Sunday Salon – August 3, 2008

August 3, 2008

10:15 AM

I slept later than usual this morning, then took my coffee back to bed to read for a while. Ah, glorious!

Since the last Salon posting, I finished The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff (read my review), The Guernsey Literary  and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows (read my review), and Leftovers by Laura Weiss (read my review). Of the three, I can highly recommend the Shaffer/Barrows novel. It is wonderful and very deserving of the recent hype it is getting (the book was just released on July 29th). I hated to see this book end.

I’m now well into Rules for Saying Goodbye by Katherine Taylor. The author sent me this novel back in June and I am feeling guilty it has taken me this long to get to it. Taylor writes wonderfully with brilliant dialogue and sharp wit. The story follows Kate Taylor from Fresno, to a boarding school in Boston, back to California, and finally to New York City.  So far I am finding the story engaging and funny. Look for a review by Tuesday.

I went to a huge library sale yesterday and came home with 16 books (mostly hard cover) for $10. Not bad, eh? I’m sure my husband is a little baffled at my new additions which now places my unread book stack at somewhere close to 300 books. My justification? If I read about 100 books a year, that is only 3 years worth of reading!

There has been an interesting discussion going on over at the Library Thing ARC Junkies group. An astute reader and blogger read a review of Brunonia Barry’s debut novel The Lace Reader at the New York Times book review. The review was written by Janet Maslin who wrote:

Women write books that other women will want to sit around and discuss, preferably over tea and cucumber sandwiches. And for those who seize upon “The Lace Reader” as book club material, don’t forget the doilies. They’re very much part of the scene here.

Um, tea and cucumber sandwiches? This feels like a bit of an insult to not only writers who write books for women, but also to women readers. I haven’t had a cucumber sandwich in years, yet I enjoyed Barry’s novel (read my review of this book). LisaLynne of Minds Alive on the Shelf blogged her thoughts here.

Apparently the New York Times book reviewers have a history of trashing books written by and for women. I can barely stomach that kind of thing when a man is doing the reviewing, but when women use stereotypes of women in their reviews it really makes me mad. So what do you think? Have you seen this kind of thing before at the New York Times?

And while we’re on the subject of book reviews, here’s yet another bitter column questioning the skill of bloggers to review books.  Lissa Warren writes:

But I’ll tell you what does make my jaw drop: the seemingly widely-held notion that these book sections are being adequately replaced by blogs.


Well, I think book reviews on blogs — particularly those of the Blogspot variety — tend to be self-indulgent.

I have only one thing to say to Ms. Warren and the scads of other print reviewers bemoaning the onslaught of lit blog reviews – it makes marketing sense to the publishers who are swarming all over the blogs and offering up Advance Review Editions of their books, and I don’t think the bloggers are going anywhere…so get over it!

Have a wonderful Sunday, fellow Saloners. And keep those reviews coming – I love them!

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  1. I love library sales – you can find so many great books! I also like looking for books at antique sales. There is nothing better than the smell of an old book!

    • Jill on August 3, 2008 at 12:36

    If book bloggers are so bad, then why do publishers send us books, just any other book critics?

    Because grassroots and viral marketing are extremely successful if you have a good book.

    (Preaching to the choir, I know). =)

    • Trish on August 3, 2008 at 12:54

    Interesting thoughts and article (the Lissa Warren one). I think that as book bloggers we might all have different agendas and I’m not sure we should all be criticized as one (although maybe we aren’t). I don’t write my reviews as a professional reviewer would–I wouldn’t even necessarily consider my reviews reviews but rather random thoughts. I tend to stay clear of the more hoity toity bookblogging reviews that are out there–I like knowing what people liked and didn’t like…the end. Ha ha, I guess that I’m contributing to what she dislikes so much about bookblogging–but I know I’m not the only one out there who feels that way. Oh well–you’re right–we’re not going anywhere anytime soon!

  2. Professional book critics seem to rarely hit the mark with me. The books they hype often don’t connect with me.

    • Amy on August 3, 2008 at 14:57

    I blogged about that today as well. Professional book reviews are fine, but book bloggers tend to be more who I trust. I don’t really think book bloggers throw authors under the bus, I have a general, gentle review policy for myself…I’ll tell you if I didn’t like it, but I certainly understand I’m not the final authority. 🙂

  3. If it makes you feel any better I didn’t wake up until almost 1 today…granted up was up until 3…but it still felt a bit self indulgent.

    I also think that blogging book reviews is the way of the future. With the push towards going green and the conserving of natural goods more and more people are turning towards the interwebs for their news and reviews of good. I prefer reading my news on the interwebs…I feel I can get a more well rounded look at the world if I can read the same story as written by various reporters around the US and Globe. Same thing goes for me with book reviews.

  4. Thanks for talking about this – I hope others spread the word as well. I’m also pleased to know that someone has a bigger TBR pile than I do!

    I wanted to comment about Lissa Warren’s post, but Huffington took 3 days to activate my account and then still won’t let me post! So, I’ve had to step on my own little soapbox and post more here.

    • Wendy on August 3, 2008 at 17:41

    Bobbi: Oh I agree – the smell of old books is heavenly!

    Amen, Jill! I (obviously) completely agree!

    Trish: What the print reviewers don’t seem to understand is that the bloggers are filling a huge need. I’m like you – I’d rather visit a lit blog of someone I know I share literary interests with and hear their opinion than that of some random newspaper reviewer (who half the time talks about a lot of stuff I could care less about).

    Debbie: ditto what I said above to Trish!

    Amy: I’ll have to check out your post today (how did I miss that?).

    Gail: LOL, Gail – that *does* make me feel better! You make an excellent point about people getting their news (and reviews) on line now.

    LisaLynne: Loved your post! Feel free to keep adding to your TBR pile until it gets as out of hand as my own!! LOL!

  5. I really wanted to sleep in considering how late I stayed up last night, but the kitten had other plans. I have The 19th Wife sitting here to read. I seem to be collecting chunksters lately–that and Dennis Lehane’s latest along with Toss of a Lemon. I’ll at least finish the Chunkster Challenge this year!

    It always amuses me when I read articles bemoaning the current blogging trend. Thanks for sharing!

    I hope you have a great week, Wendy!

  6. I loved “The Lace Reader” and I love tea and cucumber sandwiches and I’m a woman. But I’m not sure why Janet Maslin thinks those things are necessarily related or have anything to do with anything. My husband likes tea and cucumber sandwiches, as well. I read her review, too, and definitely felt it was a bit of a slap in the face. I’m sure that, like most of the “pro” reviewers, she must think of us book bloggers as a threat. Here we are daring to make up our own minds and recommend books to each other without any “professional” guidance at all! But I don’t really understand what she’s got against women readers.

  7. Tea and cucumber sandwiches? Lol, that does seem rather condescending. And that blogspot book blogs are the worst of the bunch! That would be me then. Ah well, it’s that old pathetic ruse of trying to make yourself look better by making your opponent look bad.

    • John on August 4, 2008 at 03:40

    I suspect my line is a plague on both your houses; reviews that mention the actual book after two pages of how-clever-am-I prose underwhelms me as does the worse of the blog reviews that gush how wonderful the novel was without saying the how and why.

    I want a review that helps to place the book in context in terms of what has been written before on this theme or what trend it links to etc. Then I want to know where it sits with the writers work and what they were trying to do. If they succeeded or failed I want to know why with examples. I want quotes so I can assess the style or issue may self; show and tell works for the review as well as the novel!

    For me a good review doesn’t just signal that my peer-pack have hunted out fresh prey but it gives me a basis for coming to a judgement on what the writer and the text is about.

    • Chris on August 4, 2008 at 07:46

    Tea and cucumber sandwiches? Charming. And from a woman too.

    • Lisa on August 4, 2008 at 08:38

    I do have a blogspot blog and while I don’t at all see the similarities of blogspot blogs, I have to admit that mine is a poor site for reviews lately. Ever since I got pregnant and had the baby my brain has been incapable of critical thinking. This is highly reflected in the books I’ve been reading and lately I’ve been noticing it. I’m hoping this will spur me on to better (hmm. not better, there is NOTHING wrong with the books I’m reading, they just don’t lend themselves to in depth reviews. I hesitate to criticize anyone’s choice of reading. Any reading is better than no reading.) (uh, where was I?) – spur me on to DIFFERENT reading so that I think more and review better.

    That all said, it was horribly insulting and I don’t agree with what she said at all. It’s a gross stereotype to say bloggers can’t be thinkers.

  8. Nice post Wendy. Newspaper reviews are great if I am taking a Lit. course. However, I am reading for pleasure and I want to hear the thoughts of blogging friends who want to share their latest great read with me.

    • Wendy on August 6, 2008 at 08:40

    WendyCat: The 19th Wife is a fairly quick read despite its size! I have far too many chunksters on my shelf as well … but I like the heft of them 🙂

    JLS: I think you got it right when you used the word “threat.” I believe that the print reviewers are fighting for their lives…many are losing their jobs and see the bloggers as stealing their business. Such is life. If lit-bloggers are filling a need and doing a good job, the trend will continue. I believe most every day readers like the casual, conversational, personalized review format offered on the blogs vs. the analytical, highly intellectualized reviews the “pros” tend to give. As far as the hit on women – I have no idea what that was all about. Although I know some hoity-toity reviewers look their noses down on what they perceive as chick-lit…but The Lace Reader is not what I’d classify as chick-lit! Enjoy your cucumber sandwiches and tea!! *laughing* Thanks for your thoughts!

    Tanabata: I guess we should all be flattered that they are taking up ink in their columns…it means we are somebody! By the way – I love your blog, despite the “blogspot” label *laughing!!!!*

    • Wendy on August 6, 2008 at 08:44

    Fair enough, John. I like something in the middle as well. But I can barely get through some of the print reviews which are overly analytical at times. And I love the lit-blog reviews! To each his own. What bothers me is the constant trashing bloggers have been getting in these columns.

    Chris: Make sure you lift your pinkie as you sip your tea!

    Lisa: You got it right – implying that somehow a person who blogs can’t think, write or review is just ridiculous (what about all these authors that have now started writing blogs!??!). I love your site!

    Amy: thanks – what you said is exactly how I feel!

    • Laura(Donura) on August 14, 2008 at 16:54

    Even though I read print reviewers, I still look to other sources for input. Before there were a lot of book blogs, I would read all the reviews on Amazon and the like, to see if anyone resonated with me and the themes or past books that hooked me. So glad there are now lots of different blogs with different approaches. No one size fits all for me.

    • Wendy on August 16, 2008 at 08:56

    Laura: I agree – I use multiple sources too … although I find the lit-blogger reviews more accessible.

    • trish on August 26, 2008 at 10:30

    Short and sweet, Wendy, but well said! I’ll take YOUR reviews over “professional” reviews any day. 🙂

    • Wendy on August 29, 2008 at 11:47

    Trish: Thank you 🙂 YOU are very sweet!!!

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