Censorship, Stalking and the Blogger Blackout

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We interrupt our regularly scheduled book blogging in order to bring you a slice of real life where too many worlds are intersecting.

YA author Kathleen Hale admits in her Guardian essay that she didn’t just tweet and post online about her extreme unhappiness with a one-star review she received on Goodreads from a YA book blogger, she fully cops to stalking the pseudonymous blogger in real-life. Hale received the blogger’s address through misrepresentation, and paid an internet search firm to find her work address and phone numbers.

The Guardian essay (here) reads like a piece of fiction, but it isn’t. And the blogger has decided to stop book blogging as a result of this harassment.

Because yes, it is harassment. Parking in your car outside someone’s home, looking in the windows and backyard to see if the furnishings and the dog match pictures on Pinterest, all constitute stalking. Which is illegal.

Hale’s purpose was to shut down or shout out her critic. Not someone who had stalked her, but a book reviewer who received a review copy of Hale’s book and did exactly what she claimed she would do; she posted an honest review on Goodreads. She didn’t criticize Hale as a person, she criticized her commercially available work.

Which is something that book bloggers do every single day. Because we love reading in general, even if we don’t love a particular book. So we share what we liked, and what we didn’t. We provide our own opinion, not speaking ex cathedra, and all we ask is that our readers use our words as a tool for evaluating what they choose or don’t choose to spend their own time reading.

I use my real name in this blog. I am fairly easy to find. The conduct of Hale and those who support her is frightening, and it creates a chilling effect for any blogger who finds some of the books they read as less than stellar.

That chilling effect I refer to is just another name for censorship. It is a way of frightening people into censoring themselves, so that they do not publish material that the censor finds unacceptable. In this case, it has both worked and not. The original blogger has chosen to stop blogging; her real life has been threatened and she has had enough.

Many of us are taking the opportunity to highlight this offensive behavior and the negative effects it has on the book and reading community. This week, many book blogs are posting a blackout day or week to commemorate this event. The blackout has been organized by Dear Author with this post. She is publishing essays this week to give a brief glimpse of what it would be like for publishing if we all stopped providing reviews. The Book Pushers will also be blacked out for a day, as am I.

Instead of a book review, I’m posting this essay to show my support for Dear Author and the blackout, and to go on record that my reviews will not be written in fear.

I am also a gamer. A female gamer, one of the 48% of the gaming population that identifies as female. (Much as I hate giving in to the need to prove my creds here, I will say that my copy of Dragon Age Inquisition has been on pre-order for months.) Women who write critically about video games and the video game industry are stalked, catfished and receive death threats, unfortunately on a regular basis. I hear an echo of Anita Sarkeesian, Zoe Quinn and Brianna Wu’s treatment in this case where an author stalks a critic, and I am chilled.

But now cowed. And especially not silenced.

Stacking the Shelves (78)

Stacking the Shelves

Someone blogged a couple of weeks ago about the temptation to get ARCs, resisting the temptation, and feeling overwhelmed by the number of review copies in one’s TBR stack versus the number of books one actually wanted to read, but wasn’t committed to. (And now I can’t find it!)

I know I get more books than I can reasonably read in a week, month, or possibly year. But I only get eARCs unless I have a firm commitment to review a particular title. (Library Journal sends print ARCs, but they also send a deadline)

It’s about having LOTS to choose from. Which seems contradictory, because I usually end up reading books based on what tours I have scheduled. But I only pick tours or eARCs that I think I will like (we all get disappointed occasionally!)

So how do you feel about the size of your TBR? Does it weigh you down, or is it just a fact of life? Or perhaps you revel in it, just a bit?

For Review:
Always On My Mind (Sullivans #8) by Bella Andre
At Star’s End (Phoenix Adventures #1) by Anna Hackett
Dead Americans and Other Stories by Ben Peek
The Fan Fiction Studies Reader edited by Karen Hellekson and Kristina Busse
The Forever Watch by David Ramirez
Good Together (Carrigans of the Circle C #1) by CJ Carmichael
It’s Always Been You (Coming Home #5) by Jessica Scott
Love Game (Matchmaker #3) by Elise Sax
A Plunder of Souls (Thieftaker Chronicles #3) by D.B. Jackson
The Retribution by Anderson Harp
Taken with You (Kowalski Family #8) by Shannon Stacey
The Time Traveler’s Boyfriend by Annabelle Costa
Trinity Stones (Angelorum Twelve Chronicles #1) by L.G. O’Connor
Wicked Temptation (Nemesis Unlimited #3) by Zoe Archer

Borrowed from the Library:
Fables: Snow White (Fables #19) by Bill Willingham and Mark Buckingham

Good-bye to In My Mailbox

I like the concept of In My Mailbox. I really do. The idea of giving an acknowledgement to the books that have come in, whether I’ve bought them or gotten them free or borrowed them or been sent them for review, is a neat way of acknowledging the authors and titles, even for stuff I might not be able to review.

I can understand why Kristi Diehm at The Story Siren thought it was a neat idea when Alea of Pop Culture Junkie originally inspired it. It’s been a very popular and successful meme at The Story Siren.

448 Blogs linked to In My Mailbox on April 22, including this one.

In the future, I will not be among them. I will miss the connections that come from linking to In My Mailbox, but I can’t in good conscience be a part of it any longer. Because I can’t condone the behavior of the blogger.

Plagiarism is wrong. It is not an accident. It is a mistake, and a deliberate one (Someone said there is no such thing as sleep copy and pasting).

Swift acknowledgement of that mistake can bring forgiveness, but that’s not what happened here. Instead there was a denial, then a cover-up and a plea for everything to be handled “quietly”.

This continuing saga has been covered, in detail, on multiple blogs, including at Smart Bitches, Trash Books, Smexy Books, Parajunkee’s View and Book Savvy Babe. This story is as compelling as any book you might review. All the more so because it took place in our own backyard.

As bloggers, our identities are made up of the words we write. If someone steals our words, they’ve stolen something precious.


Bloggiesta Recap

Murphy’s Law being what it generally is, more stuff happened over Bloggiesta weekend than was originally planned. Which means that I didn’t participate in the Bloggiesta events as much as I would have liked.

There will be another Bloggiesta September 28-30, and I hope to participate in the actual festival next time.

But that doesn’t mean that we (Galen and I) didn’t get anything crossed off the Reading Reality Bloggiesta to-do list.

  • Finalize the plans for my Blogo-birthday celebration April 4-5!!!!!!
  • Fix up my blog’s Facebook page
  • Update my review policy page
  • Add an advertising policy page
  • Check out triberr
  • Create a page for collecting my challenge progress
  • Add Networked Blogs back to my sidebar
  • Check out Mister Linky for WordPress (should the Virtual Nightstand be a meme?)
  • Write an advertisement for an associate reviewer

Accomplishments were definitely made!

Next Sunday, the Virtual Nightstand will have a few more details about the meme. It’s there and it works, but the concept could probably use a few more details.

Networked Blogs is working, as well as Linky Followers. Follow me through one or the other (or both!) and I’ll follow you.

Triberr turned out to be an idea for…not yet. It’s an interesting concept, but the idea of auto-approving tweets from my tribe, or having to curate the tweets, not now. Maybe by the next Bloggiesta.

And oh yes, my Blogo-Birthday Celebration! Everything is set! We’re going to have a party! A two-day party for a two-day event. April 4 I will be giving away a $15 Amazon GC and a copy of Heather Massey’s new clockpunk erotic novel The Watchmaker’s Lady to celebrate the Blogoversary of Reading Reality.

And on April 5, I’ll be giving away a $20 Amazon GC and a copy of one of my favorite science fiction romances of 2011, Queenie’s Brigade, in celebration of my own birthday.

Everyone’s invited. Here’s your invitation to the party!


3 Star Ratings: the Authors and Publishers Turn

Today it’s the authors’ and publishers’ turn to  speak out (or write out!) on the topic of those 3-star ratings.

Since I’m a proud member of the SFR Brigade, I asked some SFR authors over at the Brigade to send me their thoughts about what it’s like for them when one of their books receives a 3-Star Review. Here’s what they sent:

Heather Massey, author of Queenie’s Brigade and the new Clockpunk Erotica The Watchmaker’s Lady, and also the pilot of the SFR-focused blog The Galaxy Express, had this to say:

A book review, any review, is for readers. A review represents enthusiasm for the written word and I applaud those who take the time to do them. It’s an invaluable service.

What does a three-star review (or its equivalent) mean to me as an author? It means that with so many book choices available these days, someone has chosen to not only read one of mine, but also enjoys sharing his or her thoughts about it with other readers. That’s a very special honor.

It also means (to me) that I delivered an entertaining and/or thought-provoking story, one that the reviewer found worth analyzing even if all of the elements didn’t work for him or her. And what didn’t work for him or her might work for other readers—or vice versa. I find these types of discoveries fascinating. I appreciate the chance to discover impressions about my stories that I could only learn through the eyes of a reader. Once I send off a story into the world, it belongs to them.

Diane Dooley, the author of the SFR novellas Mako’s Bounty and Blue Galaxy, said something slightly shorter and pithier, but equally to the point.

On 3 star reviews: A three star review means someone liked your book. They didn’t love it or hate it. Nothing wrong with that!  I’ve had enough one and two star reviews to appreciate a three star. I guess it’s all in your perspective. Writers who whine about a three star review really need to toughen up and get over themselves.

And A.B. Gayle, the author of the recent SFR space opera novel Isolation, reflected more of the ambivalence that many reviewers sense when we give a 3-star rating in her response to the question.

Such a hard topic actually. I angst about a “3” rating, but it does depends on the reviewer. Some are tougher than others and rarely give high ratings, so I do look at their averages and what else they give high and low ratings to!

Going by the definition it means they like the book, but many use it to indicate “meh”. A lot depends on if they back it up with a review and say why they didn’t score it higher. That’s what I want to know. It may not be their “type” of book or didn’t meet their expectations. Always a killer. Some split it and rate plot/characters/writing separately and then average them. I like that type of feedback.

Theoretically ratings are for other readers to rank a book against what else that reader has read so their friends can work out if they want to read it.I find it difficult to remember that and just use it as a yardstick on my writing. Which I know is wrong, but I can’t help it. In a nutshell, I see it as a “pass”, a “C”, and I was one of those students who went for “B”s and “A”s.

And what do the publishers have to say?

Representing the Publishers Perspective, we have the PR Manager for Curiosity Quills Press, Verity Linden:

When one of our books gets a 3-star, it tends to be either the best kind of review, or the worst, rarely anything in between! Option one, it is someone who liked the book overall but had certain issues with it. These tend to be great feedback, broken down into what they liked and what they didn’t, which often gets used in the editing process for that author in future. Option two, the other half of 3-star reviews, where the book has elicited the worst kind of response possible – bland indifference, damning with weak praise. I would almost rather someone hated the book and told us why.

Overall, my opinion of 3-star reviews is about as mixed ‘6 of one, half a dozen of the other’ as… well. A 3 star review!

Last, but not least, a comment from from Eugene Teplitsky, Operations Director  of Curiosity Quills Press:

In my experience, 3 stars tend to be those reviews which either fall into that frustrating category of people who praise, prase, PRAISE the book in the text of the review, and then give 3 stars without saying why they docked us – OR – people who were sadly unimpressed with the book to swing either way. For me, this is pretty bad, actually, because it means we 1. failed to impress a reader enough to make a conclusive decison that they loved it, and 2. failed to piss them off enough with a hard-hitting divisive twist to make them REALLY hate it. Intead, it fell into the realm of MEH.
I do not like the realm of MEH. I do not like it, no sirreh.

I think it is fair to say that no one likes the realm of MEH. No one at all.

The recipients of those 3-star ratings have pretty mixed “ratings” on the ratings. But there is one common thread. Everyone who receives those ratings is very interested in the “why”. Without the “why” the “3-stars” can look a lot like “realm of MEH” from the receiving end.

With the “why” it can be great feedback.

But let’s hear from other authors, publishers and reviewers out there. What does a 3-star rating mean to you?
Here are all the blogs participating in this event:

3 Star Ratings: the Reviewer’s Perspective

What does it mean to a reviewer to give a 3-star rating?

This post is part of the 3-Star Rating Event organized by Bitten by Paranormal Books. Today’s post, not just here but at all of the participating blogs, is the opportunity for the blogger/reviewers to talk about what it means when they give a book a 3-star rating, or the equivalent for their blog.

On Reading Reality, 3 stars would be an Escape Rating of C. That doesn’t mean a “Gentleman’s C” like they used to award at Ivy League schools (possibly still do), but, as it says on my review policy:

C: Good fun.  I enjoyed the time I spent with the story and/or characters.

So a C means I had fun. To me, that’s pretty important. I read genre fiction, it’s supposed to be fun! If I give a C that means the book succeeded. But, but, but, there was something that kept it from doing more than working beyond that most basic level of giving me a pleasant escape for the time it took me to read it. And my review is going to explain whatever it was that kept the grade from being higher than a C.

What makes a story a C rating, at least to me?

I have a tendency to give a C+ rating to novellas that I enjoy a lot, but frustrate me because I want more than I got. I can see that there should be more story, or more backstory, or more worldbuilding, and it got left “on the cutting room floor”. While I recognize that the author may have needed to make a word count requirement, as the reader, what I feel is that I liked what I got, but that the story cries out for more depth, or breadth or length, or all of the above.

I gave Break Out, by Nina Croft, a C+ rating. I also named it one of my best of the year. But only along with its sequel, Deadly Pursuit. Together, the two books had the worldbuilding that neither quite managed alone.

Sometimes my willing suspension of disbelief won’t let me go past a C+. Lust in the Library was a C+ book, not because it wasn’t fun, but because I know too much about libraries. Any real librarian who behaved like the librarians in that book would get fired.

Some stories get a solid C because while I enjoyed them once, and might recommend them to another reader of the same genre, they don’t rise to the next level. C and C+ books are generally terrific mind-candy, but don’t have the elements that would make me recommend them to readers who are not already fans of that particular genre. But whatever makes them C-rated books, the review explains it, usually in glorious technicolor detail.

But it’s just one reviewer’s opinion. YMMV.

Tomorrow, each blog will post comments they’ve gathered from authors about what they think and feel when their work receives a 3-star rating. More comments are always welcome, so that purple comment link at the bottom of this post, please click it and send me your thoughts on this subject. Or email me at marlene (at) readingreality (dot) net.

As a reader, what does a 3-star rating mean to you? I’d love to know what review readers think about the ratings!

The links to all the blogs participating in the 3-star rating event hop are listed below. Check them out to see what other reviewers had to say about this murky subject.



Bloggiesta 2012: To-Do, Ta-DAH!

Thanks to a post over at Felicia the Geeky Blogger’s Book Blog, I found out about Bloggiesta before it happened. This is SO much better than lamenting about it after the fact.

What’s a “Bloggiesta”, you may ask?

A fiesta of Blogging, of course!

Specifically, it’s a fiesta weekend devoted to getting all the pesky stuff on one’s blogging “to-do” list done. Most of us, including yours truly, spend our blogging time writing the blog. Maintaining the “behind the scenes” parts tend to take second (sometimes third and fourth) place.

And we all get bitten by the old saying, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!”. But just because the blog isn’t exactly “broken” doesn’t mean the place couldn’t use a little sprucing up.

Bloggiesta  is being organized by It’s All About Books (lovely name for a book blogging site!) The general goals of Bloggiesta, as stated on the sign up post, are:

  • to spend time that weekend (as much or as little as your schedule allows) working on your blog
  • to create a to do list to share on your blog and link up with other participants
  • to hopefully participant in several mini challenges and learn something new
  • to connect with other participants through blog hopping or twitter
  • to make new blogging friends!
  • to come away at the end of the three days with a spiffed up blog!

But those of us participating also have to come up with some specific goals we plan to tackle during the Bloggiesta, which is this weekend, March 30, March 31 and April 1. (I hope that April Fool’s Day inclusion does not prove to be prophetic for anyone.)

The great thing about the Bloggiesta is that we will all be able to help each other, and cheer each other on. Blogging is a somewhat lonely occupation. (And yes, I’m stalling so I don’t have to state my goals. I’m getting there, I’m getting there!)

  • Finalize the plans for my Blogo-birthday celebration April 4-5!!!!!!
  • Fix up my blog’s Facebook page
  • Update my review policy page
  • Add an advertising policy page
  • Check out triberr
  • Create a page for collecting my challenge progress
  • Add Networked Blogs back to my sidebar
  • Check out Mister Linky for WordPress (should the Virtual Nightstand be a meme?)
  • Write an advertisement for an associate reviewer

Whew! That’s probably enough of a list. This is going to be fun. Or work disguised as fun. Or fun disguised as work.

Lots of good stuff will get done. Bring on the Bloggiesta!

3 Star Rating Event — Opinions Wanted

Dear Authors And Publishers,

Tell me what you think when you receive a 3 Star rating! (At Reading Reality, that’s an Escape Rating of C)

Reading Reality is participating in the 3 Star Rating Event hosted by Bitten by Paranormal Romance. Here’s the rundown on the event.

In March we are going to tackle the often controversial 3 Star Rating, what we call One Good Howl. Thursday, March 29, 2012, will be for book reviewers to discuss in detail and educate our followers, authors and publishers on what a 3 Star rating means to us since so many people seem to react differently to seeing this much maligned rating. It is also an opportunity for our followers to tell us in their comments how they feel about reading, or the possibility of reading, a book we have given a 3 Star rating.

– * Bitten By Paranormal Romance

On Friday, March 30, I’ll put together a post with selected quotes from selected authors, and publishers, containing their honest thoughts about what it means to them receive a 3 Star rating on their work.

Any authors or publishers who are interested in expressing your opinions on this matter for the March 30th post, please send me an email with the subject of “3 Star Rating Event Author Request” to marlene [at] readingreality [dot] net or here.

Book Bloggers Unite at BBPOC

This has to be the best idea ever! I’m just sorry I missed it last year.

There’s a Book Bloggers and Publishers Conference March 7-11. Where is it? Online, of course!

The schedule looks absolutely fabulous. Starting at noon on Wednesday, with my favorite people in the whole reviewing world, NetGalley.

But there’s more. There are sessions about the nasty legal issues. and what do publishers expect. How to work with authors. And one I’m very, very interested, all about working with private PR companies.

The schedule for the five-day conference is incredibly jam-packed. I’m not sure whether to be amused or consider it a symptom of the book blogging breed that the sessions for “Time Management” and “Online Organization Specialist” are both on the last day of the conference.

But seriously, folks who attended last year say they were glued to their computers the entire time the conference was going on. That’s pretty impressive for a multi-day online conference.

I’m also looking forward to the ebooks the conference is giving attendees. This is just like ALA. Free book galleys. But no sore back this time. Yeah!

All of us bloggers have been incentivized to blog about the upcoming conference. One lucky blogger who promotes the conference in their blog will receive an extra set of books. Do they know their audience, or do they know their audience?

But I have to wonder, who is going to blog about books while this conference is going on?

Hot Buttons Syndicated!

Yesterday I received an email from BlogHer that they wanted to syndicate my post Hot Buttons Popping, which is about discrimination against same-sex romances in writing contests.

I was so excited when I read the email, I think the neighbors heard me squeeing from a couple of blocks away. I’m still amazed. And so very glad I decided to participate in NaBloPoMo.

BlogHer syndicated the “Hot Buttons” post today, so please check it out here, if only to take a look at the marvelous photo they used for illustration. It’s perfect!


Syndicated on BlogHer.com