble attracting women, but he’s getting older and wants a wife to complete the picture. He views the acquisition of a wife much like any other lifestyle accessory. And, just as he delegates other things, he’s delegated his search to Portia Powers of Power Matches, the most successful dating service in the greater Chicago area.

Heath is not interested in falling in love, although he rationalizes that he and his wife might come to love each other one day, especially after the children arrive.  In the real world, even men who take “trophy wives” convince themselves they are in love, so how can we explain Heath’s bizarre attitude towards marriage and family? Any seasoned romance reader will know … it’s the childhood, stupid! Heath grew up in poverty, with a drunk father and a series of girlfriends who substituted for his absent mother, and as he got older, taught him about sex. The character — and the book —  glosses over and minimizes the sexual abuse Heath suffered, something I doubt would happen if he were the heroine. But these experiences left Heath with a huge hole where his trust in women and in love should be. Unlike heroes of yore, or some present day Harlequin Presents heroes, Heath is not an angry misogynist. He’s just protecting what is in fact a pretty fragile and undeveloped core from the vagaries of emotional ties that can rip and wound.

Annabelle Granger is the classic SEP heroine: the plucky down on her luck gal with a wry sense of humor. The first scene of the book is a comedy of errors as Annabelle tries to make her way from her late grandmother’s Wicker Park house, where she’s been living, to Heath’s uptown offices. She hails from a very successful family, but never really found her way professionally, something her disapproving mother never lets her forget. When her Nana died, Annabelle decided to take over her small matchmaking business, Perfect for You. Via a college friendship with Molly, the heroine of an earlier book in the series, Annabelle gets a ten minute audience with the Python, and hopes to land Chicago’s most eligible bachelor as a client, thereby catapulting Perfect For You into profitability.

As I read over this summary, it sounds like the setup for a book I would hate. The kind where the hero is in total control, giving cold stares and punishing kisses, and the heroine’s strength amounts to enduring it until a two paragraph grovel on the last page. But Heath and Annabelle are never less than equally matched in wit and determination.  If anything, she manages to put a few over on him. Perhaps it’s a flaw in the book, but it’s a flaw that made the book more enjoyable to me: despite descriptions to the contrary, Heath never comes off as any kind of a Python. Immature, selfish, and occasionally idiotic? Yes. But never less than respectful towards pretty much everyone.

Phillips writes characters with terrific senses of humor, and this book is one of her funniest. I’ve both read it (I own the hardcover) and listened to it (wonderful narration by the late Anna Fields, who narrated loads of SEP, and died tragically in 2006). As is typical of an SEP novel, the hero and heroine spend a lot of time together, because Heath decides not only to hire Annabelle, but insists that she come with him on the dates. If the date is going well, he’ll signal her to skidaddle. Of course, none of them do, and Heath and Annabelle spend more and more time together, trying to figure out just what kind of woman would suit him. An attraction grows, one which at first they chalk up to having both been celibate for a while. On Annabelle’s part, this is due to a broken engagement with a man who suffered from gender identity disorder, a minor character SEP skirts the line between respecting and using for comic relief.

Phillips usually has a secondary romance, and while it often involves an AARP-enrolled couple — something I rally appreciate as a woman is is getting older and not seeing my age range reflected in the genre — in this case it involves the 40 something Portia, an uptight, work, appearance, and status obsessed, but (of course) deeply unhappy and lonely woman who falls for what appears to be the wrongest possible guy in Heath’s bodyguard. In typical Phillips fashion, however, once characters choose the right values — the deeper ones of everlasting love and family — all the superficial goods follow. I had qualms about this romance, which involves the comeuppance of the successful career woman at the hands of a man who is subordinate in the workplace but, being a man, is her superior in the realm that counts, a plotline with which viewers of movies like The Proposal – which I also loved despite my better judgment — will be familiar. On the other hand, Portia’s behavior after she realizes her life has been All Wrong is the source of so much comic mischief, she’s proof once again that I can forgive this author practically anything.

I’m no judge, really, but I think SEP is a tremendous writer. I find that there is so rarely a misstep, so rarely a dull moment, no repetition, no mental lusting, no wasted words. Her books just snap, crackle, pop for me. And I love her characters.

Here’s a bit of the dialogue. A subplot involves Heath’s attempts to sign Dean Robillard, the rookie Stars QB, who hesitates because the Stars owner, Phoebe Somerville, hates Heath’s guts. Heath has showed up at Annabelle’s door after hearing she has spent time with Dean. Raoul is the lover Annabelle halfheartedly made up, although Heath knows there is no Raoul, so the character is kind of an unstated joke between them:

“Only boxes of think mint cookies this year, girls, ” Annabelle said as she pulled the door open. “I’m on a diet.”

Heath pushed past her. “Do you ever check your phone messages?”

She gazed down at her bare feet. “One again, you’ve caught me looking my best.”

He was in hyper mode, and he barely glanced at her, exactly as it should be. “you look beautiful. So there I am, stuck in a Bible study class in Indianapolis, when I hear the news that my matchmaker is sunning herself on the beach with Dean Robillard.”

“You took a call in the middle of Bible study?”

“I was bored.”

“And you were in the class because…? Never mind. Your client wanted you to go.” She shut the door.

“Why the hell did Robillard ask you out?”

“He’s smitten. It happens all the time. Raoul says I can’t help the effect I have on men.”

Uh-huh. Bodie told me Dean wanted to go to the beach, and he needed a decoy.”

“Then why did you ask?”

“So I could get Raoul’s take on it.”

She grinned and padded after him into her reception room. “Your scary henchman knew about this yesterday. Why did he wait until today to tell you?”

“My question exactly. You got anything to eat?”

“Some leftover pad thai but it’s starting to grow hair, so I can’t recommend it.”

“I’m ordering a pizza. How do you like it?”

Maybe it was just because she was practically naked and didn’t like his attitude, or maybe she was just an idiot because she settled a hand on her hip, slid her eyes over him, and let the words slide off her tongue. “I like it hot … and … spicy.”

His eyelids dropped to the V of her robe. “Exactly what Raoul told me.”

She beat a hasty retreat for the stairs. His low chuckle accompanied her all the way to the top.

There are a few things that didn’t work so well for me in this book. A couple of word choices were bizarre. In one scene, Annabelle’s breast are described with the adjective “guinea fowl” and in another, post coitus, the word “spunk” is used inappropriately.  The Surgeon General should place a saccharine warning on all SEP epilogues for the reader’s health. And, more seriously, Anabelle’s issues with her judgmental, unsupportive family get short shrift. On the last point, I find there is sometimes a tone problem in some of the later SEPs. Perhaps Annabelle’s family’s carping was meant to come off as humorous and goodnatured, but to this reader, it came off as a serious violation of respect for a family member that required more time and effort to fix than it got.

Overall, though, Phillips is pretty much my favorite contemporary romance writer, and, although I am a minority on this, MMIYC is probably one of my favorite of her books.

Monday Morning Stepback: The blogger/author relationship, post-HEA nookie

The weekly links, opinion, and personal updates post

Links of Interest:

The topic of relationships between bloggers and authors was in the air last week: My Friend Amy gives some thought to her disclosure policy, Sandra Brannon is pondering whether bloggers can be friends with authors at the BBAW blog, and Rebecca Joines Schinsky of The Book Lady’s Blog considers the problem of conflicts of interest. I am tuned in to this as I think about whether to write a review of a terrific book for which I served as a “beta reader”.

Gender Bias Bingo, at the Gender Bias Learning Project (via Feminist Philosophers). Deeply unfun, despite the name.

At LitKicks, Levi Asher is talking about Evil versus evil. I found myself noticing the zero comments on the post. This is the thing about about “lit blogs”: very often there are no comments, regardless of how good or thought provoking the post is. Whenever I write a post that generates few comments I console myself with the thought that blogs like Bookninja, LitKicks, and Bookslut never get any comments either. Some book blogs, like Maud Newton and Beatrice, don’t even allow comments. I wonder if that’s because lit blogs consider what they are doing journalism (one way communication) and other bloggers view creating a community (with dialogue) a central part of their mission.

Continuing with the evil theme, from The Atlantic, a moving reflection on compassion by Ta-Nehisi Coates, inspired by reading Drew Gilpin Faust’s Mothers Of Invention, a history of women in slaveholding families during the Civil War. Read it for the great discussion in the comments as well, where Coates considers evil in more detail. (via @meljean)

I enjoyed The Plot Escapes Me (NYT) by James Collins, in which he meditates on why he bothers reading fiction when he forgets most of what he reads. He talks to the author of Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain who says:

“There is a difference,” she said, “between immediate recall of facts and an ability to recall a gestalt of knowledge. We can’t retrieve the specifics, but to adapt a phrase of William James’s, there is a wraith of memory. The information you get from a book is stored in networks. We have an extraordinary capacity for storage, and much more is there than you realize. It is in some way working on you even though you aren’t thinking about it.”

Did this mean that it hadn’t been a waste of time to read all those books, even if I seemingly couldn’t remember what was in them?

“It’s there,” Wolf said. “You are the sum of it all.”

At Conversations in the Book Trade, an eye opening interview with Kerry Clare of Pickle Me This. And by “eye opening” I mean “I deny much of what this person asserts”. For example:

The only people I know who read e-books work in publishing, and are paid to get excited about such things.

Oh, and guess how many comments? ;) (via Books, Inq.)

All Things Urban Fantasy is celebrating its one year Blogversary with a huge contest.

From the Guardian, the amazing Cordelia Fine on gender. I have assigned her book in my feminist theory course this semester (Someone emailed for the syllabus, so will I post it). In the article, Fine says:

I’m pleased to say that the sheer extensiveness of the scientific terrain I covered enabled me to be tiresome in all sorts of different ways. Among friends, a well-timed sentence beginning with “Interestingly …” became my favourite way to spoil a perfectly pleasant conversation.

“Interestingly, in humans there’s no clear causal relationship between testosterone and aggressive behaviour,” I would say casually to a parent describing a group of boys’ behaviour as “testosterone-fuelled”. A dear friend was gently rebuked with the same word when she mentioned having to stock up the present cupboard with more “girl toys”. I couldn’t help myself.

What will we call “page turners” in the digital age? A funny cartoon illustrates it for us. (via @avidreaderket) <—— formerly @avidbookreader. Also, formerly sane.

Someone is thinking hard about Amazon’s Kindle collective highlight feature:  cool or creepy? (via @booksquare)

I discovered a new blog, Literary Sluts. I’ll tell you what I like about it: (1) it looks good — clean and easy to navigate, (2) they carry the title through the rest of the blog in a funny way (the tagline is “We’ll Go to Bed With Any Book”, and they have a page called “Proposition Us” instead of “contact”)  (3) it reviews across genres, and (4) it gives low grades when deserved. The reviews are short, and, like many of the popular women’s fiction blogs, are not analytical, tending to focus on (a) plot, and (b) their feelings about the book. For many readers, that’s all you need.

PS> And when I say “not analytical” I don’t mean “not objective“.

Post-HEA Nookie (PHN)

I reviewed Shiloh Walker’s Veil of Shadows this weekend, and in the review I noted that the book features PHN, something for which I do not care. Walker stopped by to cast aspersions on my sanity for holding this view. And then Rosario defended me, saying she, too, is no fan of the PHN because:

Sex scenes where there’s nothing at stake (and I would assume if we’re after the HEA, there isn’t) bore me.

This is exactly why I don’t like them, although I did not realize that until Rosario explained my own view to me. I might make an exception for a certain kind of romance: one in which the hero and heroine are antagonists for most of the book, the HEA is very late, and the PHN is the one scene where the reader gets to see them playing nice (as in Sherry Thomas’s Private Arrangements, for example, or any Harlequin Presents). What do you think?

Personal

The kitchen is still only halfway done and our friends and neighbors are getting sick of hosting our sorry asses for dinner. I have more work than I can shake a stick at, and my experiment in not getting my eyebrows waxed for a month has revealed that I have hair follicles all over my eyelids. Oh, and I threw the final gauntlet in the battle against my own sanity by deciding to coach an Ethics Bowl team this semester.

Given all that, I am not even going to intimate what my next post will be or when.

HAPPY WEEK!

Review: Oryx and Crake, by Margaret Atwood

Oryx and Crake was published in 2003. It is Atwood’s 11th adult full length novel. Like The Handmaid’s Tale, it’s classified as dystopian science fiction (but unlike the earlier book, it is not feminist). Also like the earlier novel, Oryx and Crake was a finalist for the Booker Prize, and winner of the Governor General’s Award, Canada’s prestigious literary prize. Oryx and Crake has a cliffhanger ending. Atwood just published a kind of follow up, The Year of the Flood, which takes place contemporaneously with the events of Oryx and Crake, but answers some of the open questions, and is working on a third novel. This week on Goodreads, Atwood is participating in a discussion with readers about her work, YOTF especially.

Oryx and Crake begins After, and is told from the point of view of a narrator who is called Snowman.

Snowman wakes before dawn. He lies unmoving, listening to the tide coming in, wave after wave sloshing over the various barricades, wish-wash, wish-wash, the rhythm of heartbeat. He would so like to believe he is still asleep.

On the eastern horizon there’s a greyish haze, lit now with a rosy, deadly glow. Strange how that colour still seems tender. The offshore towers stand out in dark silhouette against it, rising improbably out of the pink and pale blue of the lagoon. The shrieks of the birds that nest out there and the distant ocean grinding against the ersatz reefs of rusted car parts and jumbled bricks and assorted rubble sound almost like holiday traffic.

Out of habit he looks at his watch — stainless-steel case, burnished aluminum band, still shiny although it no longer works. He wears it now as his only talisman. A blank face is what it shows him: zero hour. It causes a jolt of terror to run through him, this absence of official time. Nobody nowhere knows what time it is.

Through flashbacks, we come to know that Snowman is Jimmy. Oryx and Crake gets its title from two other characters, but it is Jimmy whose journey is narrated from age 5 through the present. Jimmy’s parents were geneticists working at OrganInc Farms. His father was an architect of the Pigoon project, which grew disease resistant human organs in a pig host. Human customers could, using their own cells, have organs custom grown. At first, OrganInc insisted that no pigoons would be eaten, but as environmental degradation destroyed food sources worldwide, pigoon items started appearing on OrganInc menus.

In the world Atwood has created, employees of biotech firms like OrganInc live on compounds. These compounds are sterile, well organized, and heavily secured, with good schools, health care, etc. In contrast, the cities, called “the pleebands” —  are unruly, mobbish, full of vice. When Jimmy is older, like many residents of the compounds, he takes the proper immunity drugs (“supergermincides”) and heads there for some illicit fun. Perhaps ironically, Atwood never describes the city in a way that makes it sound any different from today’s New York or L.A. or Boston.

Jimmy’s father loves living and working at OrganInc, but his mother has started to complain bitterly about the way things are going, describing their lives as an artificiality, a theme park. She quits her job in protest and wanders around aimlessly at home. She’s brilliant, but, everyone thinks, a bit unhinged. It is clear to the reader, who already knows from page 1 that Something Very Bad will happen, that she is in the right. But that doesn’t minimize the pain of experiencing her neglectful parenting form the narrator’s point of view.

The future Atwood envisions is, as she says herself, really just the present. everything she mentions is happening today in one form or another. Just this week, we have news that a company that makes a genetically modified salmon called AquaAdvantage will not be required by the FDA to disclose this fact. Looking at the company’s website, (Aqua Bounty)  it is impossible to distinguish it from the companies Atwood has envisioned. Aqua Bounty will take a gene from an eel-like fish and transplant it into salmon to make the salmon grow bigger, faster. Not so different from the Pigoon and Rakunks that populate Oryx and Crake.

There’s nothing much new here for readers of distopian fiction. Even the opening scene of a lone survivor on a beach with flotsam from the old world washing up is a cliche at this point. And Atwood having her futuristic teens using email made me giggle. Email is already so twentieth century. Atwood’s genius in this book is the way she takes so many different biotechnologies (new drugs are a huge part of the story too), economic trends, security trends,  environmental trends, social trends, and the invisibility and irrelevance of traditional political structures, etc. — all of which are absolutely descriptive of our lives today — and mixes them up in a way that makes them seem terrifying.

In many ways, this is just the story of a boy growing up in a world that looks a lot like ours. Jimmy is not terribly sympathetic. He is not that bright, not unique or creative, not driven, not generous or selfless or giving. He is a very ordinary man. He is less compelling than his mad genius best friend, Crake, who graduates from a teenage obsession with a computer game in which he invents all the species on the planet to actually designing the species that bring the world crashing down.  That in the end Jimmy is the hero — or the closest thing to a hero this book offers — tells you something about how bleak the book is.  This is a sci fi novel wrapped around a bildungsroman that takes its cue from middle class tales of unsatisfying male adulthood.

The biggest flaw in this novel, from this reader’s point of view, is the portrayal of Oryx. We first meet Oryx as an 8 year old Asian girl whose sex slavery is consumed by Jimmy and Crake via pictures and videos posted of her on the internet.  Oryx and two other girls are being forced to lick cream off a grown man’s torso. At one point, Oryx looks into the camera and Jimmy is sure she is looking at him:

Jimmy felt burned by this look — eaten into, as if by acid. She’d been so contemptuous of him.

Really? An 8 year old who has been ripped away from her rural family, taken to the city, and forced into sexual slavery is contemptuous? Anyway, he is frozen in guilt (and love and lust) and saves the picture. Years later, through an unbelievable set of coincidences, Oryx comes into his and Crake’s lives. They are both in love with her. My problem with this character was that she never moved an inch from the “enigmatic Asian/maybe wise, maybe dumb/maybe in control, maybe servile/always an object of male lust who fulfills their demands without asking questions”. Here’s an example of the dialogue with the adult Oryx. Jimmy shows Oryx the picture he has kept of the 8 year old girl:

“I don’t think this is me,” was what she’d said at first.

“It has to be!” said Jimmy. “Look! It’s your eyes!”

“A lot of girls have eyes, “she said. “A lot of girls did these things. Very many.” Then, seeing his disappointment, she said, “It might be me. Maybe it is. Would that make you happy, Jimmy?”

I found everything about this character disturbing, from stereotypical features, to her lack of growth, to her flat affect, to her literary function as a cypher for male fantasy. I was shocked Atwood wrote her.

I’ll conclude this review with some quotes from the debate over whether this book constitutes “science fiction”, “speculative fiction”, literature, or something else.

Atwood has famously distanced herself from science fiction by referring to it unflatteringly, as “rockets, chemicals and talking squids in outer space.”

Writing for The Guardian in 2005, Atwood clarifies:

If you’re writing about the future and you aren’t doing forecast journalism, you’ll probably be writing something people will call either science fiction or speculative fiction. I like to make a distinction between science fiction proper and speculative fiction. For me, the science fiction label belongs on books with things in them that we can’t yet do, such as going through a wormhole in space to another universe; and speculative fiction means a work that employs the means already to hand, such as DNA identification and credit cards, and that takes place on Planet Earth. But the terms are fluid. Some use speculative fiction as an umbrella covering science fiction and all its hyphenated forms – science fiction fantasy, and so forth – and others choose the reverse.

and more recently, in the New York Times, she again insisted

“I don’t write about Planet X, I write about where we are now,” she said, referring to such realities as environmental decay, the creep of corporations into ever more segments of society, and genetic tinkering.

On the book’s website (badly organized, and very hard to read or navigate), Atwood writes:

Like The Handmaid’s Tale, Oryx and Crake is a speculative fiction, not a science fiction proper. It contains no intergalactic space travel, no teleportation, no Martians. As with The Handmaid’s Tale, it invents nothing we haven’t already invented or started to invent. Every novel begins with a what if, and then sets forth its axioms. The what if of Oryx and Crake is simply, What if we continue down the road we’re already on? How slippery is the slope? What are our saving graces? Who’s got the will to stop us?

Ursula Leguin has this to say in a 2009 interview with Vice Magazine:

This distinction makes most sense to me: Science fiction—and the correct shortcut is “sf”—uses actual scientific facts or theories for the source ideas or framework of the story. It has some scientific content, however speculative. If it breaks a law of physics, it knows it’s doing so and follows up the consequences. If it invents a society of aliens, it does so with some respect for and knowledge of the social sciences and what you might call social probabilities. And some of it is literarily self-aware enough to treat its metaphors as metaphors. “Space opera” is nice, but I’d call Star Wars sci-fi, because it’s what most people mean when they use the term. Sci-fi uses the images that sf—starting with H.G. Wells—made familiar: space travel, aliens, galactic wars and federations, time machines, et cetera, taking them literally, not caring if they are possible or even plausible. It has no interest in or relation to real science or technology. It’s fantasy in space suits. Spectacle. Wizards with lasers. Kids with ray guns. I’ve written both, but I have to say I respect science fiction enough that I wince when people call it sci-fi.

In October of last year, John Howell of Sci Fi World wrote a critique of the marginalization of sci fi, which resonated with me as a romance reader. Here’s his take on Atwood:

Taking even the narrowest definitions of science fiction, I’d suggest Atwood would have trouble arguing that some of her novels are not part of the genre. Apparently though, as long as you persist, you can convince the established order that your heart and mind is in the right place. Just keep insisting that everything science fiction is tacky, silly and sad and ridicule its creators at every opportunity. Disown the genre as emphatically and publicly as possible. As a writer there are tremendous advantages to avoiding the label science fiction, and Margret Atwood has successfully done that throughout her career and gained literary credibility in exchange.

Jeannette Winterson herself seems at times distancing:

I hate science fiction. But good writers about science, such as Jim Crace or Margaret Atwood, are great.

And at other times, she seems magnanimous, hoping “general fiction” can do away with genre:

“People say to me, ‘so is the Stone Gods science fiction?’ Well, it is fiction, and it has science in it, and it is set (mostly) in the future, but the labels are meaningless. I can’t see the point of labelling a book like a pre-packed supermarket meal. There are books worth reading and books not worth reading. That’s all.”

I like this last point, myself. Thanks for reading!

Review: Veil of Shadows, by Shiloh Walker

Shiloh Walker writes romance across several subgenres, from suspense, to contemporary, to paranormal, to fantasy. Many of her books — several are published with e-press Ellora’s Cave — have strong erotic components but Veil of Shadows (excerpt here) (Berkley, September 2010), the second book in Walker’s Veil series, is a futuristic/fantasy romance on the tamer side.

As the book begins, the heroine, Captain Laisyn “Syn” Caar, is looking over new arrivals at the Roinan territory refugee camp, and notices one guy who is different: he’s not only traveling alone, but his weapons are unusual, and he wears an eyepatch. And he’s hot. This is our hero, the mysterious Xan, who stays with Syn and the rebels to fight the demons who now roam the area, thanks to the presence of a gate between Ishtan and “alien world” Anqar, which had for centuries allowed Anqarian Warlords to enter Ishtan and steal witches for breeding purposes and other Ishtanians for slavery. For no apparent reason, the gates started to fail, except for the Roinan gate. As the fighting dragged at that one gate, the Ishtanians lost interest in the Roinan battle, leaving commander Kalen Brenner (the hero of Book 1, Through the Veil) fighting an uphill battle with fewer resources and more refugees than ever.

The worldbuilding is pretty light, with just enough information to get the story off the ground. There were some interesting details sprinkled around, such as that the Anqarians “eschewed any form of technology — the Warlords and their people had risen above such  pursuits”, which I would have liked explained.

Syn is a great character: very tough, smart, a competent mid-level leader who faces a number of challenges to her leadership, none of which, shockingly, come from the hero. She is a witch, and is unhappily living under a ban on witchery from Commander Kalen who fears that instability in the forces will harm the witches (one of whom is his wife) and call attention to the various baddies who are stuck on the Ishtanian side of the gate, which had recently been forced closed by the Ishtanians. This situation makes Syn feel less than whole. A major subplot involves her attempts to find a way to use witchcraft safely and effectively.

The book focuses heavily on power dynamics within the rebel base, which I found very interesting. The status of the rag tag army isn’t quite official, and the base’s distance from the powers that be breeds insubordination. I found myself wondering if the US’s presence in Afghanistan provided any kind of inspiration for the setting. Walker never elevates Xan to Syn’s level of authority: he is always her subordinate and never questions it, something I found myself cheering over. When his sense of a woman’s place (NOT on the battlefield) causes some arguments early on, he is put in his place but good.

Syn is attracted to Xan immediately, but doesn’t need the complication of a rebel base romance. For once, this is a work-related defense against love I can believe in. She eventually gives in to their attraction, but tries to keep from forming an attachment. I enjoyed their relationship, but after a focused beginning, the romance was put on the back burner for what seemed like a very long time, in favor of strategy meetings, battles and subplots. Near the end, a Very Big Conflict between Syn and Xan arises. This is the conflict that is alluded to on the back cover (“But when she discovers the dark secrets of Xan’s agenda, it will be up to her to determine whether the man she’s starting to love is a friend of her people—or a dreaded enemy…”). It hinges on no one ever asking Xan where he comes from or why he has weapons no other Ishtanians have, so it felt a little forced and a little out of the blue. On the other hand, it does allow for a Big Emotional Public Reconciliation Scene, which was very heartwarming and sweet. Unfortunately, the author chose to switch the point of view in the middle of that intense scene for some sequel baiting (I was already interested in Book 3 without it).  And then there is HEA Sex, which I never like, no matter who writes it. YMMV, of course.

Some of the subplots will have more resonance for readers who have read Through the Veil, but I am proof that you can start with Book 2.  Overall, I enjoyed Veil of Shadows.  I especially enjoyed the heroine, and also the detailed exploration of the power struggles that arise in the difficult situation in which the characters — a group I enjoyed spending time with —  find themselves.

A Rarity: Romance on Top of the Publishing Tower

Just a quick, goofy post I could not resist:

My copy of John B. Thompson’s Merchants of Culture came in the mail today. I had admired the arresting cover image as it appeared on my MacBook screen, but when I held the book in my hands just now, I noted something surprising: romance is very well represented in the top layer of books. I am pretty sure I see several Harlequins/Mills and Boons, for example a red Blaze out in front, and several Presents to the right and back.

I have no idea whether the book contains any discussion of romance publishing: I don’t see “romance” in the index, and a quick skim of the chapter on The Digital Revolution appears romance-free, but I will report back if I think there’s anything in the book to interest readers of this blog. For my part, I wanted to educate myself a little bit on the publishing industry.

Thompson is a sociologist. Here’s the blurb:

In this book – the first major study of trade publishing for more than 30 years – Thompson situates the current challenges facing the industry in an historical context, analyzing the transformation of trade publishing in the United States and Britain since the 1960s. He gives a detailed account of how the world of trade publishing really works, dissecting the roles of publishers, agents and booksellers and showing how their practices are shaped by a field that has a distinctive structure and dynamic. Against this backdrop Thompson analyzes the impact of the digital revolution on book publishing and examines the pressures that are reshaping the field of trade publishing today.

If you are interested, you can read excerpts here.

Happy day!

Reviewing for Amazon and Goodreads

Before I joined Goodreads, I had no idea how popular a site it was. I decided to do a little comparison of other places people rate books, and it looks like nothing else comes close:

What Happens in London, by Julia Quinn

Borders.com, 2 reviews
LibraryThing, 26 reviews
Barnes & Noble, 86 ratings, 35 reviews,
Amazon.com, 108 reviews
Goodreads, 1,324 ratings, 255 reviews

Lover Mine, J. R Ward (Black Dagger Brotherhood Nhumber Eighht)

Borders.com, 23 reviews
LibraryThing, 22 reviews (372 members) 23 reviews
Barnes & Noble, 739 ratings, 215 reviews
Amazon.com, 343 reviews
Goodreads, 4,495 ratings, 877 reviews

Crazy For Love, Victoria Dahl

Borders.com, 0 reviews (?)
LibraryThing, 4 reviews (34 members)
Barnes&Noble, 11 ratings, 6 reviews
Amazon, 25 reviews
Goodreads, 140 ratings, 54 reviews

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Stieg Larsson, 72,133 ratings, 18,012 reviews

Borders.com, 3 reviews (?)
LibraryThing, 752 reviews (12, 597 members)
Barnes&Noble, 2,951 ratings
Amazon.com, 1,816 reviews
Goodreads, 72,133 ratings, 18,012 reviews

Another surprise was seeing people who have (or had) book blogs writing reviews for Amazon and Goodreads. It’s possible to write one review and have it appear on all three sites.

Thinking about all of this, I have some questions:

Why do you (or don’t you) write reviews for Amazon and/or Goodreads?

If you blog, do you find it is good for your blog to post reviews on Amazon and/or Goodreads?

After looking at these numbers, I am thinking it might be a bigger help to authors (and fellow readers) to post reviews (well, positive ones anyway) on Goodreads or Amazon.com than on our blogs, especially us smaller bloggers who don’t generate massive traffic anyway.  And before anyone gets huffy, I am not saying readers have to help authors in any way, but if we wanted to (hey, all that angst about the midlist has me worried), out of the fangirlygoodness of our hearts, it seems like that would be one way to do it. Confirming this suspicion, an author who had a release this week asked Twitter followers to go to Amazon and post reviews.

What say you?

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