What You Said Means A Lot To Me










I think (and wish with all my heart) that this is a one-off*. But it’s hard not to be concerned when a reviewer suffers such a violation of her privacy and her negative reviews are portrayed as trolling and bullying, as if such things justified stalking someone. Worse, no one is being held accountable, some people are praising Hale, others are saying the reviewer deserved it, the mainstream media seems to have forgotten how to research and fact-check, and the publisher remains silent. — Brie, Romance Around the Corner

Victory (to me) looks like fellow authors and publishers drowning out BBA’s in an instant chorus of disapproval. It looks like people with a financial interest in the industry protecting the people who are showing up as volunteers. Victory looks like a rejection of doxxing. It looks like creating reader spaces that young voices can use to explore their reactions to art. Victory looks like an acknowledgement that reader-reviewers are not cogs in the publishing machine but valued partners in the creation of a healthy and vibrant community of traditionally focused literacy. –Meoskop, at Love in the Margins

A review is not an invitation to an author for a discussion about the review or the reviewer’s opinion. — Sarah Wendell, Smart Bitches Trashy Books 

But for me, the lesson here is explicit: there are publishers and authors who are more than willing to exploit the value of readers to promote their books and then equally willing to participate in the ruination of that valuable resource, should it not seem valuable at the moment to them. Many of us are used to the systematic devaluation of female voices in, well, virtually every community you can name. But this feels like a sucker punch to the gut, and now that I’m getting my wind back, all I can say is congratulations to any of you who helped, supported, or cheered while Kathleen Hale — or anyone like her — lashed out at a reader-reviewer. Not only have you helped diminish the serious implications of real bullying (because wishes are not ponies and negative reviews are NOT bullying), but you are fundamentally damaging the community you simultaneously rely on for its honest, spontaneous enthusiasm about books. You are, in fact, poisoning the very well from which you’ve been drinking. — Robin, Dear Author

What have we become? And how much further will we take this? — Sparky, Fangs for the Fantasy

Miss Bates soul-searched her blogging. She takes her blog-title as a renewing point, returns to her modest roots: primarily, Miss Bates reads romance, she doesn’t review romance. She hopes to inspire fellow-readers to share in her thoughts about romance fiction, or fiction with strong romantic elements (a clunky designation, but a hybrid Miss Bates loves). She wants her blog to be an account of what she’s reading and how she responded to it and less about whether you, her reader, should, or shouldn’t read a book. She wants to, once again, engage with her reading emotionally and intellectually without worrying about spoilers and ratings and release dates. — Miss Bates, Miss Bates Reads Romance

Part of the rise in conflict is due to the way being online shapes social interactions, and part of it is because the book community is a vibrant and interesting one, which makes it profitable for a lot of people. The payoffs to getting noticed by book lovers can be very high. But that brings in the ambitious and unscrupulous (and unbalanced) participants as well. We don’t have good ways of excluding them yet. So every individual has to make her own decisions about how to manage participation. — Sunita, Vacuous Minx

Blogging has gotten me through many tough times- through long periods of unemployment, family deaths, emotional hardships, and just life in general and how it can be unfair sometimes. Blogging and reviewing helped me gain the confidence to do more than a few things I never thought I would accomplish.  –Katiebabs, Babbling About Books

I am speaking up to add my voice in saying that as a lifelong reader (and bigtime consumer of the product that we call fiction), it’s not OK with me when authors seek to control reception and interpretation of their published work. If you’re not up to the challenge of either staying away from or putting up with whatever ideas and responses your published prose generates, then you should keep your prose to yourself and not ask people to pay for it. –Pamela, Badass Romance

In the end I’m sure this blackout probably won’t make a darn bit of difference to the industry, to supporters of The Stalker etc.  But it’s a simple way for me to get right with myself again.  To realign my head space. To rediscover why I’ve been blathering on about books online for the past 15 years (other than having no life).

I like it.  It’s as simple and complex as that. — Wendy, The Misadventures of Superlibrarian

I don’t want to be an asshole by comparing this protest to something like Ferguson, where people are putting their lives on the line for justice, but I do think that, in a small way, this is an example of the less powerful asking for what they need  — which are very simple, reasonable things really, mainly assurance from publishers that they will protect our privacy and don’t support stalking or doxxing of book reviewers — and having the powers-that-be are act as if they’re the ones under attack.  — Willaful, A Willful Woman

Nobody should have to fear posting a bad review of a book. The fact that for many of us that is a daily concern is a sign that big changes need to take place. We demand the changes not just because we need them but because they’ll benefit everyone. — Ceilidh, Bibliodaze

Some of those book bloggers–and some people who don’t blog but simply leave comments on other people’s blogs–will not come back. They feel the conversation is not worth the very real risk of having an author have a fit of batshit irrationality and track them down. While it saddens me to think of those voices, silenced by fear, I understand that part of having the freedom to speak is having the freedom to choose to be silent. — Azteclady, Her Hands My Hands

My path is to sit in a room full of  women who read because they love the stories and ask them who they are and what they think. My path is to take the core message of romance, that we all deserve happy endings, and live it in my daily life. I don’t want to see your academic or social qualifications. They don’t matter to me. You do. Because you are enough, as you are, without any external validation. You spent the most precious commodity any of us have, our limited time in this life, on experiencing a piece of art. I want to know how it made you feel. The rest of it, the social structures and economic engines, none of it matters to me. — Meoskop, at Love in the Margins

We’ve met some pretty amazing people both regular readers like us and some pretty fantastic industry people as well. Book Binge has opened a lot of doors to us and we’ve met some pretty big rock stars because of this blog and those are good things. Our book blogging community is going through some rough patches right now but we’ve gotten through rough patches before. Our community is filled with some strong, intelligent and amazing women and we’re so stinkin’ proud to be apart of it too. — Rowena and Holly, Book Binge

To the people I quote here and to everyone who is speaking up for book bloggers, thank you.

My Recent Bad Luck with Books


rock addiction with shadow

This is Nalini Singh’s foray into contemporary romance, first in a series. I received my copy from Net Galley. I don’t know if it’s a DNF. I kind of hopped skipped and jumped. I certainly did not read it all cover to cover. Is there a DNRTM (Did Not Read The Middle) designation? Right now in romance, certain things seem very popular. Little sexual tension and lots of sex scenes, bad boy “bro gangs” (bikers, assassins, rockers, etc.), highly emotional protagonists with high conflict. I think to some extent the popularity of New Adult, which features some of these things, has bled over into contemporary romance. In fact, Rock Addiction reads like an NA to me. Everything is super dramatic and the heroine is youngish (twenty-four, just getting started with her career, still not really emotionally emancipated from her family of origin). To see if I was just confused (I’ve only read about a dozen NA books), I checked Goodreads and Amazon reviews, and my sense that this could be shelved in NA is shared by a lot of other readers.

I had a hard time with the book from the beginning. As in Fifty Shades of Grey, we just have to accept that a regular young woman, a librarian, walks into a room and does this to a gorgeous, rich, successful, world famous rock star:

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Quiz: Test Your Knowledge of Harlequin Medical Romance!

As folks following me on Twitter know, I’ve been working through Harlequin Medical romances published from Jan 2011-May 2014 for a research project. I haven’t read them all, by any means, but I’ve read many, and for all the rest I’ve read blurbs, samples, and reader reviews. A few things really surprised me. I thought I’d see if I could surprise a few of you.

(Answers below the cut)

1. Which plot NOT is a real one?

a) Hero and heroine both utilized IVF to conceive, but the sperm samples were mixed up, and they now have each other’s kids. They meet to fix the problem and fall in love. HEA.
b) The heroine and hero had a relationship in medical school, but it ended when she handcuffed him to a bed and stole his fellowship. They meet up again years later and fall in love. HEA.
c) The heroine agreed to serve as gestational surrogate for her friend, but after getting “weird vibes” from the bio-dad, she ran off with the baby. She meets a nice doc. They fall in love. HEA.
d) The heroine is a gestational surrogate. When the bio-mom dies and the bio-dad refuses custody, the heroine tracks down the bio-dad. They fall in love. HEA.

2. As of right now, how many Medicals are published each month?

a) 3
b) 4
c) 6
d) 8

3.The doctor (hero)/nurse (heroine) pairing was once so common in medical romance that they were called “Doctor Nurse” romances. Today, what percentage of heroines in Harlequin Medical romance are nurses?

a) 75%
b) 50%
c) 35%
d) 25%

4. Of the recent Harlequin Medical romances that feature a nurse protagonist, how many feature a nurse hero?

a) 1
b) 3
c) 5
d) 7

5. Which one is NOT a setting for a recent Harlequin Medical?

a) Cruise ship
b) Hero’s desert kingdom
c) Space station
d) Liberia
e) Orient Express

6. What percentage of protagonists start the story as a single parent?

a) 10%
b) 15%
c) 25%
d) 35%

7. How many female protagonists are POC?

a) 2
b) 4
c) 6
d) 8

8. Which ridiculous reason was NOT used to end or prevent a relationship?

a) The heroine ran off to get her child an experimental treatment for a fatal disease against the objections of the hero, her husband.
b) The hero has cancer, and leaves the pregnant heroine to spare her.
c) In Liberia, the heroine insists on setting up a plastic surgery clinic which the hero thinks is frivolous.
d) The hero dumps the heroine because he wants to dedicate his life to eradicating a measles outbreak while training as an assassin to eradicate Jenny McCarthy.

9. A Harlequin Medical opens with:

a) the heroine’s point of view most of the time
b) the hero’s point of view most of the time
c) a roughly even split between hero and heroine’s point of view

10. Which health issue is NOT faced by a protagonist in recent Harlequin medicals?

a) postpartum depression
b) elective preventative mastectomy
c) alcoholism
d) macular degeneration
e) multiple sclerosis

11. Only one of the seven continents is unrepresented as a setting for a recent Harlequin medical. Which is it?

a) Asia
b) Africa
c) North America
d) South America
e) Antarctica
f) Europe
g) Australia

12. What is the most common profession for heroines who are NOT nurses?

a) doctor
b) midwife
c) paramedic/EMT
d) unemployed

13. What surprised this post author the MOST about Amazon.com reviews of Harlequin Medical romances?

a) The high frequency of the sentence “I skipped the sex scenes.”
b) How uncannily the wording tracked the jacket copy.
c) How well the reviewers seemed to know the author and her work.
d) How bitterly angry the reviewers were about the similarity of the names “Caroline Anderson” and “Catherine Anderson” and their own tendency to buy the wrong author.

14. How likely is it for the heroine to be sexually inexperienced?

a) Extremely unlikely
b) Somewhat unlikely
c) Likely
d) Very likely

15. By the end of the book, or at least by the next book in a continuing series, how many of the couples are parents?

a) All
b) Most
c) About half
d) Some

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Top Ten Literary References in Friday Night Lights

I resisted Friday Night Lights for a long time. I don’t care about football, Texas, or, usually, family dramas. But I watched the pilot one night this summer when it seemed like the least terrible Netflix streaming choice. 60 minutes and a box of kleenex later, I was hooked. I watch all five seasons in one joyous-yet-weeptastic binge.

There’s not much in FNL for a book lover, but for Book Riot I dug up The Top Ten Literary References in Friday Night Lights.

PS. Update on my WordPress editor hate: It now gives me the option to toggle back to “Classic Mode.” Beep Beep Boop indeed. (And in case you are wondering what I am nattering on about, WordPress forum thread full of angry customers here.)


Why I Wish Romance Had a Readercon

Last month I attended two days of Readercon, an annual imaginative lit conference in Burlington, Mass. I read very little imaginative literature, but I had a great time anyway. The best part is always talking to fellow readers, and hanging out with Natalie of The Radish, Ridley of Love in the Margins, writer Victoria Janssen, and a few new friends was terrific. The vibe was very low key, and the focus was on books — not on writing them, selling them, promoting them, or blogging about them — but on what’s in them.*

Because of this, authors, readers, and bloggers came together as equals, as fans of the books. No panels on craft, sales, or marketing, so it was very different from an RWA or an RT. There were no signings and it generally wasn’t the place for author worship, despite the presence of some some pretty big names. Even bloggers tended to resist the urge to promote their own sites. There just wasn’t much energy directed towards self-promotion of any kind. The kind of frantic desperation in the air at an industry conference like BEA was totally absent.

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Nyssa Harkness

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