deborah: the Library of Congress cataloging numbers for children's literature, technology, and library science (Default)
For some time now, I have been unhappy about the thinning of the wall between authors and readers that has taken place in the blogosphere. I've never been able to pin down exactly why (except in little ways -- as a reviewer, I had to stop reading Scott Westerfeld's blog when he started posting gleefully about positive reviews he'd received from me). I've also found it frustrating when other people post mixed or negative reviews on their own blogs, which they immediately retract if the author shows up in the blog comments to ask why the review was negative. The sense the blogosphere gives us of all being friends makes it more difficult to fulfill the professional obligation of the reviewer: to advise people on where to spend their limited resources.

Now I have a non review-related example of how this thinning wall aggravates me. Will Shetterly's behavior online has made me feel uncomfortable about the fact that his Elsewhere is required reading in my class, because I don't want to give him the sales. This is clearly a ridiculous concern on my part. For one thing, I regularly support far more loathsome people with my purchases. Shetterly, on the other hand, was probably once a pretty well-meaning guy who has just reacted pretty badly to being told that his own history of hardship does not make him always right. But more important, much more important, the book is pedagogically important. It's a little-known precursor to the genre which would eventually spawn Wicked Lovely and Twilight. Giving Shetterly a few dollars in royalties (dollars he desperately needs; the man is filing for bankruptcy, not living large on ill-gotten gains, and unless I'm going to stop requiring Twilight I really just need to get over myself) is the necessary price to teach my students what I need them to know to understand the genre.

Still, it sticks in my craw. And it shouldn't, I should be able to keep the artist and the art separate in my head. It makes me sad that the blogosphere has made that more difficult for me.

ETA: A. helped me narrow down exactly what's making me uncomfortable here. It's not an artist being Wrong on the Internet; Orson Scott Card, for example, is Wrong on the Internet pretty much every time he opens his keyboard. It's this thinning of walls, this Internet-created feeling of fellowship which allows us to engage with each other in the same spaces. When Card is an ass, he's an ass in newspaper columns. When authors engage with their critics (not even critics of their books, but critics of their extratextual words) in the spaces populated by their fans and critics, I get uncomfortable. As A. pointed out, some of the people Shetterly is insulting, investigating, and posting rumors about could easily be my students or potential students. It's that which makes me uncomfortable, not his willful blindness to the legitimate concerns of people whose side he would like to think he is on.

Well, that, too.
deborah: the Library of Congress cataloging numbers for children's literature, technology, and library science (Default)
Following [livejournal.com profile] diceytillerman, I'm listing my best books of 2008. All of these are middle grade or young adult. I've marked them with an asterisk (*) if they are sequels or parts of series. And I've read almost nothing this year I didn't review, so there's so much here that's missed, I'm sure!

Fantasy and science fiction:
Little Brother by Cory Doctorow
House of Many Ways* by Diana Wynne Jones
Graceling by Kristin Cashore
Flora's Dare* by Ysabeay Wilce
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Realism:
Return to Sender by Julia Alvarez
This Full House* by Virginia Euwer Wolff
The Porcupine Year* by Louise Erdrich
Antsy Does Time* by Neal Shusterman

Books that weren't as good as I wanted them to be but were still very enjoyable:
Princess Ben by Catherine Gilbert Murdock: very enjoyable but the well-meaning attempts to deal with body image politics backfired badly.
Rex Zero, King of Nothing* by Tim Wynne-Jones: excellent, like everything he writes. But the Rex Zero books are too nostalgic for my tastes.
Impossible by Nancy Werlin: this book was beautiful, but one of the things I like about Nancy Werlin is how grim she is willing to be. This story tied up all the loose ends more neatly than I wanted it to.
Cycler by Lauren McLaughlin: I really wanted to love this book with its protagonist who unwillingly gender swaps monthly. I got hung up on some really icky race politics that are a tiny part of the book, so it's hard for me to judge the text fairly aside from that.

Books that were way better than I expected them to be
Mousetraps by Pat Schmatz: this looked like a really fun, silly book with a pat message about accepting your gay friends, until it got unexpectedly dark.
Zoe's Tale by John Scalzi: Scalzi decided to write a standalone young adult novel that takes place in the middle of an existing adult science fiction series. It sounded like a train wreck to me -- but the book was great, and worked very well as a standalone. He didn't give me any interest in reading the adult books in the same series, but it did make me want to read more about Zoe from her own point of view.

Graceling!

Sep. 2nd, 2008 03:53 pm
deborah: the Library of Congress cataloging numbers for children's literature, technology, and library science (Default)
I have weird ethical issues with discussing books in this blog I've reviewed elsewhere. Because I review anonymously (mostly), there's no way to connect my opinions in this blog with opinions that have been published in a review journal; I feel like this is cheating, and gives my opinion double weight. I don't want anyone to think to themselves, "well, I saw two different reviews which thought the plot of Breaking Dawn made perfect sense, and there was nothing Mary-Sueish about Bella in the book's second half at all, so since two different reviewers said it, it's more likely to be true!" (For the record: I did not review Breaking Dawn, and if I had, I wouldn't have said that. But I suppose in the spirit of full disclosure I should add that I did review the other three books in the series.)

Anyway, this all brings me to Kristin Cashore's fabulous debut, Graceling. I keep forgetting that these days there are plenty of reasons I see manuscripts and galleys which have nothing to do with my reviewing the books. I didn't review this book -- in fact, I couldn't have, because the author is a friend of mine. (I know that's not actually considered to be a real ethical dilemma in professional reviewing, but it's an ethical dilemma for me.) But if I had reviewed this book, and I hadn't known Kristin, I would have given it a big fat star*.

I don't think the book is perfect, by any means. There aren't many books I do think are perfect, and offhand I can't think of any. But oh, I got so wrapped up in this heroine, in her choices, in her dilemmas, in this world where there are people and magic powers which aren't just McGuffins. The book is full of BFFs, which is a major pull for me in fiction.

Get, read, love.



* [livejournal.com profile] diceytillerman, I don't think I even realized we still had places in our vocabulary where "fat" could be a positive descriptor!
deborah: the Library of Congress cataloging numbers for children's literature, technology, and library science (Default)
Sometimes I really hate reviewing books by teenagers, and it seems to be happening more and more often these days. Not because they're bad, but because it's hard, and I am crazy. )
deborah: the Library of Congress cataloging numbers for children's literature, technology, and library science (Default)
After having been fairly publicly snippy in Roger Sutton's blog, I feel a need to explain myself. For one thing, Roger Sutton is a big macha in children's literature and I... well, I'm not. To a certain extent, you could even call him my boss; at least, the book I just put down to write this post was sent to me courtesy of Horn Book Guide, who will pay me to read and review it. Moreover, Roger is a very intelligent man for whom I have a lot of respect, and it feels weird to have people sending me e-mail saying "thank you for what you said to Roger!" And finally, I don't want to come off, as Elissa said, as a Trekkie angry at SNL Shatner's "get a life". I think Roger raised a lot of points, some good and some less so, and I do want to address them.

Audiences for reviews )

Remembering the implied audience )

Because children's books are better: sentimental blathering or trufax? )

Am I missing something in the world? )
deborah: the Library of Congress cataloging numbers for children's literature, technology, and library science (Default)
If I always had this many books on my plate to review, I could support myself doing this. Not very well, I admit.

I've been thinking about what I've liked reviewing for different journals (and disliked). I think in many ways it reflects what I like and dislike about the reviews themselves, and their purposes.

I ramble on about reviewing )

I have more thoughts, but I'll come to them later. I think I'd like to ramble at some point about terrible nonfiction design. Here's the entire rant in two bullet points: 1. Designing your book to be laid out like an (ugly) web page will not make your book more hip, it will make it unreadable; readability on a 6 x 8 piece of paper is an entirely different beast that on a computer screen with working hyperlinks. 2. Providing web sites in your "further resources" section is a great idea, but you also need to provide references to other materials, and if your footnotes primarily reference non authoritative web sites, then you've identified yourself as a lazy hack.
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