RT Booklovers Convention in Las Vegas last week. Darynda Jones and I were on a panel and I think we were laughing here about people dissing fantasy heroines as unrealistic while loving Conan.
Hard to say, but it makes me smile every time.
Speaking of problematic labels... It's come to our attention here at the Bordello that our moniker, while entertaining in a snarky way, has become a problem. Apparently most firewalls object to the use of "whores" in the URL and, well, everywhere else on this blog. So, while we shall remain forever Word Whores in our hearts (and elsewhere), we've decided to rebrand.
And we're looking for suggestions for a new blog name! Put your ideas in the comments and we'll select our favorites, then run a poll in the sidebar. The winner will receive their book of choice from each of the seven of us! Caveat: our selection will strongly depend on domain/blog name availability, so you might check on that if your eyes are on the prize.
This week's topic is: Reviews.
Just that, and only that. Not like it's an enormous topic or anything, people.
The first thing that springs to mind is my very first encounter with a book review. Not a book report, which I feel like I began writing with a #2 pencil when my first grade teacher asked me to put into words all my feels about a book. No, this came a bit later, sometime after I was forced in 6th grade to read The Deerslayer by James Fenimore Cooper. (A book I loathed with the fire of a thousand suns - also a first for me.) I felt alone in my hate. The teacher who forced me to read it certainly didn't understand - and did not appreciate my mouthy opinions on the topic. Everyone else who'd already learned to loathe reading didn't understand either. My parents, friends, everyone I ranted to, responded along the lines of, "So? Everyone has to read books for school that they hate." But I never had read a book I didn't like before.
A horrible thing to discover.
At any rate, some time later - maybe a year or two - I came across an essay by Mark Twain called, "Fenimore Cooper's Literary Offenses." (Apologies in advance for some of the racist language in it - you know how Twain was.) Reading that terribly snarky essay LIT UP MY WORLD, people! Twain detailed everything I hated about The Deerslayer and taught me more. Through his eyes I finally understood why I'd loathed the book.
This is what a good review does.
These days it's anathema for one author to so viciously criticize another. It's not even acceptable, in many circles, for a reviewer to completely eviscerate an author's work this way - though it can and does happen. A huge difference here is that Twain does so with wit and incisive intelligence, which not all modern reviewers can lay claim to, particularly of the internet troll variety.
Still, a well-thought out essay on why a book did not work for a reader can be a wonderful helping hand. From Twain I first began to understand how a book could go wrong for me. He walked me through how to parse prose from plot, character from ... well, whatever Fenimore Cooper used to transmit dialogue.
Do I like it when I get a scathing review of one of my books? Of course not. But a well thought-out discussion of why a book didn't work for a reader reveals important qualities of the story to other readers. And it makes us think, which is always a good thing.