Coming Soon: The Smart Bitch Online Reviewer School

Yet again, the question of credibility rears it’s cranky head – credibility for online book reviews, the idea that the buying & reading public would wish to have their opinion known. Egad!

Seems John Sutherland is shocked and appalled by the state of book reviewing on the web and has pitched a little fit. He sees independent bloggery and the reviewers therein as “degradation of literary taste.”

Then British novelist Susan Hill was banned from the Guardian’s book review section for daring to defending online reviewers. She received a letter from a literary editor stating that due to her position, her books will never be reviewed in that paper. Meow!

But soft! Rachel Cooke jumped into the whole kerfuffle and blasted Hill for her defense, and threw her own opinion into the fray.

So when lurker Becca forwarded me a synopsis of the whole mess, I sat up and emailed Candy, because damn, bitch smacking the Smart Bitches who review online on a blog?!? Oh, no, you didn’t.

Sarah: Did you see this?! WOW. I have no idea who wrote the email that Becca forwarded, and since it’s from a list serv, I’m not sure we can get permission to reprint the commentary, but whoa, nelly.

I get hating the Amz reviewers. Your best friend and your dog walker can give your crapass book four stars (e.g. Charlie Valentine’s baby sculpture horror-fest) and there’s no vetting of the quality of the reviews or the source. And Harriet Klausner sucks. (And for the record, I don’t think she exists.)

But to say that all online book reviewers suck? I don’t suck! You don’t suck! And I don’t think our site would have the readership that it does if our reviews sucked. Authors whose books we’ve been critical of said they were grateful for the analysis because, if you ask me, we do it right.

Candy: WHOA!

I haven’t seen this yet, no. We should just post the links, perhaps, and have the Bitchery flail at it? I haven’t read the links myself—OMG HUGE PROJECT DUE AT END OF WEEK, but I’ll sneak peeks at it whenever I can.

Sutherland, alas, is not the first nor the last to attack and make truly stupid generalizations about on-line reviewers. Remember that rant I wrote ages ago about Paperback Writer? Except she basically called ALL reviewers, on-line and not, hacks and traitors to the cause.

Sarah: There’s always going to be the question of who has the credibility to critique, but my feeling is, at heart romance is popular entertainment, so the folks that read it and pay for it have the right to say whatever they want. What are the qualifications for writing romance critique or review? Man titty and crinoline? A love of heroes named Lucien and Daemon? …the hell?

So how do we get qualified, anyway?

Candy: And therein lies the rub, doesn’t it? Everybody’s a critic. Personally, I don’t think anyone needs qualifications in order to be able to provide a critique, though certainly having a grasp of certain analytical techniques is useful. But if you’re reasonably bright, you can usually suss out the basic principles of storytelling and what appeals to you vs. what doesn’t, and articulate what parts of a story worked and which didn’t in a coherent, entertaining manner.

In fact, I’ll say that I like having this free-for-all, because it’s usually quite easy to tell who’s full of shit and who isn’t. Harriet Klausner set off my full-of-shit-o-meter after I read a few of her reviews, for example. And reviewers at places like AAR didn’t set off my FOS-o-meter, even when I didn’t agree with what they said.

Sarah: Yeah, that’s what bugs me about these people bitching about bad reviewers. It’s like people who bitch about bad tv shows – if you don’t like it, don’t watch it. Equally, if you think that a reviewer is full of shit, then don’t read them. Why should there be some universal bar of reviewers where we have to pass a test to prove we’re not full of crap? Please. There are so many other more appropriate uses of such a potential universal power!

Harriet also set off, as you call it, my FOS-meter, since she doesn’t actually REVIEW the book but tells you what happened. Boh-Ring and disingenuous, Harriet, dear.

And the irony for me is that we didn’t LIKE that everyone was a gushing fan of romance pretending to be a critic, and that the incisive reviews of what works in romance were few and far between, and sometimes hard to find! Everyone in the romance review world isn’t a critic; some of the time you’re getting arse-licking endorsements of dreck and, as we said, it is high time someone said, “Yo, this sucks. Change it,” when confronted with savage crapulence!

Candy: The problem with Harriet is that she sometimes doesn’t even get the summaries right. I mean, seriously.

Also, regarding Sutherland’s accusation that we started this for the freebies: Bitch, please. Nothing less than complete world domination will do. Also, the two of us would’ve been perfectly happy to have continued our enterprise without receiving the freebies—in fact, I was downright boggled when people wanted to send us books to review. I still am.

Sarah: Yes – sometimes I wonder what the hell she’s talking about when I read her review of a book I’ve already read. And I feel the same boggled-ness about the freebies. I’d be doing this even if people didn’t send me books.

But it’s a good step on the way to world domination. Next: free cable and internet. And worldwide power for online book reviewers.

Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    Lila says:

    I’m with you in that I’m not sure Harriet exists. No one reads that fast, and you are right that the summaries aren’t even correct.

    My plot for taking over the world, or at least amazon reviews:

    I think you two should set-up a reviewer name for Amazon. Bitchy McBitcherson, or the like. Make the name and passowrd known to all the Bitchery and then have everyone post reviews under that name.

    In no time it would be one of the highest reviewing, and actually reviewing, names.

  2. 2
    Nora Roberts says:

    I actually found bits and pieces to agree with—and disagree with—on all the links provided. That’s just the way my Libran system runs.

    First, imo the commentary on Amazon is just that—commentary, not reviews. And much of it is too silly to even rate the term commentary. No actual review would contain an observation such as: This was a reely boreing book.

    HK—and yes, she is real—doesn’t review either, imo. She posts often—VERY often—inaccurate summaries of books.

    And while it’s true that anyone with a keyboard and a modem can comment or review on any form of entertainment, the cream, she do rise. So if the interested reader or writer surfs around, she’ll find sites that post intelligent, articulate reviews.

    A reader who consistently is able to craft an intelligent, articulate review—pro or con, snarky or serious—is every bit as ligitimate as a reviewer for pay.

  3. 3
    Ann Aguirre says:

    My opinions are independent and I do not now want to be paid and therefore beholden to either editors or literary editors.

    This is a quote from Susan Hill’s blog. It also expresses why I would be leery of putting complete faith in a “paid professional” reviewer. How do I know his review hasn’t been bought or otherwise influenced by his employer? How do I know the “professional” reviewer doesn’t have some political agenda?

    To my mind, the independent reviewer, who writes about the books she reads, just to share her opinions with other readers, is more reliable. What does she have to gain by panning a good book or endorsing a lousy one? Her opinion is far more likely to be her own and of some value to me when I make my decision as to what I will purchase.

  4. 4

    There are good reviewers and bad reviewers on the ‘net.  Readers can figure this out. Writers know that a review from AAR is worth more than a review from Sally’s Blog, especially when Sally is misspelling words and getting major plot points wrong.

    I review books for CompuServe’s Books and Writers Forum and BooksForum, and have for years.  I try to focus on certain points while reviewing:  Did the plot make sense?  Were the characters “alive” on the page?  Were there egregious historical inaccuracies?  Would I want to read more from this author?

    That’s all I ask of any reviewer of my books—to pay attention and to be honest.

    As for the SB’s, y’all rock when you do reviews, and I hope you’ll find the time to do more of them.

  5. 5
    Nora Roberts says:

    ~To my mind, the independent reviewer, who writes about the books she reads, just to share her opinions with other readers, is more reliable. What does she have to gain by panning a good book or endorsing a lousy one? Her opinion is far more likely to be her own and of some value to me when I make my decision as to what I will purchase.~

    I mostly agree, but not entirely because there are those readers, bloggers, writers (pubbed and unpubbed) who DO have an agenda. While I think the majority are, as you say, just sharing their opinion, some have a grudge and exploit the process to get a shot in.

    I just don’t think it’s either/or. Pro or indy. It’s all so individual.

  6. 6
    Abalina says:

    Hattie K is real.  As an ex-publicist, I dealt with many phone calls from “Our Friend Harriet.”  I once tried to nicely suggest she not give the plot points away (I used to work on mystery novels … really annoying to find out whodunit via HK) but that went over like a fart in church.

    Anyways, to the point at hand, when it comes to reviews, it’s all about the word of mouth, imo.  I have a couple friends I can ask what they’re reading and nearly 99% of the time they have made excellent recommendations.  I don’t usually pay a lot of attention to the reviews out in the blogosphere (with the SB exception and a few others) or in print sources (NYT, PW, WSJ, WP, etc…).  Though this might also be a adverse effect from working in book publicity. I obsessed over reviews and reviewers for a good number of years, and like after a bad hangover, have vowed “never to drink again.” *g*

  7. 7
    sybil says:

    Will you be teaching the code in this reviewer course?  Cuz I seem to be sadly missing the rules.

    ::off to read links::

  8. 8
    Lila says:

    Albina,

    Are you serious? I knew that the top reviewers on Amazon must get some preferential treatment from publishing people but I had no idea it was that extensive.

    Ugh.

    I’m a little bit horrified.

  9. 9
    fiveandfour says:

    I find it interesting that John Sutherland seems to think that all book reviewing and critiquing that happens on the web is just like what you’d find at Amazon.  It’s more than a little insulting that he appears to assume that an adult of even average intelligence wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between “I loved this bok!  By it know!!” and a review that carefully and logically discusses what worked and what didn’t about a book. 

    By no means have I ever thought of Amazon as a worthwhile source of reliable literary criticism.  When I’ve read the “reviews”, I’ve found them to be more in the spirit of a couple of neighbors chatting about what they liked or disliked about the latest book they read than anything approaching a true critique.  (I’ve further assumed, on more than a couple of occasions, that said neighbors read at most one or two books per annum – which is perhaps my own brand of disdain, but I think perhaps a bit fairer than John Sutherland’s version).  If one applies even a little brain power on most occasions, it’s not that hard to tell who has an agenda and who doesn’t and pick the comments that are most reliable.

    I agree with Nora that generalizations regarding reviewers and their employers (or lack thereof) don’t really work.  My method, and I’m sure it’s one used my many other people, is to find reviewers whose tastes are similar to my own and who can intelligently discuss what they’re talking about – those are the reviewers I find to be useful because it increases my odds of being steered towards something I might like myself.  Whether that person is doing it because it’s a job or because it’s a hobby doesn’t matter a whit to me.

    [And finally, I got a little laugh from the idea in Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back about hunting people down and kicking their asses for saying negative things about you/your work on the web.  If authors were to do the same for flamers on Amazon – or the web in general – it could certainly add a new piquancy to the competition for the top spots on the Best Seller lists.]

  10. 10
    Robin says:

    I’m probably in the minority here, but I find this whole thing very exciting.  That there can be such a snit fit means that online book commentary is important enough to feel threatening to certain old skoolers.  As someone who really does believe in the democratization theory of the web, I think that’s a good thing.  But OTOH, I’ll admit to some sympathy with Sutherland and Cooke’s positions, especially because I don’t think they’re so averse to non-professional reviewing as they are to the idea of “thoughtless” reviewing.

    Now I understand all the discussions of how commentary is different than reviewing, etc., but I think the space between them is shrinking because the passing of some sort of aesthetic judgment seems so common to both activities.  And I don’t think the muddling is such a terrible thing—certainly not a harbinger of the end of literature as, well, literate.

    But it seems to me that bookchatter is a central example of what we mean when we refer to “the marketplace of ideas” that provides the centerpiece of our legal and ethical defenses of free speech.  And in any market, you will have different types and degrees of ideas and their marketing. 

    I do get frustrated at drive-by reviewing, although I also get frustrated at lengthier D- reviews on The Smoke Thief at AAR, which I fear is far more powerful than an Amazon drive-by. 

    Bottom line, though:  I don’t think “good” reviewing has anything to do with education or professional training or writing ability or IQ.  I think it has to do with being thoughtful, mindful, and interested in providing an opinion.  I don’t want to get all wrapped up in thinking about who has an agenda and who doesn’t (who was it besides Derrida who said that no act is selfless?), because I think every person with a point of view possesses some interest connected with that POV.  So do I wish there was more thoughtful commentary on books online?  Oh, yes.  But I don’t think the online commenting community is ruining literature, good writing, or good reviewing.  I think it’s just one more argument for more (as in number) thoughtful reader blogs.

  11. 11
    Abalina says:

    Ack!  Derrida!  *falls over dead*

  12. 12
    Kerry says:

    I don’t know if this is truly relevant to the conversation or not, but I do wonder if part of the problem comes from people’s different definitions of the word “review”.

    Now, technically, I would never call the occasional book commentaries I post “reviews”.  I don’t have the energy and clarity to do a proper review on a book (long, complicated health story among other things), but sometimes it’s nice to put out something about a book I enjoyed, or even one I didn’t.

    I think of them as a “response” or a “reaction” to the book I’ve just read that I want to share with others.  But sometimes I forget that; I still call it a review because that’s the common term.

    And as a reader, if I trust the source, a small response can be as much what I’m looking for as a detailed review.  But they are different and when they are all tossed in together into the same category, this sort of discussion and mud-slinging can ensue.

    What a professional critic and Joe Bloggs from down the street call a “review” are likely to be completely different.  With that taken into account, in their own way, I think both arguments are valid because they may be talking about different things.

  13. 13
    eggs says:

    I usually read reviews after I’ve read a book. Mostly, this is because if I do it beforehand, I feel like the reviewer is looking over my shoulder as I read.  I feel an obligation to keep part of myself outside of the book, assessing my reactions as I read to see if I agree with their assessment.  That just wrecks the experience for me.  To me, reading is a deeply private experience – until I’ve finished a book and then I want to talk to everyone about it!  Yes, I’m a hypocrite. 

    There are a few reviewers I will read before I read a book, and I read them because I know from experience that our tastes are very similar, so I don’t get the ‘over the shoulder’ thing.  Most of those reviewers are online/blog reviewers – but I don’t think online reviewers are inherently better than print reviewers.  The difference lies in the fact that the blog reviewer has endless space available to them, while the print reviewer does not.  The blog reviewer can really get into why a certain issue about the book bugged them, and they can illustrate that with their own life experiences in a way that lets me know if that would be an issue for me too – or not.  The print reviewer can’t do this, there simply isn’t the space available to give a decent review of the book AND go off on a tangent about why plot lines that violate the laws of physics bug the shit out of her.  So, I’m left with an assessment of a book, but no way to understand how the individual reviewer calibrates their book rating system.  If you read a print reviewer for long enough, you can pick this up, but it takes years, whereas with a blog reviewer, you can access their last fifty reviews in seconds and see if you are a match.

    Book reading (and I’m talking about fiction here) is a deeply personal experience, so it seems obvious to me that readers will respond better to reviewers that reveal their own personalities, than they will to reviewers who (ostensibly) keep their personalities hidden.

  14. 14
    Robin says:

    Ack!  Derrida!  *falls over dead*

    Hey, I think Derrida would have been a great fan of reader blogs, actually.

  15. 15
    Lynn M says:

    What gets me is that “professional” critics – those that write for newspapers and literary magazines and the like, the ones that John Sutherland seems are in danger of being shoved out of work – would never in a million years deign to review something so genre as a romance novel. To give them the benefit of the doubt, there simply doesn’t exist enough column inches to cover all of the genre fiction out there. But, sadly, I think the true reason you don’t find professional critiques of romance novels or other genre fiction is because those professional critics feel above it all.

    It seems to me that those of us who do enjoy genre fiction are left with not much alternative but to turn to the web and the “unprofessionals” when looking for reviews. If I want the true skinny on a romance novel, I go to AAR, read the review, look for buzz on the message boards and in blogs of folks I enjoy reading, and make my decisions accordingly. I certainly would never turn to the Sunday Chicago Tribune’s Books section looking for a review on Cassie Edward’s latest release!

    So I guess I’m a bit confused about why he has his panties all in a twist. Surely he’s not worried that the literati are now getting their info off online review sites instead of what he deems legitimate sources? Is he truly worried that us genre readers are being corrupted by reviews on the web? How kind of him to be looking out for us this way.

    This seems like more of those who *think* they know what’s best for everyone forcing us to eat our brussel sprouts and taking away our candy because we’re too stupid to know what’s best for ourselves. Seems he needs to trust us little people to use our little brains to suss out the good reviews and review sights while ignoring the fluff. As usually, I think those smart people are giving us peons too little credit.

  16. 16
    ammie says:

    Here’s my review of Rachel Cooke’s response to Hill’s response to Sutherland’s opinon of online reviewers:

    Bah. No content.

    Also—didn’t Sutherland sound indignant? Like he couldn’t BELIEVE the gall of some random unwashed bit od mass daring to have an opinion of the LITerAture?

  17. 17
    karibelle says:

    I just can’t manage to get too worked up over the fact that a professional reviewer has his panties in a wad over amateurs doing reviews on the internet.  If I were him I would probably feel the same way, but I am not and I don’t.

    What really bugs me are the authors who express that opinion.  If I read a book, whether I paid for it or borrowed it from a library or a friend I am entitled to an opinion and I am entitled to express that opinion as loudly as I choose.  I don’t do online book reviews, but if I ever decide I want to, then I will, because I can.

    I still can’t bring myself to read any of Paperback Writer’s books.  She had one out awhile back. The cover looked great and I found myself in the bookstore more than once reaching for that book.  Then I would remember “Hey, she is the writer who thinks I should just keep-my-damn-mouth-shut-if-I don’t-like-her-book-because-I-don’t-know what-the-hell-I-am-talking-about-because-I have-never-had-a-book-published-fuck-you-very-much!”  Some may say her comments were not directed at me because I don’t do book reviews.  I disagree.  Anyone capable of reading her book is capable of starting a blog and “publishing” an opinion for the world to see.  It may sound stupid and old fashioned, but I still prefer to spend my hard earned money with people who respect my opinion of the goods and/or services they are providing and appreciate my business.  Funny thing is that I never would have let a negative review stop me from buying her book.  I often disagree with reviewers, both professional and amateur.  I am sure PBW is loosing no sleep over the loss of my business, but as long as I have other options, and I always will, then I will just take my business elsewhere. 

    Susan Hill was right.  People are empowered and now have ways to make their opinions known on a large scale.  I think the people who are bothered by this and speak out against it are shooting themselves in the feet and doing more harm to their own interests than those they seek to discredit would ever have done.  Now how smart is that?

    Okay, rant over.  I feel much better now.

    reaction84 indeed.

  18. 18
    Abalina says:

    Derrida would probably be all over blogs like white on rice.  As a lit crit/postcolonial theory undergrad though, I’ve had my fill of Eau d’Derrida *g*

  19. 19
    azteclady says:

    Rachel Cooke wrote, as part of her own longish rant, that

    (snip) so much of the stuff you read in the so-called blogosphere is so awful: untrustworthy, banal and, worst of all, badly written.

    And I wonder, isn’t that just as true about what you read anywhere?

    And I better not get started on Harriet Klausner.

    (spamfoiler: speak62)

  20. 20
    snarkhunter says:

    I’m too tired to actually comprehend much of anything on the screen in front of me, but since we’re on the subject of reviews and reviewers, I thought the Bitchery might enjoy this review of France (by Sydney Owenson, Lady Morgan, a moderately popular woman writer of the Regency) in the notoriously curmudgeonly Quarterly Review.

    The review is from 1817, and one of these days, I would love to write something about how reviewers, reviews, and author and audience reactions thereto have changed so little since the early nineteenth century.

    Hee! My confirmation word is “firm.”

  21. 21
    DebH says:

    Disclaimer: I review books.  On a *blog*!!

    Yes, it’s true.  I used to review for a larger site, but decided to strike out on my own for various reasons.  Here’s the interesting thing to me.  When I first started thinking about doing my own thing, I approached a couple of nice people I’d dealt with often at various publishers.  I asked them, somewhat naively, as it turns out, if they’d still be willing to work with me on my no-name blog.  Know what they said??  They said, “Hell, yes!”  Every single one of them.  And then a few more joined in, and then a few publicists contacted me, too.

    My point?  Mr. Sutherland and the “mandrins” of Ye Olde Guarde may fear the change that looms.  But the publishers and publicists clearly do not.  And I have to think that this is because people like me, who lower ourselves to create blogs and dare to post reviews there, are far more likely to cover genre fiction than the NYT Review of Books is.  And, really, that’s fine.  I don’t think it has to be a zero-sum game.  Let the Big Boys have their Terribly Important in-print reviews of watershed moments in literature.  I’m happy doing what I’m doing with the various lowly genres, thanks.

  22. 22
    jetso says:

    Actually, John Sunderland seems to be mostly irked by Amazon reviews. In which, there is quite a lot to be irked about. He defines “online reviews” as Amazon reviews and barely grants a cursory glance at blogs and other forms of reviewing on the ‘web. The general suckiness of Amazon reviews is thus and that is all.

    I’m really not sure blogs review sites, such as this one, are that well know outside of certain circles. Vastness of the Interweb and various other limiting factors such as a grounding in the pen and paper world.

    I do think that online reviews have a different flavour to paper ones. Overall they’re less serious, verbose in their choice of language and more snappy. Which is a good thing.

    Incoherently put: I’m not sure one can defend Amazon reviews, they’re rubbish. But not all reviews are on Amazon and they’re not all rubbish. In fact, lots of them are quite good. But some haven’t noticed that yet, and only seen Amazon’s. And that’s a pity, but not the end of the world.

  23. 23
    Darla says:

    Now, technically, I would never call the occasional book commentaries I post “reviews”.  I don’t have the energy and clarity to do a proper review on a book (long, complicated health story among other things), but sometimes it’s nice to put out something about a book I enjoyed, or even one I didn’t.

    WKS (What Kerry Said).  This is what I do, as well, except that it’s more than just occasional.  I read a lot (though not nearly as much as Ms. Klausner), and I mostly just want to share what I think about what I read—what I liked, what I didn’t, and why. I wouldn’t have to do it if my family and friends would just sit still and listen to me go on & on about the latest books I’ve read.

    On the other hand, compared to some of those 3-line Amazon “reviews,” I’m writing serious scholarly critiques. 

    I truly don’t think there’s anyone out there who mistakes the two—and if there is, it’s not likely to be someone whose literary taste will be jeopardized by it.

  24. 24
    Marianne McA says:

    I’m a pleb reader – for the most part, the sort of books that are widely reviewed by the broadsheets aren’t books I want to read. Book bloggers review all sorts of books – not just new books, or books by a select few authors.

    Cooke disliked Grumpy Old Bookman, but he talks about books in a way I find relevant, and I’ve really enjoyed all – bar one – of the books I’ve bought on his recommendation. [And the one was okay.]

    I also happened to have been reading one of Susan Hill’s Serrallier books last week and – however incontinent Cooke judges her to be – I like her writing. I read ‘The Pure in heart’ earlier in the year, and while I normally hate child abduction stories, I’d recommend it.

  25. 25
    Robin says:

    Actually, John Sunderland seems to be mostly irked by Amazon reviews. In which, there is quite a lot to be irked about. He defines “online reviews” as Amazon reviews and barely grants a cursory glance at blogs and other forms of reviewing on the ‘web. The general suckiness of Amazon reviews is thus and that is all.

    I agree, and I think that even though he’s not going much beyond Amazon that what he’s talking about is recognizable to all of us.  It’s the fascinating spats that go on on JR Ward’s site or LKH’s, for example, where the books are almost secondary to personal battles between commentators.  It’s not the commentator who writes, briefly, “I really enjoyed this book” or “I really disliked the melodrama in this book”—it’s the lone comment like “Author X 4-Evah!” that I think Sutherland doesn’t like.  So I’m less bent out of shape over his position than I am when authors tell readers that they aren’t qualified to write reviews because they aren’t authors themselves. 

    Where I think he pushes his argument too far, though, is in collapsing a huge diversity of commentary on books into the Amazon-ugh category simply because it’s on the web or on an informal blog site.  I think he’s dead wrong there, even as I sympathize with his horror at some of those Amazon so-called reviews.  Like anything, I think conversing online about books is an evolutionary process, and that it may change over time.  I don’t know how Amazon oversees reviews, but in one sense, I’m glad they don’t censor more, because as terrible as some of those comments are, I’d hate to see Amazon as the arbiter of competent reviewing.  Is it still the case, though, that an author can get a comment removed (I’m thinking about the Keishon comment a while ago)?  That seems problematic to me, as well.

    Anyway, Cooke struck me more as a snob than Sutherland, even though I think she raised some really interesting issues, especially about how people regard information on the Internet, and on how it may be affecting our overall literacy (cultural, historical, literary in the broadest sense) as human beings.  And I think her point about ad hominem attacks in place of substantive rebuttal are right on. 

    I obviously come out on the opposite side from Cooke, but I think her position reflects the fact that it’s often the most outrageous comments that get attention, not those intelligent and thoughtful reviews undertaken by tons of non-professional commentators.  Let’s face it; at some level we all love a scandal, even Rachel Cooke.

  26. 26
    Wry Hag says:

    I just gotta toss in my two cents.  This subject has been a bur in my butt for years.  And I’m not talking about the reader comments on Amazon.

    Aside from the Smart Bitches, what regular online romance reviewers EVER, EVER, EVER give thoughtful, articulate, nay, even critical reviews?  Seems these people dole out their four or five iconic roses/hearts/unicorns/toasters/hose reels/Xanax tabs/etc. as if every last scribbler of every imaginable kind of romance were the next Bronte triad rolled into one!

    Effusive mugwumps are the last thing authors and readers need.  Not every book can be a “keeper” and not every writer will inspire us to wait with baited breath for her next offering.  This utter lack of discernment has gotten so bad that I long ago began ignoring my own reviews!

    So, unless and until online romance reviewers can start calling a turd a turd and giving us some intelligent analysis of its stink factor, I just plain can’t give their output much credibility.

    If anybody knows of a GOOD romance review site, aside from this one, please tell me.  I crave one!  Desire seeps from my pores!

  27. 27
    Robin says:

    If anybody knows of a GOOD romance review site, aside from this one, please tell me.  I crave one!  Desire seeps from my pores!

    Well, there’s always AAR (likesbooks.com), which is both loved and hated by the authorial community becauase of the open dialogue there about books and Romance-related stuff.  And if you’re looking for a reader blog dedicated primarily to reviews, try DearAuthor.com.

    There are a number of reader blogs out there that are quite good IMO, too.  Start clicking on the list on the right side of the SB’s page and you’ll come across them.

  28. 28
    Candy says:

    Wry Hag, I have two words for you: MRS. GIGGLES. Yeah, she’s a cranky cuss, and since she’s the sole proprietor of the website, you’re getting only one opinion. But oh my, she lets the books have it with both barrels. It’s both terrifying and refreshing, even when you don’t agree with her assessments.

    In addition to Robin’s recommendations (which I second heartily), The Romance Reader is also an excellent resource.

    And I also have to plug Bam’s It’s Not Chick Porn for being detailed, honest and hilarious.

    Paperback Reader is also an excellent website—their reviews are sober, levelheaded, somewhat scholarly and fair.

  29. 29

    I have to agree. Much as I love seeing my books get a rave, not every book is a jewel, and some are downright terrible.

    On the other side (negative reviews), I see amateur reviewers who simply didn’t get it, because the reviews don’t make any sense.

    Many authors can relate on the WTF negative review…it’s been a subject brought up many times on lists.

  30. 30
    Wry Hag says:

    Thanks, Robin and Candy.  I scurried to get these on my Favorites list.  And yes, Stef, the flipside of this coin is the “just doesn’t get it” self-styled reviewer who likely has bitten off more than she can chew.

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