Readers of this blog know that one of my goals is to link more reviews together than is usually done. I think it’s unfortunate, in a way, that the online romance community has flourished as series of separate fiefdoms (blogs) rather than a big town hall (fora). Thanks to Google reader and conscientious blog hopping, we do all manage to get around, but when it comes to posting reviews, they are often islands unto themselves.
The result is that, even on the big blogs where everybody can be found on one thread, conversations about books tend to be conducted the way some professors run their classes: one main speaker holding court and several students talking one at a time to her, but not to each other.
The charms of this model are not lost on me, either as a professor or a blogger, and if I didn’t get a big ego kick out of having a bully pulpit, I wouldn’t be a blogger — or a professor, for that matter. But I have tried to mitigate the situation somewhat by including links to all the reviews I can find. To an extent, this tactic has worked: often those other reviewers — many of whom don’t know who the hell I am or a darn thing about my little blog — come over here and talk about their own reviews. I always learn something when they do, and it’s been great fun.
So far, I have tried to include any review I find on a book, only omitting those that serve as summary promos for the book with no analysis whatsoever. But as I work on my review of the second Sookie Stackhouse book –and of course I get 92,000 hits when I Google “Living Dead in Dallas review”, so there’s no way I could ever include all of them anyway — I have noticed some really sloppy reviewing.
For example, one review at a website called SouthernVampires.com, calls Sookie Stackhouse an “average Southern belle”. Ok, there’s nothing average about Sookie, at all. She’s practically a social outcast due to her telepathic abilities. And “Southern belle” refers to an upper class woman. A self-described “barmaid” who shops Walmart and has never so much as paid for her own haircut is not a Southern belle, and to call her that is seriously misleading.
This is not to say I won’t post reviews I disagree with, not at all! For example, Susan Scribner, in her The Romance Reader review, calls Sookie’s boyfriend, Bill Compton, “caring, protective, and sexy”. I disagree with her on all 3 counts, but she wrote a terrific review, and I think this is an issue careful readers can disagree about.
Another example is the many reviews which indicate that taking Bill and Sookie out of Bon Temps takes the steam out of the book. I didn’t feel this way at all, but again, it’s something readers can disagree about.
I’ll get the difference between these cases wrong sometimes, of course, although I will try to err on the side of over-inclusiveness, but I think it’s important to be transparent and upfront about what I’m doing and why. FWIW, being selective in this way is more consistent with my take on reviews being more than one person’s opinion.
(Sorry if I sound grouchy — I’m on tenderhooks today, as are many of us in the US. It’s hard to type with fingers and toes all crossed!)