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Podcast Episode Discussions > Episode 91 - Reviews

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message 1: by Michael (new)

Michael (mkindness) | 537 comments Mod
In episode 91 Ann and I discussed reviews; what they are, what they should do, how much should they give away, and, most importantly, why we don't do them at Books on the Nightstand.

Share your thoughts on reviews here!


message 2: by Linda (new)

Linda | 2764 comments Mod
Thank you, thank you, thank you. This before I've listened to the podcast. I needed clarification.


message 3: by Chris (new)

Chris | 180 comments Great podcast, as always, and I appreciated the discussion around reviews!

One thing you touched upon, but I wanted to add my two cents to is book flaps. I have stopped reading book flaps these days, because it seems lately that publishers give away the entire plot in some cases. I recently read a couple of books where a crucial plot change was given on the flap. I remember thinking, "why don't you just tell the entire story here?!" I felt it really gave too much away and as a reader, I like there to be something that leaves a bit of mystery. Sort of like Ann's analogy of the movie trailers. In this case, why read it if you know what's going to happen?

Another series that I read many times as a kid was the Moffats by Eleanor Estes and All of a Kind Family by Sidney Taylor. Apparently as a young girl, I loved stories of families who didn't have a lot of money, but had a lot of love. :-)

As for the "Tales of the City" Series, I've read the series twice (I almost never reread books) and have the series in my collection. Maupin's latest that continued the story, "Michael Tolliver Lives," was so horrible, I almost didn't finish it. I was interested to hear he has another one coming out, but probably won't read it. I think Maupin has lost his mojo with these characters, or maybe it's me.

Chris


message 4: by Tressa (new)

Tressa | 20 comments Hi Ann and Michael,
I just returned from a visit to a local bookstore. I love going into the many neighborhoods of our city to see what communities are reading and perhaps discovering new titles.

But what a disappointment today! When I asked the bookseller about her favorites, she just pointed out the 'best sellers' shelf. So for me the difference between a recommendation (like your wonderful podcast) and a 'review' lies in the heart or passion of the reader. When you share a title you tell us what captures your heart and imagination. For example, Ann telling us she was hungry for Ethiopian cuisine when reading a passage in Cutting for Stone. Or Michael sharing he wanted to visit Logan's burial site after reading Any Human Heart! Now, that's a recommendation!

I find reviews to be more academic and analytical.

Finally, Michael you were oh, so cruel to your listeners with the tease . . .
"Don't miss our next podcast, because we have two REALLY, REALLY good books to share." This is going to be a long seven days. Obviously, your podcast is a favorite!
Tressa

PS. Recently I was surprised to come across a 'book trailer'. It was a very short film clip promoting a new title and it was well acted and filmed. Who is the intended audience? Where are they posted?


message 5: by Adrienne (new)

Adrienne (adriennemarietheresa) | 12 comments Is it just me that sometimes gets bored with book bloggers and their reviews? Sorry guys. I'm really not pointing fingers at all or at anyone. Just noticed a trend as I surf and read. I'll find "academic" reviews or great synopses and tend to then look at my own version of reviewing - which is fairly akin to BOTNS's "recommending" - and feel it is inadequate. But at the same time, I don't go back to places that review without that personal touch.

I tend to share only those books that make me shine inside and really bring something to my life. There is too much else wonderful to do in life.


message 6: by [deleted user] (new)

There are blogs out there that give the sense that the reviewer is "drive-by reading." The reviews seem to be cut from a template, are ridden with cliches and; often, not only don't really tell me anything about the book but; don't give a clue as to whether or not I would like it! I've just started blogging about books and audiobooks myself and; I'm still trying to find my voice, but I find myself shying way from labeling my comments as "reviews." I prefer "comments" and I try to include a little diaristic element to it, like mentioning how I came to choose that title in the first place or something specific that caught my attention.

I love the BOTNS recommendations! There's enough of the tease and a lot of enthusiasm for the books Ann and Michael promote


message 7: by Esther (new)

Esther (eshchory) There are a lot of book bloggers out there and lot of it is rehashing. I don't mind. I understand the need to 'splurge' about the lastest book you read. It is free and I am pretty adept with the delete key.

There are a couple of book bloggers who always make me laugh, mainly because of their writing style, and I always make a point of reading their reviews from beginning to end and I do take their recommendations seriously.

However I normally only take recommendations from 3 sources: friends with taste I trust, podcasters who seem to have similar taste and enjoyable interviews/discussions with an author.


message 8: by Adrienne (new)

Adrienne (adriennemarietheresa) | 12 comments Maybe that's it. You enjoy reading what some people write, no matter what it's about. But as you say Esther, there are a LOT Of bloggers out there. Finding the ones I connect with means a lot, and the way I do that is usually the ones that amuse me or connect the personal with the academic, rather than simply posting the facts or yet another giveaway.


message 9: by Shona (new)

Shona (anovelobsession) | 178 comments Speaking of reviews, did you all hear the "debate" between Jennifer Weiner and Jodi Picoult and the NYT about the NYT Book Review ignoring women writers - or at least romance and "chick-lit" genres? The women authors contend that the overwhelming majority of reviews in the NYT are of books written by white males. Do you think they have a valid point?


message 10: by Elaine (new)

Elaine | 11 comments I love the recommendations from BOTNS and it seems the podcasts from NPR and NYT Book review are similar more about what the person liked. So what about not so good books Michael stops reading. I finish almost everything and sometimes I want to know if there are any others with similar views so far I've found the reviews/comments on Library Thing most helpful in finding people who have similar views whether good or bad.


message 11: by [deleted user] (new)

Tanya wrote: "There are blogs out there that give the sense that the reviewer is "drive-by reading." The reviews seem to be cut from a template, are ridden with cliches and; often, not only don't really tell me ..."

I am fairly new to book blogging and I hesitate to call what I write "reviews" because it is a subjective opinion (almost all of the books I write about are those I've purchased on my own). I use the term "book thoughts" -- if it helps someone decide to pick up the book (or not), then great, but I'm not blogging to influence anyone's opinions on what to read.


message 12: by Julie (new)

Julie Davis (juliedhc) Suzanne wrote: "Tanya wrote: "There are blogs out there that give the sense that the reviewer is "drive-by reading." The reviews seem to be cut from a template, are ridden with cliches and; often, not only don't r..."

But the reason I read bloggers is because I am interested in what THEY think. I can get a relatively generic review from lots of sources. Blogging is about personality so much of the time that when I become interested in or (so to speak) fond of a blogger, I want to know if they'd put a book in my hands OR (possibly even more important) throw themselves in front of a moving car to stop me from picking up a terrible book.

Now that I think of it, I have just described my own blogging style. I know that not everyone is like that, but if I can't be interested in someone's subjective view, then what is the point of a friend recommending a book? Which is how I view bloggers' recommendations.


message 13: by Carol (new)

Carol (ckubala) | 555 comments Mod
I think of a reviewer as someone wanting to sell the book and people like Ann & Michael and various bloggers as those recommending a title (also a form of selling). In the end both are trying to put a book into the readers' hands. Like Suzanne I like a blend of both and usually find some new things to buy and read from both sources.


message 14: by Meredith (new)

Meredith | 11 comments Thank you Ann and Michael! I am a brand new BOTNS listener/reader and loved your most recent podcast. In terms of series, here's another one to throw into the mix: (Does two books a series make??) The Sparrow and Children of God by Mary Doria Russell. These books are shelved with science fiction, which I don't typically read, but I found these books completely absorbing and the characters (both alien and human) exceedingly well-developed. In terms of what makes a book unforgettable and beloved to me, it almost always has at least one character I think about months, and often even years, after I've finished the story. How would Ghosh have responded to the particular parenting dilemma I faced last Tuesday evening? Would Tom Builder or Emilio Sandoz ever have allowed that to happen?

Thanks for the tip about Baking Cakes in Kigali! On my way out to buy it.....


message 15: by Carol (new)

Carol (ckubala) | 555 comments Mod
I'll second The Sparrow and Children of God. They are superior and have been on many best lists!


message 16: by Carol (new)

Carol (ckubala) | 555 comments Mod
Reading my email this morning another thought came to light as reviewer Maureen Corrigan talks about Nevada Barr's Ann Pigeon series.
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/...

The question that stood out for me was Corrigan's "When is enough enough in a mystery series?"

Barr is one of my adopted authors at our library so you can tell I enjoy her books. That being said here's how I feel.
Barr's 13 1/2 certainly chartered new territory for this author. I liked the grittiness of the standalone which makes me wonder if Burn should have been one too, of course minus the Pigeon character. What is described in Corrigan's commentary is not what I'm expecting for Anna or this series. What attracted me in the beginning was the National
Park locations and the less brutual crime descriptions.

I just finished Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins and hope the trilogy does not become a quartet. Sometimes it's just time to quit.

I'm interested to hear what others think.


message 17: by Vanessa (new)

Vanessa | 330 comments I was walking the dog this morning and finally got around to listening to last week's BOTNS podcast. Just as I was bent over grumbling and picking up the dog because he decided he didn't want to walk anymore, I heard Ann read one of my comments on air and was like "Do you hear that you 18 pound bundle of lead? Mommy is famous!"

I'm glad you gave the correct URL for FantasticFiction, Ann. I should have specified that.


message 18: by [deleted user] (new)

Julie wrote: "Suzanne wrote: "Tanya wrote: "There are blogs out there that give the sense that the reviewer is "drive-by reading." The reviews seem to be cut from a template, are ridden with cliches and; often, ..."

Great points, Julie. I guess I'm just not assertive enough in my opinions to tell anyone that they MUST or MUST NOT read a book.


message 19: by Julie (new)

Julie Davis (juliedhc) Suzanne wrote: "Great points, Julie. I guess I'm just not assertive enough in my opinions to tell anyone that they MUST or MUST NOT read a book. "
Suzanne ... I would say that means you are polite and not pushy. Qualities that I am sure my friends wish I would cultivate, especially after the number of books I have practically shoved into their hands! :-)


message 20: by [deleted user] (new)

I sometimes resort to "reviewing the reviewer" by comparing books that we've both read. If the reviewer and I happen to agree on certain titles, then I learn to trust their review more. Sometimes I work off of a reverse recommendation (e.g. if they hate a book, I'm sure to love it...) I prefer reviews that have some literary criticism (good or bad) in it rather than a pure rant or rave.


message 21: by Ann (new)

Ann (akingman) | 2097 comments Mod
It's official, Meredith and Carol are my new best friends. (If any of you others love The Sparrow, you can be my best friend, too). Though honestly, I don't think of it as a series -- I'm fairly conveinced (based on no inside knowledge whatsoever) that The Sparrow and Children of God were written as one book and split. They appear seamless to me.

Carol, my thoughts on Mockingjay are in this thread:
http://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/3...
I don't want to put spoilers in a general thread, so if you've finished, please join the conversation over there.

Vanessa: was your dog suitably impressed? ;)


message 22: by Vanessa (new)

Vanessa | 330 comments Ann wrote: Vanessa: was your dog suitably impressed? ;)

He would only be impressed if you bring him chicken. He doesn't know payola is illegal.


message 23: by Carol (new)

Carol (ckubala) | 555 comments Mod
I first heard about The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell many years ago and always steered clear. I was being a bit genre phobic, thinking it was a book for sci-fi fans. This mindset "I don't like science fiction or fill in the blank" can keep a reader from a great read. I never say never anymore. Thank heavens the folks at BookWomen convinced me to give this a go. The Sparrow is on my all-time great reads list. Our book discussion group was a bit reluctant to try it but loved it so much that we read the second, Children of God the next year.

I recently posted a blog piece about The Minnesota Women's Press and BookWomen. That post is located here on August 30th

http://www.engagedpatrons.org/Blogs.c...


message 24: by Melanie (new)

Melanie Jackson (melaniejaxn) | 12 comments Something I appreciate in a review-- especially about a book by a new author-- is to have the reviewer liken it to something I might know. 'This book takes one back to Agatha Christie's locked room mysteries' or 'the writing is as lyrical as anything by Poe'. Just something that might help me place where the book belongs because publisher categories are enormous. These days Twilight is being listed as horror on amazon and B&N!?!


message 25: by Esther (new)

Esther (eshchory) Shona wrote: "Speaking of reviews, did you all hear the "debate" between Jennifer Weiner and Jodi Picoult and the NYT about the NYT Book Review ignoring women writers - or at least romance and "chick-lit" genres..."

I had to take a break from the NYT Book Review podcast because of their superior attitude towards popular fiction.
Their reviews of literary fiction are excellent but you can hear their raised eyebrows whenever they mention chicklit or paranormal fiction in the best sellers list.


message 26: by Esther (new)

Esther (eshchory) Tanya wrote: "....Sometimes I work off of a reverse recommendation (e.g. if they hate a book, I'm sure to love it...) ."
Frequently I hand my mother a book with the remark, "I hated it, so I'm sure you'll love it." She is the one person whose taste in books I can judge pretty accurately even though it is so different from mine.

Vanessa wrote: "I was walking the dog this morning and finally got around to listening to last week's BOTNS podcast......I heard Ann read one of my comments on air and was like "Do you hear that you 18 pound bundle of lead? Mommy is famous!."

I was quite chuffed when Michael mentioned my comment but was totally stunned when he referred to me as a women - 41 years old and I am still not used to being an adult :0)


message 27: by Vanessa (new)

Vanessa | 330 comments Esther wrote:I was quite chuffed when Michael mentioned my comment but was totally stunned when he referred to me as a women - 41 years old and I am still not used to being an adult :0)

I am also in the 41 year old girl club. I was quite thrilled the other day when I was walking out of the grocery and a woman was standing there with her little boy waiting until they could cross the parking lot. I walked at the same time as them and when I passed them he said "That girl beat us." That girl, not "That old lady." I was thrilled. It's the little victories.


message 28: by Callie (new)

Callie (calliekl) | 646 comments Shona wrote: "Speaking of reviews, did you all hear the "debate" between Jennifer Weiner and Jodi Picoult and the NYT about the NYT Book Review ignoring women writers - or at least romance and "chick-lit" genres..."

Shona- I read an interesting take on this whole thing on jezebel.com (http://jezebel.com/5622582/why-books-...) ... after reading this, I've started taking a different view when I look at book award winners and "best of" lists... for example, I was on an ebook site looking for something new to download, and wandered to the National Book Awards list... and the first thing that jumped out at me was how few women were on the list. It makes me sad, and I have no idea if it can be "fixed", or what the solution is. But it makes me look at reviews even more carefully.

BTW, I think this also applies to movies- for the most part, movies done by female directors are taken far less seriously than male directors, which is why it was such a big deal when Kathryn Bigelow won the Oscar for best director (the first woman to do so).


message 29: by Michael (new)

Michael (mkindness) | 537 comments Mod
Esther wrote:I was quite chuffed when Michael mentioned my comment but was totally stunned when he referred to me as a women - 41 years old and I am still not used to being an adult :0)

I'm the exact same way Esther!! Ann once referred to me as "the man who does the podcast with her," and I thought "I am so NOT a MAN!"

but what would I call myself? A "guy?"


message 30: by Ann (new)

Ann (akingman) | 2097 comments Mod
I said that? Really? I don't usually use the term "man." Unless he's really really old ;)

It's funny, because when I was in college I had a group of friends who were insulted whenever anyone called them "girls." It was 'women' and nobody was allowed to forget it. I wonder if they would still be upset now if someone called them "girls."


message 31: by Joel (last edited Sep 07, 2010 01:58PM) (new)

Joel (joelevard) It's funny you guys bring this up. I just turned 29 but my mind still boggles at the concept of being referred to as a "man," yet I know I've been old enough to be classified as such for at minimum 9 years.

The other day I was reading at the pool and someone told his young son, "Don't splash the nice man, he's trying to read," and I thought, weird, because "nice man" is for old people! But to a 5-year-old, I suppose I'm just like any other adult.

Then there's the phenomenon that anyone on an old TV show who was older than you when you first watched it always seems older than you when you watch a re-run. This is true even of the cast of 90210, who were playing teens but in their mid-20s when the show started. I'm now older than all/most of them, but they still seem much older.


message 32: by [deleted user] (new)

I think that I have often used review and recommendation as mostly interchangeable with the caveat that recommendations are solely positive. I've started taking a different view though taken from a recent post by movie critic Roger Ebert (see here: http://blogs.suntimes.com/ebert/2010/... ) The post was written about whether any movie would have all positive reviews and ask why dissenting reviews often engendered so much vitriol from those who disagreed with them(in this case in the context of Inception). Ebert observed that the point of a good review is not just to help a person decided if they might want to invest their time or money in something (I'm applying this universally to movies, books, music whatever) but also to help people to see the works in a new and different light. He pointed out that he liked to read reviews that he disagreed with if it showed him a different perspective of the work than the one that he had taken from it.

I got a bit of an experience along these lines just yesterday when I stumbled across and old review of Anthony Burgess's Earthly Powers in an old issue of Third Way magazine (a Christian magazine published in the UK that has a lot of old issues available on Google books). I had read Earthly Powers a few months ago and had found it enjoyable but was as usually is the case in such books found it to be challenging as a lot of non plot driven works are. The review in the magazine was enlightening for me and is making me want to go back and reread the book with its thoughts in mind. It was the type of review that covers the whole novel so perhaps this type of review is best read between reading if a person does not wish to read potential spoilers, since the review helped more I think since I could follow along by remembering the events described and see each of them in a new light.


message 33: by Melissa (new)

Melissa | 279 comments Ann wrote: "It's official, Meredith and Carol are my new best friends. (If any of you others love The Sparrow, you can be my best friend, too). Though honestly, I don't think of it as a series -- I'm fairly co..."

I loved The Sparrow. I agree with you, Ann that the two books seem like one book that was split in half. When I first read The Sparrow several years ago, I checked it out of the library. After Ann mentioned it on the podcast, I went out and purchased a copy for my teenage daughter. She hasn't read it yet (apparently filling out college applications is more important). I hope she loves it as much as I do.


message 34: by Eric (new)

Eric | 1175 comments Mod
I say "cat" instead of man.


message 35: by Ann (new)

Ann (akingman) | 2097 comments Mod
Eric wrote: "I say "cat" instead of man."

That's 'cause you're so hep.


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