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Haiku Review: Song of the Nile by Stephanie Dray

(Lots of spoilers ahead – beware!)

 

Song of the Nile	Stephanie DrayWhat happened here, Dray?
Your first book was so very good.
This one screwed the pooch.

 

In first book, Selene
takes control of her own fate
ends on happy note

 

this book takes that book
and pretty much destroys it
I hated each page

 

On her wedding night
to Juba, Selene is raped
by Octavian

 

She tells her new spouse

He says, I know, I let him

do it. Sorry ’bout that.

 

Me: What the fucking
fuck just happened in this book?
Seriously now.

 

If that were not bad
enough, Selene runs from this
to her brother’s arms

 

They have sex. A lot.
This plot goes from bad to worse.
Hero is her BRO???

 

Plot continues down
Octavian offers her
Egypt if they fuck.

 

Selene must decide
Egypt or her new kingdom?
Whore to her rapist?

 

This plot is just gross
Entire book is about
“Will she or won’t she?”

 

Selene wants Egypt
So very bad. She teases and leads
on Octavian

 

Would rather read a
book about a strong queen or
historical stuff

 

Not brother love. Not
flirting with her rapist. Not
any of this. At all.

 

I am so, so sad
I love your writing and voice
WHY did you write this?

 

I loved your first book
Cannot recommend this one
Wish I could. Sorry.

 

Goodreads | Amazon | BN | nook | Sony | Kobo

180 Comments

  1. Jayne
    Sep 29, 2011 @ 06:13:07

    So I must ask why
    the D grade and not an F?
    Bro sis lurve is ick.

    ReplyReply

  2. Tara Lynx
    Sep 29, 2011 @ 06:59:02

    I saw this pop up on my RSS reader and thought, “What? They’ve published a whole review about one little haiku? That’s a bit silly.”

    And then I clicked and now I’m ROFL. *G* Brilliant! Though the book sounds truly awful.

    I’m surprised the publisher let her get away with the incest. For most, that’s a big no-no.

    ReplyReply

  3. Ann
    Sep 29, 2011 @ 07:39:40

    Wait, this is a real book? With a publisher? This author goes to the top of my “NEVER read” list. Horrible.

    ReplyReply

  4. Christine M.
    Sep 29, 2011 @ 07:47:01

    I just had a look at the blurb on Amazon and it doesn’t mention any of this. Eurgh.

    ReplyReply

  5. HellyBelly
    Sep 29, 2011 @ 08:06:32

    “Me: What the fucking
    fuck just happened in this book?
    Seriously now.”

    Brilliant review. Is there any point in reading the first book? When the second one is so very unappetizing?

    Incest and rape are
    horrible each on their own:
    This book has a combo

    ReplyReply

  6. Jaiku
    Sep 29, 2011 @ 08:31:07

    D grade because I
    still love the author’s writing
    …just not her story.

    ReplyReply

  7. Lisa Hendrix
    Sep 29, 2011 @ 08:47:52

    The book is historical fiction, not romance, and concerns the life of a real person who was a product of her time and situation.

    Selene and her brothers were Egyptian pharaonic class, children of Cleopatra. Traditionally, the Egyptian king married his sister, something modern researchers believe might have been a way to emulate the gods — an idea so powerful that Alexander’s descendants accepted and followed the same practice after they came into power(Selene’s mother, Cleopatra, married her own brother, Ptolemy XIII, and when he died, married a younger brother, Ptolemy XIV).

    Turning to her brother would have been natural for Selene; she had been raised to see him as her future mate, and in fact he would have been, if her life had unfolded differently.

    ReplyReply

  8. Stephanie Dray
    Sep 29, 2011 @ 08:55:24

    Thank you for review
    You hated it; now I’m sad too.
    Want to learn haiku.

    This is no romance,
    Brother is psychotic break,
    No HEA here!

    Selene falls apart,
    In second of trilogy.
    Next might please you more.

    Kore myth now explored,
    History will be told; and
    I still love haiku review!

    ReplyReply

  9. Jaiku
    Sep 29, 2011 @ 08:59:30

    Dray, you are classy!
    Sorry I did not love this
    It’s just not my thing.

    I am still on board
    For Book Three!A little bit
    wary but on board.

    ReplyReply

  10. Jane
    Sep 29, 2011 @ 09:03:05

    @Stephanie Dray Your response is awesome.

    ReplyReply

  11. Christine M.
    Sep 29, 2011 @ 09:09:23

    @Jane: What Jane said.

    ReplyReply

  12. Naomi
    Sep 29, 2011 @ 09:19:01

    I wanted to read these books anyway, but Dray’s response just bumped them up my to-buy list!

    ReplyReply

  13. Eliza Knight
    Sep 29, 2011 @ 09:30:46

    @StephanieDray — your response is one reason I admire you so much!!!

    @LisaHendrix — thank you! I was going to write that :)

    ReplyReply

  14. Lori
    Sep 29, 2011 @ 09:31:03

    Threw up in my mouth
    Rape and incest make me ill
    I will skip this book

    Kudos to author
    Her response was so classy
    But I still won’t buy

    ReplyReply

  15. Janet Mullany
    Sep 29, 2011 @ 09:34:46

    Steph is indeed a class act, 100%. And it’s not a romance, and I’d think that everyone knows about brother-sister marriages in Egypt (the other thing everyone knows is that during mummification they removed the brains thru the nose, and if you really didn’t know either of those, then it’s your turn to be grossed out).

    ReplyReply

  16. Ann
    Sep 29, 2011 @ 09:38:36

    Lisa, thanks for clarifying. I thought this was a romance being reviewed (note to self: DA is not only romance) and was horrified. As a historical, ok, I understand the context.

    ReplyReply

  17. Jeannie Lin
    Sep 29, 2011 @ 10:31:09

    Darn it! I try to avoid reviews of books I want to read, but the haiku lured me in. It’s probably no secret I’m a fan of Stephanie Dray/Draven’s books since I’m giving away a copy of Lily and Song of the Nile on my blog. I think she has a deep appreciation for ancient history and the feminine role within it. So I’m bummed I read the spoilers (though I was duly warned) but I’m still definitely going to read this book. I see it as historical fantasy along the lines of MZB which often had very disturbing scenes of rape and incest, but they weren’t books ABOUT rape and incest and they didn’t glorify it. As Lisa had pointed out, it’s pretty well known that Egyptian royalty married their siblings to keep the bloodlines pure. Even if it wasn’t known, the first book set up her brother as her rightful husband until their world was torn apart, so going to her brother would be natural as it was their way of life which Octavian had taken from them. I’ll have to read to see if this is handled in a believable way. Lily of the Nile also set up Octavian’s unhealthy obsession with Selene’s mother, Cleopatra, as well as with Selene. You also see Juba’s duplicity. (Gads, and if you saw the HBO series of Rome, you must be wondering whether that whole era was full of debauchery…but I digress) Sounds like this story took some risks and I like that and I trust Stephanie as a writer. I see myself buying and devouring it, then spending hours researching into the history behind it like I did with the first book.

    ReplyReply

  18. Christi Barth
    Sep 29, 2011 @ 10:31:35

    Amazing how the reviewer can be so clever and yet so uninformed at the same time. Historical fiction is just that – HISTORY! In other words, not to be changed or judged to fit 21st century mores. Sure, the actual events might not be to our ethical taste today, but it is still a well written, gripping story. People didn’t stop reading Gone With the Wind because it condoned slavery. King Tut married his half-sister at the age of 10, but people still flocked to his museum exhibit without judging or expressing such hatred. Song of the Nile is a great piece of historical fiction. Read it with that context in mind, and you won’t be able to put it down.

    ReplyReply

  19. Annette
    Sep 29, 2011 @ 10:41:06

    It is so very tricky sometimes to convey the mores of a faraway time and culture and not alienate readers. I’ve experienced this dilemma while writing my historical women’s fiction set in ancient Sparta. Does the problem here lie with the author or the reader? If one goes in understanding the cultural context, then sensibilities might more easily come out unscathed. If one goes in with the idea that this is a romance, then ack. But execution is of course key here. I suppose the only way for me to see what went wrong here is to read the book myself. And I certainly don’t mind supporting an author of historical fiction based in the ancient world. Especially of a story with a female protag. There aren’t many out there, and I hope to add to the number soon. This is going on my TBR pile.

    ReplyReply

  20. Lori
    Sep 29, 2011 @ 10:41:25

    The husband allowing his wife to be raped on their wedding night is enough for me to avoid this book like the plague. (And yes, I do understand it’s historical fiction and not romance.) The rape and incest combo is enough to make me steer clear of not only the book, but the author as well. (even though her response was very classy)

    ReplyReply

  21. Stephanie M. Lor
    Sep 29, 2011 @ 10:43:35

    I avoid incest books. I also avoid rape books. This review sealed the deal that I wasn’t going to read this one.

    Then I saw Ms. Dray’s comment. I just bought both books. You are a class act, Ms. Dray. Creative, funny, unapologetic yet recognizing of the review. If your writing is half as brilliant as your comment, you’ve got yourself a life-long fan.

    ReplyReply

  22. Tara Lynx
    Sep 29, 2011 @ 10:44:40

    Oh, now I get it. ‘I, too, assumed it was a romance. If it’s a historical, it does indeed make sense. :)

    ReplyReply

  23. Diane Wylie
    Sep 29, 2011 @ 10:48:20

    Unfortunately, this is not the first time an author has been criticized for using an unpopular, but accurate historical fact, and it won’t be the last.

    All authors would appreciate it if reviewers would check their own facts before posting something like this. Stephanie is a class act and she does extensive research for her books. I hope that readers will give her work a chance and keep in mind that this book is historical fiction, not a romance.

    ReplyReply

  24. Jeannie Lin
    Sep 29, 2011 @ 11:03:12

    My previous nerdy wordy comment seems to have been eaten, but I do want to say I don’t feel the reviewer was in the wrong or needed to check facts. I’m a strong believer that the book is the book and it needs to stand alone. Incest and rape, though historically accurate, don’t work for some readers and it didn’t work for her in this story.

    ReplyReply

  25. Kathy Love
    Sep 29, 2011 @ 11:10:44

    Stephanie is absolutely a class act, and her writing is brilliant.

    I agree that sometimes the social mores of the past don’t translate easily, or comfortably, to current times, but that doesn’t mean they should be watered down to be made more palatable. That’s exactly how the truth is lost.

    Stephanie does her research, and knows her sh*t. I applaud her for being daring enough to not sterilize her facts and her story.

    Awesome work, Stephanie!

    ReplyReply

  26. Moriah Jovan
    Sep 29, 2011 @ 11:20:19

    I read the book and loved it. Everything totally makes sense in context.

    Steph, you rock. I wish you many ka-chings.

    ReplyReply

  27. Christine M.
    Sep 29, 2011 @ 11:20:36

    @Janet Mullany: I actually didn’t know about the brother-sister marriages. I knew it happened in Egyptian mythology but not in ‘real life’.

    ReplyReply

  28. Joanne Renaud
    Sep 29, 2011 @ 11:22:44

    The review is definitely clever, but I’m a bit surprised the reviewer was so taken aback by the rape and incest plot elements. Stephanie actually warned me about the upcoming Ptolemaic incest in SONG– I even saw it mentioned in a bunch of reviews– and when I read and reviewed LILY OF THE NILE myself the other day I could see her setting the stage for both the messed-up affair Selene has with her brother and Octavian’s creepy obsession with her. In LILY Octavian actually reminded me of a Sith Lord who was training Selene to be his apprentice; I’m not surprised he went all full out Sith on her in book 2.

    To continue the Star Wars analogy, if LILY is STAR WARS, relatively fun and light in tone, then SONG sounds like it’s EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, filled with sturm und drang and oodles of tragedy. I can’t wait to read it!

    ReplyReply

  29. Jaiku
    Sep 29, 2011 @ 11:25:38

    Did I say the book
    was inaccurate? Or wrong?
    This was a review.

    A review is an
    Opinion. Mine. Nothing more.
    Disagree? That’s fine.

    ReplyReply

  30. Loni Lynne
    Sep 29, 2011 @ 11:27:02

    History is not always HEA. Readers must accept this is not a romance. Stephanie tells a great story with history intact. Her research into her subjects is thorough. I applaud Stephanie for taking a chance and staying true to her research and history.

    ReplyReply

  31. Laurie London
    Sep 29, 2011 @ 11:28:43

    Given this discussion, I can’t wait to read the book. But I’ll take off my romance glasses first. Just like I did when I read The Game of Thrones, which also has a major storyline involving brother/sister love.

    Classy response, Stephanie!

    ReplyReply

  32. Jane
    Sep 29, 2011 @ 11:33:10

    @Diane Wylie Come on now. That’s not a fair accusation. The reader didn’t like the work. She didn’t say it wasn’t historically inaccurate. That wasn’t even part of the criticism.

    The authorial chorus here is really bringing down the high of Ms. Draven’s response.

    In essence, I’m seeing a lot of “If you don’t like incest you don’t like historically accurate work” which is surely not the implication that is being made, right? Surely a reader can dislike the themes and tropes in this story without disliking history.

    I actually know that Jaiku is well versed in this time period and if you would review her previous haiku review, it was quite positive. No one was criticizing her at the time for not mentioning the historical basis of the book or appreciating the story. Goes both ways folks.

    ReplyReply

  33. Darlynne
    Sep 29, 2011 @ 11:34:26

    Something ate my original post, but I wanted to say, first, welcome back, Jaiku. It’s great to see your haiku reviews again, always a source of much enjoyment.

    As I read the review, I immediately thought of the royal Hawaiian practice of sibling incest, so I wasn’t put off, but context is everything. And accurate or not, incest is not an easy topic.

    Ms. Dray has shown herself to be a class act. Perhaps her defenders could take a page from her book.

    ReplyReply

  34. Joanne Renaud
    Sep 29, 2011 @ 11:40:34

    @Jane, is my comment showing up? I posted it ten minutes ago, but it’s not showing up, and it’s not allowing me to repost.

    ReplyReply

  35. Jane
    Sep 29, 2011 @ 11:41:12

    @Joanne Renaud Sorry. I think the word in(est and the topic is driving all these comments into spam. SORRY!

    ReplyReply

  36. Jaiku
    Sep 29, 2011 @ 11:44:38

    To clarify grade
    Incest plot? Not my fave but
    Brings grade down to B

    Hated the story
    between Octavian and
    Selene even more

    Power dynamic
    gross and uncomfortable
    Not a fan. Sorry.

    Selene’s reaction
    to this plot and her weak spine
    made this a firm D.

    ReplyReply

  37. Joanne Renaud
    Sep 29, 2011 @ 11:45:54

    Thanks for taking care of that, Jane! My comment is here, guys, if you missed it.

    ReplyReply

  38. Lori
    Sep 29, 2011 @ 11:50:24

    @Jane: Exactly. The reviewer said nothing about historical accuracy, just her reaction to the content. It’s perfectly within her right to express her negative reaction in a review, as many folks have hot buttons concerning the topic and appreciate the warning. The authorial pearl clutching is actually dimming the awesomeness of Ms. Dray’s classy response.

    ReplyReply

  39. Anna
    Sep 29, 2011 @ 11:51:00

    Author taking risk.
    I can’t wait to read this — Dray,
    She’s just so damned smart.

    ReplyReply

  40. Kate Pearce
    Sep 29, 2011 @ 11:53:17

    Stephanie is a wonderful writer and I’m looking forward to reading this book. That time period is fascinating!

    ReplyReply

  41. Annette
    Sep 29, 2011 @ 12:16:22

    Regarding authors clutching strings of pearls, this review is a bit tricky. It’s so brief that readers are left to assume it’s the content that is a turn off, rather than the writing, hence the responses about historical accuracy. If it is in the execution, then perhaps the review could be more specific. If it’s the content, then this review, entertaining though it was, isn’t much more helpful than a simple sentence stating the book contains ra** and ince**. But yes, a review is one person’s experience/opinion. Bridging the gap between ancient and modern sensibilities while retaining authenticity of the culture is a big challenge.

    ReplyReply

  42. Alex
    Sep 29, 2011 @ 13:12:32

    I don’t get it. You can’t really say that you’re not a fan of an “incest plot” so you’re changing the grade of the story.

    That’s like reading a novel about the assassination of Lincoln and going “sorry, not a fan of murder and bloodshed, giving the novel a D. Change the plot to something fluffier, author, historical accuracy isn’t as great as my sensibilities!”

    It’s really important for a review site to avoid shoving their moral codes into books that are supposed to be historically accurate. While I understand the inclination to do so with a work of PURE fiction, it’s not as tolerable (to me) in works that are, at least mostly, non-fiction.

    What I would have preferred in a review like this, was the reader explaining her feelings about the subject matter and then reviewing the actual writing.

    The subject matter may have squicked you, but did you find the writing superb? Did the author immerse you in the character? Or was the subject matter too distasteful to actually enjoy the book despite such and such? Etc.

    Lastly, it gets really confusing on this site with people who lambaste authors who take liberties with historical facts and mores. There’s more than one historical romance on this site where the reviews and comments are essentially: “They didn’t talk like that during that time period”, “that invention wasn’t available back then”, “people didn’t use words like homosexual and gay in that time.” And then I turn around and here is a review about a more or less historically accurate book.

    Which do you want? What’s an author to take away from this when they criticized for historical inaccuracy and then blasted for accuracy?

    While a great deal of the comments on this page have defended an incredibly well-researched story, I’m disappointed that the reviewer and some of the others continue to review the plot rather than the writing.

    Let me reiterate, you cannot bash a book’s plot when it’s in a factual context. You can bash the mores of the time, the author’s writing (prose, grammar, structure, how boring it is etc), you can even bash the character themselves, but not the plot. >8(

    -Disappointed First Time Commentator *sigh*

    ReplyReply

  43. Kim in Hawaii
    Sep 29, 2011 @ 13:19:19

    (second attempt to post comment)

    Back in July, I enjoyed the Cleopatra exhibit at the Cincinnati Museum of Art (it runs through September 5). It showcases the efforts to excavate Ancient Egyptian artifacts related to Cleopatra in the Alexandria harbor. The exhibition addresses the Egyptian royalty’s incest plus the horrific future Cleopatra expected if she was taken prisoner to Rome, including rape, thus she committed suicide.

    It is amazing that Jaiku can write a review (and responses) in Haiku. It is equally commendable that Stephanie took on a controversial subject and responded professionally. Great conversation for Banned Book Week!

    Speaking of National Geographic, here’s a link to an article about royal incest:

    http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2010/09/tut-dna/dobbs-text/1

    It refers to Egyptian, Hawaiian, and other royal lines. It also points out that most modern European Royal houses are built on marriages between cousins. The opening paragraph reports that the Mormom missionaries were dismayed to find the Hawaiian royalty engaging in incest, even after conversion to Christianity. The irony is that some Americans were dismayed by the Mormons’ polygamy to the point the Mormons were pressured to rebuke it to gain statehood.

    ReplyReply

  44. Leia Rice
    Sep 29, 2011 @ 13:19:54

    History cannot be changed. It’s called “history” for a reason. You can’t slap a happy ending on everything. That’s all.

    Allow me to clarify — while the relationship between Selene and her brother might not be completely factual, the fact that incest and interbreeding in royal families, especially the Ptolemy family, existed IS factual. It is something that has happened in history for many, many, many years, and it’s not a possibility that you can just erase because some publishers and genres don’t allow it in their lines.

    It’s important to remember that this isn’t a romance, therefore, it does not abide by the “no rape or incest” rule. It’s historical. And the expectations of a certain historical period can’t be manipulated because we don’t like something or don’t find it to be socially acceptable today. Yes, it is yucky, but lots of things that have happened in history are disgusting. But at the end of the day, they happened, and there’s nothing we can do to change it.

    ReplyReply

  45. Leia Rice
    Sep 29, 2011 @ 13:26:46

    @Leia Rice: Allow me to clarify, while the relationship between Selene and her brother might not be completely factual, the fact that incest and interbreeding in royal families, especially the Ptolemy family, existed IS factual. It is something that has happened in history for many, many, many years, and it’s not a possibility that you can just erase because some publishers and genres don’t allow it in their lines.

    It’s important to remember that this isn’t a romance, therefore, it does not abide by the “no rape or incest” rule. It’s historical. And the expectations of a certain historical period can’t be manipulated because we don’t like something or don’t find it to be socially acceptable today. Yes, it is yucky, but lots of things that have happened in history are disgusting. But at the end of the day, they happened, and there’s nothing we can do to change it.

    ReplyReply

  46. Jane
    Sep 29, 2011 @ 13:31:38

    @Alex Where is it that the reviewer is lambasting the author for accuracy? This isn’t about the accuracy of the history but the way in which the story was told and what parts of the story that the author choose to tell.

    ReplyReply

  47. Christine M.
    Sep 29, 2011 @ 13:33:01

    @Alex: FYI, Jaiku detailed her grade in comment #37 :

    To clarify grade
    Incest plot? Not my fave but
    Brings grade down to B

    Hated the story
    between Octavian and
    Selene even more

    Power dynamic
    gross and uncomfortable
    Not a fan. Sorry.

    Selene’s reaction
    to this plot and her weak spine
    made this a firm D.

    ReplyReply

  48. Joanne Renaud
    Sep 29, 2011 @ 13:35:59

    I can understand some of Alex’s frustration. Part of my own frustration with SPOIL OF WAR was how completely un-historical it was– yes, it dealt with unsavory things like paedophilia and necrophilia, but in the hands of a more skilled author, it would have been understandable. I was delighted with LILY OF THE NILE because it felt realistic and true to the time, and I could see that the next book would be very dark.

    I haven’t read SONG OF THE NILE yet, and I hope I like it– and it won’t disgust me as much as it disgusted Jaiku. As I just received an ARC, I shall be reviewing it soon… so let’s see how it goes.

    ReplyReply

  49. Jackie Barbosa
    Sep 29, 2011 @ 13:39:39

    @Alex: In fairness to Jaiku, SONG OF THE NILE is a fictional account of a historical figure but there isn’t enough primary source material about Cleopatra Selene’s life in the historical record to say for certain that any of the events Jaiku disliked ACTUALLY transpired. Ms. Dray has done her research (and how!) and inferred from the information that IS available that it is likely or possible that the events in her book did or could have occurred, but she did make choices as an author in deciding which plot elements to include. In the context of the novel and the historical time period, everything that occurs in the book seems to me completely plausible and it might even be what happened, but that doesn’t mean Ms. Dray couldn’t have chosen to interpret the available information differently (unlike in the case of a novel about the assassination of Lincoln, where if you don’t have Lincoln actually get shot, you’ve pretty much violated historical fact).

    ReplyReply

  50. Jane
    Sep 29, 2011 @ 13:41:00

    @Christine M. I think that all comments in the future in this thread, in support of the book or against, should all be in haiku.

    ReplyReply

  51. LG
    Sep 29, 2011 @ 13:45:32

    @Leia Rice: It is quite possible, though, to read something and know how you’re supposed to perceive it (“this is historically accurate and considered perfectly acceptable by the characers”) and not be able to stomach it, or not be comfortable with the way it was handled. Everybody has things that hit the wrong buttons for them. I haven’t read the book, so I don’t know if the incestuous sex is described in detail – for me, that would definitely make a difference in how I perceived the book. (By the way, can anyone who’s read the book comment on that? I think I’ll at least put the first book on my TBR pile, but I’ll have to debate about reading the second one if the incestuous aspects involve detailed sex scenes.)

    ReplyReply

  52. Sunita
    Sep 29, 2011 @ 14:04:41

    @Alex:

    It’s really important for a review site to avoid shoving their moral codes into books that are supposed to be historically accurate. While I understand the inclination to do so with a work of PURE fiction, it’s not as tolerable (to me) in works that are, at least mostly, non-fiction.

    Are you claiming, on Ms. Dray’s behalf, that this is “mostly” non-fiction?

    Because according to Jackie Barbosa (the one with a Classics graduate degree):

    @Alex: In fairness to Jaiku, SONG OF THE NILE is a fictional account of a historical figure but there isn’t enough primary source material about Cleopatra Selene’s life in the historical record to say for certain that any of the events Jaiku disliked ACTUALLY transpired.

    As someone who cheerfully acknowledges that she is the ignorant exception to the “everyone knows about brother-sister marriages in Egypt” rule, I’m confused now.

    ReplyReply

  53. Christine M.
    Sep 29, 2011 @ 14:11:40

    @Jane:
    I had to look up
    What a Haiku was made of,
    And I think it’d work.

    :)

    ReplyReply

  54. Alex
    Sep 29, 2011 @ 14:12:09

    @Jane the comment after yours shows exactly what I mean:
    Where is it that the reviewer is lambasting the author for accuracy?
    Christine M. says:
    September 29, 2011 at 1:33 pm
    :

    To clarify grade
    Incest plot? Not my fave but
    Brings grade down to B

    How can you bring down a grade on something that is historically /accurate/ without that being taken as lambasting the historical accuracy of the novel? THere is no other way to interpret that except:

    “I don’t like the real history, you should have skipped it because it made the story squicky.”

    In going back to my Lincoln metaphor:
    “Hey, I didn’t like how you described the final shot. it was too graphic.”
    The author wasn’t there, they could infer from research what happened and how a gunshot affected the wound. But excluding such a vivid scene would be a disservice. Sometimes the visceral can only be felt by being in the moment.

    I personally don’t find incest that squicky. I couldn’t read the rape scene though because it would trigger. If I did manage to read the story, somehow, I would have either skipped the rape scene, or described how it made me feel because you can do one of a few things when coming to a scene that squicks you:
    a You can read it and enjoy teh prose
    b skip it and hope you’ll still follow the story
    c Read it and feel devastated and emotionally wrought
    d Read it and pick apart the way it’s written.

    I understand that Jaiku didn’t understand this wasn’t a romance, but I think, as a reviewer, it’s her duty to go back and read the story as a work of historical fiction – or base her review on that fact, if she feels she cannot reread it.

    Strictly speaking, i would hope that all reviewers review a story differently based on historical fiction and romantic fiction. One is meant to expound our knowledge in its journey – to mainly make us /think/.

    The other is an escape into realms of the unreal and the closer-to-perfect – In the strictest sense, romance novels are there to make us /feel/.

    This is, of course, a personal opinion. =D
    Haiku is awesome
    but I fear it’s
    not my thing.

    So, I’ll try and
    just be
    a non-rhyming

    poet.

    ReplyReply

  55. Christine M.
    Sep 29, 2011 @ 14:14:40

    @Sunita:

    I am so glad that
    I am not alone to in this
    For I’d no idea

    (Also, it’s hard to count syllabs in English since it doesn’t work the same way it does in French! I tried my best.)

    ReplyReply

  56. Sunita
    Sep 29, 2011 @ 14:16:37

    @Christine M.:

    I tried this morning
    but failed to haiku my thoughts.
    So I would be mute.

    ReplyReply

  57. Jane
    Sep 29, 2011 @ 14:27:09

    @Alex Jaiku reviewed this from exactly the same position she had when she read (and positively reviewed) the first in the series. Incest may have been historically accurate in that time period, but this is a fictional story. In fact, I believe that there is a bit of mysticism in this story that wouldn’t be historically accurate (although maybe in keeping with the belief of the people at the time). I believe how an author handles history can be the basis of a downgrade, regardless of its authenticity. Just like I think it is fair for someone to criticize an author for the dryness of the historical accounting.

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  58. Robin/Janet
    Sep 29, 2011 @ 15:53:34

    Has their ever been an era in which rape, incest, wife beating, etc. hasn’t been “historically accurate?” Because of that, I find it a completely unpersuasive justification. There are many, many things authors do and do not choose to include in their stories. What is the basis for those choices? Why include rape but not body or head lice, for example?

    I’m not arguing that any particular element should NOT be included in a book, just that I think we need to stop offering historical accuracy as an unquestionable defense for authorial and editorial choices. If historical accuracy is the ONLY reason something is included in a book (and assuming accuracy is a viable argument), then as a reader I’m already questioning the overall logic of the story and character construction.

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  59. Christine M.
    Sep 29, 2011 @ 16:06:39

    @Alex: “How can you bring down a grade on something that is historically /accurate/ without that being taken as lambasting the historical accuracy of the novel? THere is no other way to interpret that except:”

    Oh please. I can love the friends-to-lover trope, and yet the way this trope is presented in any story can bring the grade up or down. A rape in a story doesn’t necessarily mean a bad grade. (And I’ll be extrapoling from hereon:) A rape badly used can bring down a grade, as accurate as it may be. I think Jaiku came to that book (based on what Jane said) with a positive perspective–she seems to love the author’s voice and she enjoyed the first book in the series (based on grade).

    All this to say I think it’s ok to lower the grade of a book based on the use, by the author, of the tropes/concepts/historical facts/etc., no matter the genre. /2 cents

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  60. Ridley
    Sep 29, 2011 @ 16:08:35

    I like all these first time commenters pouring out of the woodwork to tell the reviewer that her opinion is wrong.

    Someone sic an author message board on this thread or something?

    ReplyReply

  61. Janet P.
    Sep 29, 2011 @ 16:12:00

    Book is not for me.
    But, author reply classy!
    I will read old Dray.

    Fs I buy, most fun.
    Ds never buy, most horrid.
    Opinion – must state.

    ReplyReply

  62. Jeannie Lin
    Sep 29, 2011 @ 16:26:19

    Romance or non-romance
    We want heroines to win
    A challenge here, yes!

    First book was too good
    So must read this book, but the
    Wait for Book 3? Tough!

    ReplyReply

  63. Jill Sorenson
    Sep 29, 2011 @ 16:32:34

    Nice review. I’m curious about these books now.

    ReplyReply

  64. Jody W.
    Sep 29, 2011 @ 16:39:36

    A haiku is like
    Incest between Twitter and
    Poetry. E-U!

    I know. This has no
    Bearing on Jaiku’s review.
    Kids are home. Brain gone.

    ReplyReply

  65. Michelle
    Sep 29, 2011 @ 16:39:48

    Really, it is never a good idea to berate a reader for their opinion. These authors aren’t really doing the work’s author any favors.

    ReplyReply

  66. Hurricain Jane
    Sep 29, 2011 @ 17:07:07

    Awesome discussion. Now I’m curious to read the books to form my own opinion.

    ReplyReply

  67. Laura
    Sep 29, 2011 @ 17:13:50

    @Hurricain Jane: I completely agree! Anything that can spur this much debate over the ideas/content of the story is worth the read! I like all things ancient anyway, and I’ve heard a ton great about the first book. So, thanks to Dear Author and to the author’s classy reply for making the sequel even more interesting to me!

    ReplyReply

  68. Laura Hunsaker
    Sep 29, 2011 @ 17:26:19

    I agree with Jane
    I am now curious
    I will buy the book

    ReplyReply

  69. Meljean
    Sep 29, 2011 @ 17:29:58

    Trying to keep up.
    SPOIL OF WAR: Accuracy
    Doesn’t matter as

    much as the response
    to how the elements are
    handled by author.

    SONG OF THE NILE: Now
    the reader’s response to how
    story elements

    are handled doesn’t
    matter as long as the book’s
    facts are in order.

    Awesome.


    And because this style fits me better:

    There once was a romance author named Brook
    Who thought keeping up meant Kindle or nook
    She obediently gets all the tools
    But they keep changing the rules
    From week to week, forum to forum, book to book.

    Fun review. Super classy response from Dray. I love that neither of them mention accuracy.

    ReplyReply

  70. Sue T
    Sep 29, 2011 @ 17:37:31

    Readers must accept this is not a romance

    Uh, no, the reader doesn’t have to ACCEPT anything. If the reader reads a book despite its historical accuracy or not and doesn’t love it, it’s the reader’s choice. Jaiku expressed her given right and didn’t like the book. She didn’t discuss historical accuracy. And she certainly didn’t have to “accept” it wasn’t romance.

    Ms. Dray – your advocaters are doing you disservice here. You, on the other hand, were absolutely delightful.

    ReplyReply

  71. Sue T
    Sep 29, 2011 @ 17:43:37

    @Alex:

    Reviewers don’t have to consider anything when they read a book except if they like or don’t like and it’s nice when they can say why.

    I don’t understand. Why is that reviewers are constantly jumped on when they are simply giving their opinion as a reader?

    There have been times when I’ve read books reviewers love and I haven’t and that’s okay. It’s a matter of personal preference. I’m sorry, not actually I’m not sorry, reviewers have NO responsibility to not bash the plot. Anything about the book is fair game.

    ReplyReply

  72. Sue T
    Sep 29, 2011 @ 17:50:36

    @Robin/Janet:

    Yes, what she said! So what if it’s historically accurate? (Or as much as anything can be since history is subject to the “victor”). That’s twice people have come here to defend books that have had serious ick factor and justify by saying, oh, it’s okay because it’s historically accurate.

    It’s not okay. It maybe be ‘accurate’ but for some readers, it is not okay and I for one, do not want to read about incest, rape, child molestation or what-not in my books – again, historically accurate or not.

    But, I’m back to that a reviewer has no responsibility to consider anything beyond whether he/she liked or didn’t like the book.

    ReplyReply

  73. Klio
    Sep 29, 2011 @ 18:07:02

    Well. Lots of responses here. I’m glad to have read all of them both positive and negative, and glad for the review AND the author’s response. Otherwise I might not have even considered reading the book–I’d shy away from something too close to something I’m working on (same extended family, older siblings). I personally can’t stand Octavian, as an historical figure, so I’m actually encouraged to give the books a try by how very very awful he sounds in this series.

    No haiku for me. Just edited a bookful. My brain is broken.

    ReplyReply

  74. Hillary
    Sep 29, 2011 @ 18:50:00

    @Jody W.:
    Your haiku is brilliant! Thanks for the laugh. Now I’m super curious about these books and I’m going to put them on my Wish List :)

    ReplyReply

  75. Robin/Janet
    Sep 29, 2011 @ 19:03:13

    @Sue T: For me it’s an issue of narrative purpose. What purpose does it serve the characters and the story? How is it handled and how does that further those things? What are the implications of all that?

    If the author is using a particular historical period to portray something, then accuracy absolutely matters. But IMO nothing in the book matters outside of narrative purpose, because everything is chosen and rendered around that purpose, including accurately rendered historical details.

    So for me narrative purpose and historical accuracy are interdependent — they’re not competitive aspects of a story. And if the author is greatly fictionalizing RL events or characters, then we may reach beyond accuracy at some point. At the very least, context matters. Like is it enough that incest existed within a certain historical period, or does the context (i.e. how, in what circumstances, what were the characteristics of it, etc.) matter? I haven’t read the books (although Dray’s response was incredibly classy, IMO, and makes me curious to read them), so I’m speaking in general here.

    I don’t find the discussion of historical accuracy irrelevant here, but some of the mentions feel a little accusatory to me — i.e. how stupid was the reviewer for not understanding a) it’s not a Romance (even though nothing in the review indicates the reviewer is reading it that way) and b) that incest was historically accurate (even though the reviewer says it was the portrayal not the accuracy issue that was problematic).

    ReplyReply

  76. MaryK
    Sep 29, 2011 @ 19:21:28

    @Tara Lynx: Jaiku is awesome! Click on her name at the top of the review, and it’ll take you to a list of her reviews. I particularly like the one for The Forest of Hands and Teeth.

    There’s a lot of stuff here! I was almost inspired to attempt haiku but got cold feet. The author’s response is great as a response to a review and as a haiku. I’m not impressed by a lot of the other comments, though. Readers don’t have to like anything. Fiction, nonfiction, biography – doesn’t matter. If they don’t like it, they don’t like it. Does everybody have to like brussel sprouts just because they exist?

    ReplyReply

  77. Tara Lynx
    Sep 29, 2011 @ 20:08:02

    @ MaryK

    Thank you for the tip,
    I’ll go and click right away
    to read more haikus.

    ReplyReply

  78. Jane
    Sep 29, 2011 @ 22:30:45

    I’d really love it if someone would volunteer to write reviews in Sonnet form. Anyone?

    ReplyReply

  79. Robin/Janet
    Sep 29, 2011 @ 22:59:28

    @Jane: But only if they’re historically accurate!

    ReplyReply

  80. Maura
    Sep 29, 2011 @ 23:06:35

    @Jane: Shakespearean or Petrarchan?

    ReplyReply

  81. Niveau
    Sep 29, 2011 @ 23:33:09

    It’s a special day
    when I find five authors whose
    books I’ll never buy

    All in one small thread!
    I don’t spend money on jerks
    Too bad for you brats

    And it’s a real shame, too, because Stephanie Dray’s fabulous response had me thinking that maybe I’d read her books despite the elements with which I’m normally uncomfortable, and now I’ll have to fight past the image of whiny authors berating a reader for daring to have an opinion they don’t agree with if I ever want to go near one of them. My Do Not Buy list just keeps on growing…

    Still, good on you, Stephanie, for one of the best responses to a negative review that I’ve ever seen! And great review, Jaiku!

    @Alex: “I understand that Jaiku didn’t understand this wasn’t a romance, but I think, as a reviewer, it’s her duty to go back and read the story as a work of historical fiction – or base her review on that fact, if she feels she cannot reread it.”

    Seriously, of all the stupid things you’ve said here, this sentence has to be the most condescending. You understand that Jaiku didn’t understand it wasn’t a romance? Good for you, but given that at no point did she say she thought it was one, maybe you should work on your own reading comprehension before insulting someone else’s. Even if her review hadn’t been based on the fact that the book is YA historical fiction – you seem to have missed this fact, but it already is – the only duty a reviewer has is to explain why she did or didn’t like the book. Which is exactly what Jaiku did.

    ReplyReply

  82. Christine M.
    Sep 30, 2011 @ 05:27:02

    @Jane: I can do Alexandrine, but only in French. :)

    ReplyReply

  83. Annette
    Sep 30, 2011 @ 08:03:20

    @Niveau:

    A little venom, anyone? Wow. Calling people jerks, brats and stupid? At least the authors called no one names. I thought blogs welcome energetic debate.

    Regarding your comment about Jaiku thinking this was a romance. Jaiku did state she thought the brother might be “the hero”. Straight historical fiction does not require a hero.

    ReplyReply

  84. Jody W.
    Sep 30, 2011 @ 09:15:55

    Sonnets hurt me. I’m much better at common measure or terza rima. But who’s not?

    ReplyReply

  85. Sunita
    Sep 30, 2011 @ 09:38:37

    @Annette:

    The many comments to Jane’s column just last month made it clear that not everyone uses the word “hero” in the same way in romance, and it’s also pretty clear that the word is not only used in romance. So for you to infer that Jaiku was assuming that this was a romance by her use of the term is a big leap (especially since she chose the tag “historical” rather than “historical romance”).

    ReplyReply

  86. Jackie Barbosa
    Sep 30, 2011 @ 09:39:43

    @Niveau: Where did you get the idea that these books are YA historical fiction? I’d call them historical women’s fiction. Despite the age of the heroine when the trilogy begins, I certainly don’t think these books are intended for or marketed to the YA market.

    ReplyReply

  87. Jane
    Sep 30, 2011 @ 10:09:21

    In summary, romance readers must weigh and evaluate all books according to the genre. (ie. no getting mad if a character is killed off at the end of a non romance book as in karin slaughter book, anne bishop book or when there is serious infidelity such as in the Dyann Sylvan book).

    The word “hero” used in a review signifies that the reviewer is using her romance brain except when the word “hero” is used to describe whether the character is actually acting heroic or not.

    Historical accuracy excuses any inclusion of rape, incest, misogyny, infidelity, and any other bad trait because it was accurate. in history. If a reader does not like historical accuracy, she cannot complain about books that have inaccuracies in them.

    Have I got the rules for reviewing right here?

    ReplyReply

  88. Annette
    Sep 30, 2011 @ 10:27:10

    @Sunita:
    and @ Jane:

    *sigh* I usually adore this blog, but I really do think this discussion has deteriorated from a reasoned and logical debate. That is unfortunate.

    I “inferred” Jaiku’s use of the word hero from context. Look at what was written in the original haiku:

    If that were not bad
    enough, Selene runs from this
    to her brother’s arms

    They have sex. A lot.
    This plot goes from bad to worse.
    Hero is her BRO???

    It seems pretty simple and logical to understand that hero is used in the above in the romantic sense. Brothers absolutely can be heroes. Why would anyone think twice about a brother being a hero in a story? My brother was definitely my hero years ago when I was stranded on the side of the freeway with a flat tire and he came and rescued me. But brother here is used in a way that indicated shock/disbelief. The all caps and three exclamation points tell me that. And it came right after mentioning that they had sex. Only Jaiku can say exactly what was meant by hero in that review, but it seems obvious from context that it was meant in the romantic sense.

    ReplyReply

  89. CK
    Sep 30, 2011 @ 10:32:35

    @Jane: You are absolutely right. You said what I was thinking and I totally agree. But the minute you disagree with what I think and decide to have your own (and different) opinion – you’re wrong! ;)

    ReplyReply

  90. Jane
    Sep 30, 2011 @ 10:33:53

    @Annette Yes, I got the impression that the romantic love interest in this story was Selene’s brother and that the reviewer objected to the romanticization of the incest. You can’t object to that?

    Let me ask it differently. Is it okay for the reviewer to object to the romanticization of incest in a romance novel but not in a historical fiction novel? And if so, why? Does the validity of the objection turn on the genre type or the romanticization?

    ReplyReply

  91. Sunita
    Sep 30, 2011 @ 11:07:19

    @Annette:

    I really am trying to understand what you are saying here. I think we may be talking past each other a bit.

    You said

    Jaiku did state she thought the brother might be “the hero”. Straight historical fiction does not require a hero.

    I inferred from that (using “infer” here descriptively, as I did before) that you felt that Jaiku’s use of the term hero meant that she was treating this as a novel in the Romance genre.

    I read the haiku differently. When she said “Hero is her BRO?” I thought she meant that the main love interest for Selene unexpectedly and unfortunately (for Jaiku) became her brother. This sort of romantic relationship is not limited to the Romance genre.

    You’re of course correct that historical fiction does not require a hero, but it regularly features characters who have hero-type aspects (especially given how many ways readers use the word). For example, SK Penman’s Welsh trilogy has characters I would probably refer to as heroes and heroines if I were writing a review. There are important romance storylines, but the novels are more appropriately categorized as historical fiction than genre Romance.

    I don’t think referring to a romantic hero automatically (or simply or logically) suggests that the reviewer thinks she is reviewing a genre Romance. But we may have to agree to disagree on this one.

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  92. Annette
    Sep 30, 2011 @ 11:09:06

    @Jane:

    Believe me, I find incest extremely squicky and would find it quite difficult to read. Romanticizing it makes me cringe right here. But I never defended the inclusion of incest. My points above were that it’s difficult to bridge the gap between modern and ancient sensibilities, I’ve tried this with a whipping ceremony in ancient Sparta and with Sparta’s forced euthanasia policy for “damaged” infants. It’s HARD. Execution makes all the difference, but I have to suspect there are some topics that are just too far from how the majority of us think to be palatable in any genre. My main point in my first response way up above is that I needed to read the book myself to see what went wrong here, because when this sort of reader reaction happens, it’s either the reader’s sensibilities or the author’s execution (or of course a combination). The haiku was too brief initially to see which it was, but it seemed clear in Jaiku’s second offering that it was the execution. I venture to suspect that if Jaiku had included the second haiku in her first post, that most of this discussion would not have occurred.

    But to answer your specific question, a reviewer can object to anything in any genre. :) How’s that for a reasoned answer? And now I must go to work. Thank you for another interesting discussion.

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  93. Janine
    Sep 30, 2011 @ 11:18:05

    @Jane:

    Shall I compare Jaiku’s review to sun?
    It brightly shines with wit and made me warm,
    Because I laughed since it was so much fun.
    But then the clouds rolled in and came the storm!

    Sometime too hot these conversations get,
    With many reading in things not in post.
    No thought for Jaiku’s wit I see, regret,
    The beauty of her poetry seems lost.

    But no! Those clouds will not obscure the light,
    For lo, here comes Meljean to be our bard.
    And now once more I laugh and all feels bright,
    So I remember, sonnets aren’t hard!

    If all here had shown such great class as Dray
    We would not need rhyme just to join the fray.

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  94. Annette
    Sep 30, 2011 @ 11:45:19

    @Sunita:

    Yes, I think we are speaking past each other. Reading the hero as a romantic hero doesn’t necessarily mean reading the story as a genre romance. Still, I think the expectations of a romantic hero are different from a non-romantic hero, regardless of genre, and the squick factor in this case was probably increased.

    Would someone mind deleting my duplicate post above? Sorry about that – I never had such a delay posting here before. And by the time it was posted, I didn’t have time to edit.

    ReplyReply

  95. Janine
    Sep 30, 2011 @ 11:51:47

    @Annette: I deleted the first of the two posts for you.

    ReplyReply

  96. Alex
    Sep 30, 2011 @ 11:52:16

    *sigh* I express an opinion and the idea you take away is that:

    a) I must be an author to disagree
    b) I laid down the rules to all reviews
    c) I am telling you your opinions are wrong, and this is disallowed, but you, consequently, are telling me that my opinions are wrong and that’s okay?

    I am not an author – perhaps one day I might be.

    I have not read this book. I have no interest in reading this book. This is not my type of fiction.

    I read romances secondarily and, primarily, I read thrillers.

    I follow this blog because the reviewers are consistently fair in their reviews of a book.

    I have never commented before because I have never felt that a review was unjust before.

    I felt this review was unjustifiably rated lower because of the content. I didn’t think it was fair. I said so.

    Note the use of the pronoun? I did not make my comments because I was “an angry author” or a disgruntled historical fiction reader.

    Incest and rape were a fact of historical past. They had a /direct/ effect on the balance of power and they had a direct effect on the protagonist of the story. Lice did not. Please don’t compare the two.

    I think it was equally wrong to reduce my argument (and others) to “Historical accuracy excuses any inclusion of rape, incest, misogyny, infidelity, and any other bad trait because it was accurate. in history. “. That is not what was said, and I find it offensive that you stuffed words into, if not mine, then /our/ mouths.

    Use of rape, misogyny, incest, infidelity are excused, by me, if they are not included to titillate the reader. That’s clearly not the case in this book.

    Having been a victim of rape and a volunteer for the Rape Crisis Center of Denver, I assure you I’m very interested in how authors treat the subject.

    All of the “squicks” that the reviewer mentioned about the book were very real for the time period. They played an enormous role in the protagonist’s life. They factored into how even a powerful woman was treated during the time. It’s a /very/ important piece of this book. And it should bring about discussions about how very far we /haven’t/ come as women, not how it was a squicky subject.

    And that’s /my/ opinion. Others may agree or disagree, but I do not speak for anyone but myself.

    Lastly, I would like to ask, please, that people refrain from virulence on both sides. It does a disservice to all of us women to resort to name calling and maliciousness.

    I’m stepping out of the thread now. I believe when someone starts calling me stupid and one of the site’s owners begins capsulizing our opinions into exaggerated sarcastic points, that we aren’t welcome to disagree with the way a review is handled. (That’s not to say I haven’t seen commentators disagree with a review – totally different thing btw.)

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  97. Jane
    Sep 30, 2011 @ 12:06:32

    @Annette I am not saying that Jaiku read this book as a genre romance because I’ve never asked her, but I read every book from my romance reader perspective and review every book from that perspective because that is my bias. That is who I am and I feel that the majority of the readers of this blog are romance readers. Thus, my reviews are directed to those people who have read romance and have a romance reader sensibility.

    In my review earlier this week of a YA book, I stated specifically that I was going to try to explain why a romance reader might be interested in Rae Carson’s YA book. When I reviewed the last Diann Sylvan book I acknowledged that yes, it wasn’t a romance book, but I read it from a romance reader perspective and had, in fact, recommended the first Sylvan book because I felt that romance readers would enjoy it.

    I’ve always felt that the focus of this blog is on romance readers so to me, a reviewer who reads a book from a romance reader perspective is a good thing, a valuable thing, a thing that you wouldn’t find at other review sites that review historical fiction. So the directive that the reviewer needs to go back and put her historical fiction hat is one I hope that Jaiku would disregard because I don’t think the historical fiction review hat fits the purpose of the blog.

    If the book is to take a modern reader back in time so that she’ll appreciate, honor, respect, the mores that are different than her own, then that is the responsibility of the text not the reader. There is no warning label that says “romance readers beware this book is only to be read by historical fiction readers and only reviewed by those wearing their historical fiction hats.”

    This is a romance blog and I am proud that we serve romance readers.

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  98. MaryK
    Sep 30, 2011 @ 12:15:09

    “Why would anyone think twice about a brother being a hero in a story?”

    Because they have sex?

    It may not be “reasoned and logical” to you, but some readers don’t like certain situations in any fiction or indeed in any writing. Jaiku is obviously one of them. She didn’t like this plot and it ruined her enjoyment of the book. Whether or not it’s factual is irrelevant. She didn’t enjoy the book.

    @Annette:

    Does the problem here lie with the author or the reader? If one goes in understanding the cultural context, then sensibilities might more easily come out unscathed. If one goes in with the idea that this is a romance, then ack. But execution is of course key here. I suppose the only way for me to see what went wrong here is to read the book myself.

    @Annette:

    The haiku was too brief initially to see which it was, but it seemed clear in Jaiku’s second offering that it was the execution. I venture to suspect that if Jaiku had included the second haiku in her first post, then most of this discussion would not have occurred.

    So there is a correct way to read and sensibilities are silly weaknesses reserved for the milquetoast Romance genre? I find that unreasonable and illogical. Readers can and do dislike books of any genre based on their own individual sensibilities. Reading has no obligations. It certainly comes with no obligation to like every book that is well executed.

    This is my opinion and others may have differing opinions, but their disagreement does not make my opinion meaningless.

    “What went wrong” was that Jaiku did not enjoy the book.

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  99. Jane
    Sep 30, 2011 @ 12:17:19

    @Alex Since you identify the blog owners as individuals you are responding to directly I will respond to you directly.

    a) I must be an author to disagree

    I never said that you were an author.

    b) I laid down the rules to all reviews

    I never said that you laid down rules to all reviews.

    c) I am telling you your opinions are wrong, and this is disallowed, but you, consequently, are telling me that my opinions are wrong and that’s okay?

    I never said that your opinions are wrong. I’m sorry that you feel that my comments were directed at you or that I called you stupid, which I did not. Disagreement is welcome but as a blog owner, if I disagree with someone, I will disagree with them. To me, this is the purpose of debate. I have an opinion that I strongly hold and will defend said opinion. You have a differing opinion. You should strongly hold it and defend said opinion. It doesn’t make any one a bad person. It just makes the opinions different.

    My summary predates your comments here and encompasses many arguments I have read on the blog (including to the SPOILS OF WAR review and the Mistorical thread as well as the definition of hero) which is why it wasn’t directed at any one person but a general comment. I would encourage you not to take personally comments that are not directed at you just as I will not take personally any comments that are simply not applicable to me such that I wrongly encapsulated your opinions or called you stupid. Which I did not and would never do.

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  100. Jane
    Sep 30, 2011 @ 12:23:07

    Also, what does *sigh* mean anyway? It comes off as really condescending. Like *sigh* I can’t believe I have to explain something so pedantic as x, y, z. That might not be how it is meant, but that is how it comes across to me.

    For the record Niveau is not a blog owner here. Has never reviewed here. She is a commenter and DA is not adopting or approving her comments just like we don’t adopt or approve any one else’s comments unless expressly affirmed.

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  101. desiderata
    Sep 30, 2011 @ 12:27:33

    As Jackie Barbosa noted, this is a work of historical fiction. Not an historical text, but a story based more or less loosely on historical figures or events. This gives the author a great deal of creative license in writing the events as experienced by her characters, developing characters’ personalities,the storyline etc. What I took from the review is that the storyline created by the author didn’t work for the reviewer. In other words, the reviewer didn’t appreciate the author’s use of that creative license.
    It seems to me some of Jaiku’s critics (@ Alex) are confusing historical accuracy concerning background facts of the world in which her characters exist; ie, who was king of England at the relevant period, or the proper title of English nobility, with the substance of the story — the fiction part. Do you really not get the difference?

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  102. Alex
    Sep 30, 2011 @ 12:28:06

    Jane, just to be clear, I did not think you called me stupid. It was another commentator above. Niveau. Likewise, I didn’t think you assumed I was author, I believe several of the others commented that those of us defending the work (not the author, the /work/) were accused of being ‘authors sent from another board’. I was simply clarifying that wasn’t the case.

    I also did not feel your comments were directed at me, but at the plethora of us speaking on behalf of the content.

    Just wanted to clear that up, because internet words can come out harsher than intended and can also be ambiguous.

    The only point directed at you, particularly, was the comments on your interpretation of what some of us were saying.

    I do not think that you were /ever/ call someone stupid or belittle them. That is not something I read from you in your many reviews.

    *Mutters about hating how things come out on the internet* There should be voice responses. Someone needs to invent that.

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  103. Annette
    Sep 30, 2011 @ 12:31:00

    @ Jane,

    Regarding the romance perspective and your thoughts on your bog – Yes, yes and YES! That’s why I read this blog. My preferred reading is historical romance. I’m glomping on Mary Balogh’s backlist as we speak. The next story I write will be a romance. The current one almost is, but it weighs a bit more to the heroine’s growth than the relationship, so I think it’s more women’s fiction with very strong romantic elements. I hope none of my comments implied in any way a negative opinion of romance, because that would be the opposite of how I feel.

    @ MaryK – I don’t think you understood my points. i’ve got to get to my day job, so no time to address specifically. But I would appreciate you not putting words in my mouth that couldn’t be more wrong in terms of my perspective.

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  104. Jane
    Sep 30, 2011 @ 12:35:22

    @Alex: I do agree that calling someone stupid or namecalling general tends to diminish the point that the name caller intends to make.

    In general, I think that avoiding namecalling is useful in comments on the web because it is too easy to dismiss someone’s opinion if it starts out with an attack on the person rather than the topic of discussion. For anyone who is trying to make a point, it is a more powerful point if you make it without a personal attack, no matter how strongly you feel about the subject.

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  105. Niveau
    Sep 30, 2011 @ 12:58:58

    @Annette: There’s energetic debate, and then there’s calling a reader uninformed and telling her she needs to check her facts before posting a review. The authors who responded badly here – and not all of them did, so it’s obviously possible to respond well to a negative review, even when it’s your own book in question – were condescending, belittling, and insulting. I’m sick of seeing authors bash readers for expressing an opinion about a book. So, yes, there was venom. I expect better from authors, and when they behave badly, I’m harsher on them than I would be on others, because they’re supposed to be professionals.

    As for the name-calling, assuming the reader is so ignorant that she doesn’t even understand which genre the book she’s reviewing belongs to is a jerky thing for an author to do. Making snide remarks about the importance of not watering down history to appease the sensibilities of modern readers is bratty. I don’t see the point in calling such behaviour anything but what it is.

    (Besides which, “unprofessional” is five syllables long, which isn’t very suitable for haiku.)

    @Jackie Barbosa: I’d first encountered the books when Lily of the Nile came out and was reviewed on a few young adult blogs which I follow. Several of the reviews classified it as YA, and I assumed they were right to do so. Thank you for correcting my misconception.

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  106. MaryK
    Sep 30, 2011 @ 13:03:43

    @Annette: Your meaning seems obvious from context and word choice.

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  107. Jackie Barbosa
    Sep 30, 2011 @ 13:14:35

    @MaryK: “Why would anyone think twice about a brother being a hero in a story?”

    Because they have sex?

    It may not be “reasoned and logical” to you, but some readers don’t like certain situations in any fiction or indeed in any writing. Jaiku is obviously one of them. She didn’t like this plot and it ruined her enjoyment of the book. Whether or not it’s factual is irrelevant.

    I suppose this means I shouldn’t write that novel about Artemisia of Caria, who was married to her brother, Mausolus, and who built the grand tomb for him that gave us the modern word “mausoleum”. After all, no matter how fascinating her life might have been, it had incest in it. Oh, the horror!

    Yes, I’m being facetious here, but my point is that some people seem to be saying that it’s perfectly reasonable to dislike a book solely on the basis of it including a topic or theme they find morally objectionable. I don’t think that’s reasonable at all. I find murder morally objectionable, but that doesn’t mean I avoid all murder mysteries on the grounds that they have murders in them.

    In the end, it’s all about how well the author integrates the objectionable topic/theme into the story and the purpose it serves in creating conflict and a believable character arc. Having not read SONG OF THE NILE yet (but it should be shipping soon!), I can’t say how well *I* will think these topics are handled in this book.

    But I categorically reject what *feels* to me like an effort on the part of some posters to take controversial topics and themes off the table as appropriate subject matter for novels. If we can’t explore difficult subject matter in fiction, where CAN we?

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  108. Jane
    Sep 30, 2011 @ 13:26:11

    @Jackie Barbosa of course you can explore them. Doesn’t mean that Jaiku or any number of readers will enjoy them. No one is preventing any author from writing anything. Just because a reader doesn’t like it doesn’t make it “wrong” for an author to write about it. Your statement makes it seem like readers somehow have to all approve of the topics you write about or otherwise the readers are preventing you from writing that. How? Because we don’t like it or want to buy it? That’s not the same thing as preventing you from writing it or selling it.

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  109. Janine
    Sep 30, 2011 @ 13:34:26

    @Jackie Barbosa:

    my point is that some people seem to be saying that it’s perfectly reasonable to dislike a book solely on the basis of it including a topic or theme they find morally objectionable. I don’t think that’s reasonable at all. I find murder morally objectionable, but that doesn’t mean I avoid all murder mysteries on the grounds that they have murders in them.

    But supposing a reader did avoid reading murder mysteries on those grounds. What would be wrong with that? Isn’t it her choice where to spend her money and what to read, just as it’s the author’s choice what to write about?

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  110. Jackie Barbosa
    Sep 30, 2011 @ 13:38:07

    @Janine: But supposing a reader did avoid reading murder mysteries on those grounds. What would be wrong with that? Isn’t it her choice where to spend her money and want to read, just as it’s the author’s choice what to write about?

    Nothing at all with avoiding murder mysteries if you don’t enjoy them, but this isn’t a case of someone avoiding murder mysteries altogether. It’s a case of giving a poor grade to a murder mystery simply because it includes a murder. (Okay, it’s not that straightforward, but you know what I mean.)

    I find this really fascinating because I’ve seen plenty of folks on this blog complain that non-romance readers unfairly tag all romances as trashy tripe based solely on their subject matter.

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  111. MaryK
    Sep 30, 2011 @ 13:42:02

    @Jackie Barbosa:

    some people seem to be saying that it’s perfectly reasonable to dislike a book solely on the basis of it including a topic or theme they find morally objectionable.

    That is absolutely and exactly what I’m saying.

    Authors can write anything they want. Readers can read anything they want. Authors are not guaranteed an audience. Readers are not guaranteed books they like.

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  112. Jane
    Sep 30, 2011 @ 13:58:24

    @Jackie Barbosa No this is a case of a reviewer giving a poor grade to the romanticization of incest, to the weak portrayal of the female protag, and the interaction she had with a rapist.

    And your latter sentence does not compare equitable situations. No one in this thread or in the review has said all historical fiction is objectionable because it contains certain subject matter.

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  113. Jackie Barbosa
    Sep 30, 2011 @ 14:00:54

    @MaryK: You’re right. Readers are under no obligation to like any book. I certainly don’t expect to like every book (in fact, it is safe to say I dislike more than I like).

    That said, if my dislike of a book is triggered by an emotional reaction that I am bringing to the book, rather than what’s actually in the book, I would be hesitant to give that book a poor grade/rating. Because my response is no longer about the book, but about me.

    This is definitely a gray area, but as I pointed out above, there are a LOT of reviewers who regularly trash romance novels just because they are romance novels. They bring a prejudice with them to the reading of the book. Do these reviewers HAVE TO like romance novels? Of course not. Are they free to post negative reviews of them? Absolutely. But I think those who enjoy romance novels are equally free to say that such reviewers are not giving the book a fair shake.

    And that’s kind of the way I feel here. Some people (and, I hasten to add, not necessarily the original reviewer) seem to have decided that if a book contains rape or incest, it’s de facto a book that they would hate. I find that troubling.

    But we all have our crosses to bear.

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  114. Jackie Barbosa
    Sep 30, 2011 @ 14:10:49

    @Jane: No, no one has said they find all historical fiction objectionable. Some HAVE said or certainly implied that they find any fictional story with rape/incest in it to be objectionable. (And not necessarily Jaiku, although I do think the format of the review makes it difficult to get “the incest was romanticized and that bothered me” rather than “Ew, she is having sex with her brother, gross!”)

    No, my comparison was not apples to apples. But apples and oranges are both fruit, and you CAN compare them.

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  115. Jia
    Sep 30, 2011 @ 14:20:22

    @Niveau: Actually, the first book was marketed as a YA crossover. So it’s not really those blogs’ fault they labelled it as such if that’s what they were told.

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  116. nasanta
    Sep 30, 2011 @ 14:23:33

    @Jane: I agree with Annette. Thank you for reviewing books through the romantic perspective. Since I started reading romance, I’ve been viewing the books I read much the same way – to the extent that sometimes I cannot read my other favorite genre, fantasy. :\ That is not to say that I was persuaded (yet) to read the Rae Carson book you reviewed lately. :)

    The haiku review was fun, the author’s response was great, and some of the responses…not so much. Sorry, author. I won’t be picking up the series because if I start one, I like to end it, and I’m not too keen on the “husband allowing rape” and “flirting with the rapist” idea. I’d read the former in a Bertrice Small book which left a bad taste in my mouth (since I had liked the husband), and the latter doesn’t sit well with me either. I’ll wait for a stand alone. I want to see what Jaiku loves about the author’s writing style.

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  117. Ridley
    Sep 30, 2011 @ 14:23:56

    @Jackie Barbosa: Have you considered that maybe lots of readers dislike rape and incest themes in historical fiction, or fiction in general, because they’ve never liked how its been treated? That they’re not scandalized so much as disgusted by the often facile treatment it receives?

    Must a reader like every variable that could work its way into a book? Is it impossible to write historical fiction without rape, incest or other objectionable (and possibly triggering, I might add) sort of elements?

    And like I said on Twitter: History is the amoral chronicle of what was. Historical fiction is a story that uses history to entertain modern readers. If your history doesn’t entertain me, it’s not something wrong with me. Your book just sucks.

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  118. Alex
    Sep 30, 2011 @ 14:41:58

    @Jane “No this is a case of a reviewer giving a poor grade to the romanticization of incest, to the weak portrayal of the female protag, and the interaction she had with a rapist.”

    This comment makes me rethink what I said earlier about the review itself. I find that more clearly stated than how I read, it and maybe that was my bad an not Jaiku’s.

    As I haven’t read the story, I don’t know if the incest is romanticized. I’m not bothered by incest between siblings tbh. Though I won’t go out of my way to read a story with it involved, if I came across it, I wouldn’t be squicked.

    But, and this is my particular problem here, when dealing with the truth of that period, how do you not include something as common as incest? How do you avoid a subject like that when relating a story as close to accurate as possible? To me it would be like writing a fictional account of Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings without mentioning the power dynamic that was akin, rape and the possibility that the slave eventually felt she was in love with him. Perhaps she even was.

    If I picked up the book and it was told from Sally’s point of view, it may have romanticized her relationship with him. I would have expected that, not been caught off guard.

    I understand now that Jaiku was turned off by the content and the heroine. And her review makes more sense to me now. I haven’t read many of her reviews and am not aware of what she reads, but in historicals where the author is dealing with certain periods of time, wouldn’t there be some expectations to how the story would be unraveling?

    This is precisely why I don’t read historical novels. The fact that they can be historically… accurate. This makes me want to throw the book across the room – which is now a Kindle and much more expensive – and then follow it up with a beating from my six inch stiletto while I scream at the cracked screen, “STUPID IDIOTIC MEN. DAMN THEM ALL STRAIGHT TO HELL”.

    Not only would this be an expensive response, but it might lead to my husband accepting more out-of-town assignments.

    I had planned on not returning to the thread/comments, but since I now understand more of what Jaiku’s problem with the book was, I think my opinion over the review has changed somewhat.

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  119. Ann
    Sep 30, 2011 @ 15:01:40

    @Jane: I could not pick which of your comments I wanted to reply to, so I will include them all with this response: you are a rock star. Thank you.

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  120. Robin/Janet
    Sep 30, 2011 @ 15:11:09

    @desiderata: …confusing historical accuracy concerning background facts of the world in which her characters exist; ie, who was king of England at the relevant period, or the proper title of English nobility, with the substance of the story — the fiction part.

    I’ve actually been wondering whether any of the comments are intended as backlash from the mistorical thread. If that’s the case (not saying it is), it does a disservice to Dray and misses the mark, in large part because of this point. Historical detail woven into a fictional tale just means there are now more levels on which a reader can/will respond.

    Historical accuracy can’t and shouldn’t guarantee that a reader likes something — it’s not a shield guaranteeing quality of storytelling and writing or reader taste. Neither is the fictionalized aspect of a story a sword under which all historical context must submit, regardless of accuracy/authenticity. The elements (and related issued) are distinct but related, which is why it’s never going to be a simple either/or (historical accuracy or fictional storytelling) situation.

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  121. Robin/Janet
    Sep 30, 2011 @ 15:18:20

    @Jia: When I went over to check out Dray’s blog, I noticed a response from a girl who identified herself as 13, which immediately made me wonder whether the books were marketed as YA. A similar thing happened with the Michelle Moran series — it started out being marketed as historical fiction and then crossed over to be marketed as YA. It sounds like with this series it might be the reverse?

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  122. Jane
    Sep 30, 2011 @ 15:23:00

    @nasanta I totally hear you on the Rae Carson story. It took a lot of people to convince me to read that book and at a 9.99 price point, it’s hard to take the risk. I did enjoy it tremendously though, even though it isn’t a romance. Romances are about great characters and Elisa in Carson’s story is a great character.

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  123. Jane
    Sep 30, 2011 @ 15:25:05

    @Robin/Janet It must have been sent to a number of YA bloggers given the scope of coverage on YA blogs of the book. Teen protag must equal YA in marketing terms.

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  124. Jane
    Sep 30, 2011 @ 15:29:04

    @Alex I think the haiku format is limiting in expression. Maybe it’s a good thing that there aren’t many of them. Like the word “hero” is only two syllables versus “male love interest”? See, this is why sonnets are the better reviewing form. (I forgot to mention how lovely Janine’s sonnet was. Guess she is volunteering to be Jonnet)

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  125. Jane
    Sep 30, 2011 @ 15:32:03

    @Jackie Barbosa

    . Some HAVE said or certainly implied that they find any fictional story with rape/incest in it to be objectionable.

    Yes? and so what? Seriously I don’t understand why that is problematic. Some readers don’t like stories with rape and incest in them. This does not mean you a) cannot write those stories or b) that some readers dislike of those stories are a condemnation of all fiction that has those topics in them.

    As for the apples/oranges comparison, no you really can’t. That’s why the expression exists. to encapsulate why comparing them is a mistake because it leads to false and erroneous conclusions.

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  126. Sue t
    Sep 30, 2011 @ 16:30:15

    @Jackie Barbosa:

    Jackie, you have a good argument here but I’m definitely one of the ones who won’t read a book with rape or incest – historically accurate or not. And while I certainly get where you are coming from, if I happen to pick up one without knowing that, read and review it, and say I didn’t like it, then, this is where we disagree – I can and would use that as a basis of a low score. Authors can and should write what they want. They just cannot expect all readers to like it and they should expect they’ll get readers who don’t like it because it’s a subject matter they object to. In other words, feel free to write about squicky subjects but realize some readers, like me, won’t like and will comment. Frankly, I wish authors were a bit more responsible about the content – and this isn’t just romance – it’s all content. Just because we have a right to discuss these things doesn’t necessarily mean we should.

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  127. MaryK
    Sep 30, 2011 @ 16:30:24

    @Jackie Barbosa:

    if my dislike of a book is triggered by an emotional reaction that I am bringing to the book, rather than what’s actually in the book, I would be hesitant to give that book a poor grade/rating. Because my response is no longer about the book, but about me.

    I guess that’s a difference in reviewing styles then. Personally, I want a review to be all about the reviewer. I want to know her personal reaction to the book, whether or not she enjoyed it, and if not why not. I’m rarely interested in an essay on the merits of a book. When I encounter an interesting book, my reaction is usually “I wonder what so-and-so thought of it” because I know what kind of books so-and-so likes and our tastes frequently match up. It’s hard to evaluate reviews (will I like it) without a frame of reference.

    there are a LOT of reviewers who regularly trash romance novels just because they are romance novels. They bring a prejudice with them to the reading of the book. Do these reviewers HAVE TO like romance novels? Of course not. Are they free to post negative reviews of them? Absolutely. But I think those who enjoy romance novels are equally free to say that such reviewers are not giving the book a fair shake.

    Reviewing a book from a genre you dislike with the intention of trashing it is completely different from what we’re talking about here. Those reviewers have decided ahead of time that they don’t like the book and they’re only reading it to get dirt for their review. That situation doesn’t compare to someone reading a book they expect/want to like *or are even ambivalent about* and stumbling across something within the book that ruins their enjoyment.

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  128. Sue t
    Sep 30, 2011 @ 16:37:20

    @Jane:

    And it also doesn’t mean a reader doesn’t have the right to comment/review a book with these elements and say she doesn’t like it because of those elements.

    The fact that @Alex is so free in saying she would “not be bothered with incest” well, just boggles the mind. Historically accurate or not, it is icky. And wrong.

    Man, I’m so glad there are so many authors out there that find plenty to write about in all periods without writing things that are objectionable. Oh, and I do find it ironic that rape/incest is objectionable but murder is not. The human race is riddled with contradictions.

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  129. JessP
    Sep 30, 2011 @ 18:18:36

    @Janine:
    Yay, Janine! Very nicely done.

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  130. Jia
    Sep 30, 2011 @ 18:25:40

    @Jane: YA is where the money is right now, so I’m not surprised that’s the tactic they took. It’s certainly not Dray’s fault the book was marketed that way since marketing is only interested getting the word out as far and wide as possible. If marketing it as YA would do it, then they’ll do it. It can’t be a coincidence that all these YA blogs got review copies in the first place. Someone had to have reached out to them, so I can see why some people would think it was YA.

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  131. Willene Harrogate-Springs
    Sep 30, 2011 @ 19:28:31

    Haiku are simple.
    Three different sentences.
    Run-ons are bad form.

    Seriously, if you’re going to post pointless drivel, at least use proper syntax in said drivel.

    such as:

    Roses are bright red.
    Violets are more purple.
    You are a moron.

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  132. Christine M.
    Sep 30, 2011 @ 20:04:31

    @Willene Harrogate-Springs: Do we know you?

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  133. Sunita
    Sep 30, 2011 @ 20:39:57

    @Christine M.: Oh yeah, we do. We’re not real big on sock-puppeting here.

    @Willene Harrogate-Springs: If you’re going to call people morons and term what they write drivel, use your standard DA name. And if you’re not willing to own what you write, don’t write it.

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  134. Christine M.
    Sep 30, 2011 @ 21:28:23

    @Sunita: Awww. That explains a lot. The comment was a too much on the troll side of the line for me, eg. I was piqued.

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  135. Jane
    Sep 30, 2011 @ 21:41:52

    @Willene Harrogate-Springs Actually according to wiki, haikus are characterized more by juxtaposition than actual sentences. The form of verse is the use of phrases. Thus I think a haiku that embodies the concept would be more like

    Insults are easy
    Rebutting arguments hard
    Dissed but not dismissed

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  136. Rebecca
    Sep 30, 2011 @ 21:47:08

    Ack, I think my comments keep going into the spam filter? :(

    ok maybe editing this one will make it stick!

    Historically accurate or not, rape/incest storylines involving main characters who are supposed to be sympathetic just don’t work for me. I loved the Game of Thrones TV show, but that incest storyline involved the villains, so I could tolerate it. I have book one in this series in my TBR and am not sure whether to read it or not now, but I think I’ll be avoiding book 2, because I just don’t enjoy reading stories with these themes.

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  137. meoskop
    Sep 30, 2011 @ 22:21:10

    Reviewing is not
    Unbiased. Jaiku ethics
    Unviolated.

    Dollanganger sibs
    Historically valid?
    Baby Jesus weeps.

    Assigned reading done,
    I lay and think of England
    for nary a book.

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  138. MaryK
    Sep 30, 2011 @ 22:54:33

    @meoskop:

    Assigned reading done,
    I lay and think of England
    for nary a book.

    That’s … kind of awesome. It should be on a shirt or something.

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  139. Janine
    Sep 30, 2011 @ 23:26:07

    @JessP: Thanks!

    Guess she is volunteering to be Jonnet

    @Jane: Ha! I don’t know if I could confine my opinions of a book to fourteen lines. But maybe if I’m really inspired I’ll do one sometime?

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  140. meoskop
    Sep 30, 2011 @ 23:55:19

    @MaryK: Kindle cover, that’s what I’m thinking.

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  141. MaryK
    Oct 01, 2011 @ 01:18:03

    @meoskop: I think it’ll be my new motto. I was just thinking earlier today that I’m about done feeling apologetic for reading Romance. The world is full of crap, and I’m tired of being told I have to read about it and like it.

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  142. Jia
    Oct 01, 2011 @ 06:31:39

    @Sunita: Yeah, I looked at the IP logs and started laughing when I saw who it actually was.

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  143. Patricia Patton
    Oct 01, 2011 @ 09:59:44

    I would find it helpful if somebody propounded some guidelines for online reviewers. Free speech is a constitutional right we all treasure (authors probably more than most) but writing is a significant part of my livelihood. If somebody is going to criticize my work–a useful, even helpful undertaking often–then I would like for them to do so responsibly. To me that means a) criticize the book for the genre it is (pretty sure we missed the mark here), b) mention positive and negative traits both (if the book has both, and I’m not sure we hit this wicket either) c) accurately characterize the plot and warn of spoilers (erm…) d) never, ever, ever indulge in ad hominem attacks on the author. This is just bullying, which the internet encourages by providing a large audience, anonymity, and no accountability.

    I’d be interested to know what others think makes for responsible reviewing. The flip side–if you’re an author, what are the standards of response, if you think responding is ever called for–also deserves discussion. This seems to be a taboo topic, which, for a bunch of good communicators, is unfortunate.

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  144. Janine
    Oct 01, 2011 @ 10:30:08

    @Patricia Patton:

    a) criticize the book for the genre it is (pretty sure we missed the mark here)

    Have you read the whole thread? It’s been made clear here that Jaiku was well aware of the genre.

    b) mention positive and negative traits both (if the book has both, and I’m not sure we hit this wicket either)

    Jaiku did this. Her original haiku contains the line “I love your writing and voice” and she reiterated that in the thread.

    c) accurately characterize the plot and warn of spoilers (erm…)

    Pretty hard to do the first in a haiku but I’d say that much of the plot was characterized nonetheless, which impresses the hell out of me. As for the second (spoiler warning), I’m guessing there wasn’t room for one in the haiku but perhaps it could have been put at the top of the page.

    d) never, ever, ever indulge in ad hominem attacks on the author. This is just bullying, which the internet encourages by providing a large audience, anonymity, and no accountability.

    Huh? Where do you see an ad hominem attack on the author? The author herself responded very graciously in comment #8 and from her response she doesn’t seem to me to consider this an ad hominem attack.

    You are way off base on all four of your points IMO.

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  145. LG
    Oct 01, 2011 @ 10:46:23

    @Janine: As far as the spoiler warning goes, even that isn’t a fair criticism of this review, because the review included a spoiler warning: “(Lots of spoilers ahead – beware!)” I saw it and chose to ignore it, but it seems not everyone noticed it. I don’t know, perhaps it should have been bolded?

    Personally, the only thing I didn’t like about this review was that the haiku format prevented the inclusion of as much detail as I would have liked. I felt like I got the bones of a review, but that’s it. It was still enough to prompt me to look up the review for the first book, though. I think the only Egypt-set book I’ve ever read was Eloise Jarvis McGraw’s Mara, Daughter of the Nile, so I’m interested in reading Lily of the Nile but wary of the cliffhanger since I’m unsure whether I’d want to read Song of the Nile.

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  146. Sirius
    Oct 01, 2011 @ 10:48:15

    @Janine: LOL and the first line of the review says; Lots of spoilers, beware. So yeah, way off base I agree.

    I am going to buy the first and second book now, LOVE historical fiction, even if it does not have romance. Do not look for books with incest, but absolutely do not mind it especially in historical context if it is warranted in the story.

    One thing I do agree with, IF as you said it was not made clear that Jaiku was not well aware that it was not romance.
    Personally and thats my personal preference and I am certainly not saying that anybody should change their reviewing style or anything like that, I find reviews of historical fiction, urban fantasy, etc from romance point of view not helpful for me in making a buying decision. I realise that issue was moot here, but Jane I think raised that point in the thread and unless the book is romance, I ignore the downgrading of the book for say having infidelity in it and decide for myself whether I want to buy the book based on the other points reviews mention. Again, let me stress – this is my own preference. Does not make me enjoy reviews any less, just right away makes me realize that I should go further in deciding whether to get the book or not. While if romance book is reviewed, I often decide whether to buy it or not on the strength of the review here alone.

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  147. Patricia Patton
    Oct 01, 2011 @ 10:56:11

    Janine, My apologies for being unclear: I’m not focusing on reviewing the review one way or another, but rather, asking if other people can chime in on whether these suggestions are a reasonable starting point for what makes a responsible review. It’s a touchy subject, and not one I see brought up very often. The whole business of how and if an author even responds to a review seems taboo.

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  148. Ridley
    Oct 01, 2011 @ 12:19:21

    @Patricia Patton:

    It’s a touchy subject, and not one I see brought up very often. The whole business of how and if an author even responds to a review seems taboo.

    This has been beaten to death at this point, so I don’t know how you missed the memo.

    Writing a book is personal. Publishing it is business.

    When I review a book, I’m telling other customers what I thought of it. A review is not a lit critique. The author doesn’t enter into it. I don’t worry about an author’s feelings are any more than I worried about Maytag’s when I wrote a review about the shitty new dishwasher I bought that didn’t drain all the way.

    I have no responsibilities to anyone. If an author reads customer reviews and gets sad, that’s her own damned problem. She should avoid reviews of her book in the future.

    If you charge money for something, you don’t get to dictate how customers react to it. Period.

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  149. Maili
    Oct 01, 2011 @ 12:29:49

    @Patricia Patton:

    I’d be interested to know what others think makes for responsible reviewing. The flip side–if you’re an author, what are the standards of response, if you think responding is ever called for–also deserves discussion. This seems to be a taboo topic, which, for a bunch of good communicators, is unfortunate.

    I’m wondering how you’ve somehow missed roughly 20 years’ worth of the Romance community’s online discussions about reviewing. It was even explored in Romantic Times magazine a couple of times, for goodness sake.

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  150. Sue t
    Oct 01, 2011 @ 12:32:40

    @Ridley:

    Succinct and right on the mark as always. :)

    The only responsibility a reviewer has is to be honest about the review – that’s it. They don’t have to take into account anything except whether they like/don’t like a book. Jaiku did that, all the DA reviewers do that. This is why I’ve been religiously following this blog for over five years. I may disagree with some of their reviews but they are always fair and never attack an author – just the story. And that is open territory.

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  151. Patricia Patton
    Oct 01, 2011 @ 12:37:25

    Ridley, Absolutely, publishing is business, and hurt feelings ought not to come into anybody’s consideration. When a reviewer can’t summarize my plot accurately, criticizes me for plot twists I did not write, confuses my characters with somebody else’s and then accuses me of buying favorable reviews, is this the kind of constructive addition to the marketplace that anybody wants to see encouraged? What would you advise an author to do in the face of such treatment, some of it coming from sources that would surprise you. I’m honestly asking, because “do nothing” just doesn’t seem like an honorable response.

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  152. Liz Mc2
    Oct 01, 2011 @ 12:41:55

    @Patricia Patton: If you pose a question about standards for responsible reviewing in the comment thread of a review, it’s not surprising that others would assume you think this review is irresponsible.

    Other than that, I have to second Ridley. There are endless discussions of standards for reviewing and how authors should respond (or not) all over the internet.

    Readers have always had opinions of books, and have expressed those opinions however they saw fit. Now the internet allows them (us) to express those opinions more publicly, and authors are more aware of them. I’m sure that’s tough on authors sometimes. But we readers are still free to say whatever we like about what we read; each reader has to decide for herself what her “responsibilities” and standards are.

    Readers of reviews are pretty smart, too. We can judge whether the review seems fair, whether the reviewer’s taste is similar to ours, and whether the review is thoughtful and detailed enough to be useful. Plenty of people said Jaiku’s review made them want to read Dray’s books, and there are comments like that all the time on negative reviews.

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  153. Ridley
    Oct 01, 2011 @ 12:49:14

    @Patricia Patton Ignore them. Everything gets a few wackadoo reviews. It’ll average out in the end. Give readers some credit for their ability to filter through reviews.

    They’re only glaring to you because it’s personal.

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  154. meoskop
    Oct 01, 2011 @ 13:01:10

    Once the cross was there
    I cared not for their wood need
    Climbing was all.

    Comments on review
    Quickly disavowed. Look not!
    Waving new issue.

    My pain, my words, me.
    My hand in air to be held!
    Strawmen rise and march.

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  155. Sirius
    Oct 01, 2011 @ 13:01:13

    @Ridley: I actually think that if reviewer gets facts wrong, author has every right to respond and correct the reviewer. In fact I would welcome such response, because for example if the reviewer tells me that in the book one main character rapes another main character (in romance) and thats what she hated, it is a fact that I will not buy such a book, even if everything else sounds interesting to me. If that is a mistake, it is a crucial fact for me to know, so yeah, as much as I cannot stand author arguing with the reviewer over the interpretation of her book, I want and welcome the correction of the facts. If I write a review and make a factual mistake, same thing, I want the author to correct me, and I will apologize, because I do not want the other readers to be misled by my review. This is however ONLY in relation to correction of the facts, everything else, no I do not think there need to be any reviewing guidelines, just please get your facts straight. My opinion of course.

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  156. Sirius
    Oct 01, 2011 @ 13:03:14

    @Sirius: Oh and to add, of course I think that readers should be trusted to filter through wakadoo reviews, except how is reader to know if the reviewer got their facts wrong if author is silent?

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  157. Sirius
    Oct 01, 2011 @ 13:05:21

    One last thing, looks like my other comment got into spam folder, so I apologise that it now looks repetitive to other comments.

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  158. Ridley
    Oct 01, 2011 @ 13:10:11

    @Sirius: I dunno. Maybe by comparing it to the other reviews? After all, who only reads one?

    Or, read the comments. 99% of the time, a fellow reader will correct the reviewer if it’s an important detail.

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  159. Meljean
    Oct 01, 2011 @ 13:10:47

    @Patricia Patton: If there’s an egregious error in a review (OMG, the hero raped a kitten!) then there’s no reason not to respond. But a small error, like the wrong name? Maybe that’s a criticism in itself, that the character wasn’t memorable enough for the name to stick. And what does it matter if someone mistakes the name, really? It doesn’t change their response to the book.

    I totally get this. It can be frustrating when a review seems like it took everything in your book and turned it around. Your response to that review might be an assumption that the reader didn’t read very carefully, and maybe you’re not wrong. Who knows? But it seems a dangerous assumption to make, because you can’t know what a reader brought to a book and how they read it.

    The books that writers think they write and the books that readers read are NOT always the same. I might think that my primary conflict is one thing, a reader might focus on something else or interpret it in a different way, and she won’t be wrong. I won’t be wrong, either. I would be wrong if I think I can expect/dictate/control how someone responds to my book.

    As to buying reviews, that just goes to show how little some readers understand how little money authors make. We don’t buy reviews — we just make up different e-mails and post them under different names, because it’s cheaper that way.

    (In case that’s not obvious, I joke. I get all of my good reviews out of pity.)

    In Romancelandia, authors suffer through review
    Sometimes the comments make us feel sad and blue
    “You fucked it up!
    Now suck it up!”
    So I tell myself only the positive reviews are true.

    :-D

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  160. Sirius
    Oct 01, 2011 @ 13:18:36

    @Ridley: Sure. If the correction already made by another reviewer it is easy, but it is not always true. I had an experience where I just bluntly told the reviewer that what she claimed was not true. I wonder how many readers figured that it was true and did not bother with the book. My point is that if author had done it misconception (yes, about rape) would have corrected earlier. As I said, I am not a fan of author arguing with the reader about *any* interpretation, period. But I see no problem with factual corrections, especially if facts are important.

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  161. Ridley
    Oct 01, 2011 @ 13:18:55

    @Meljean:

    As to buying reviews, that just goes to show how little some readers understand how little money authors make. We don’t buy reviews — we just make up different e-mails and post them under different names, because it’s cheaper that way.

    /coffee snarf

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  162. Maili
    Oct 01, 2011 @ 13:21:08

    @Sirius:

    Oh and to add, of course I think that readers should be trusted to filter through wakadoo reviews, except how is reader to know if the reviewer got their facts wrong if author is silent?

    Readers will and do step in if a reviewer gets a detail or two wrong. Believe me, readers generally aren’t passive where books and reviews are concerned.

    Also, I don’t know any reader who doesn’t read more than one review of a new-to-me author’s novel. They also tend to solicit opinions from readers (some are authors themselves).

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  163. Sirius
    Oct 01, 2011 @ 13:26:32

    @Maili: Yes, as I said to Ridley, sometimes, not always. My point is I will not be upset with the author if she corrects the reviewer getting facts wrong. I understand if somebody else will be upset with the other author over that, I see no harm in it and often would find it useful. Thats one reader’s opinion and as I said, that is just a small disagreement with you guys. I am NOT a fan of author arguing with the reviewer, but I am not a fan of reviewer getting major facts in the book wrong and not correcting it either. If other reviewer corrected him already, of course there is no need for author to respond again, but if there is no correction for some time, I am fine with author doing it.

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  164. Ridley
    Oct 01, 2011 @ 13:32:05

    @Sirius: In a perfect world, I’d agree with you. In reality, though, authors rarely stop themselves at correcting the facts. I think it’s safer for them and better for readers if authors just pretend reviews don’t exist.

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  165. Sirius
    Oct 01, 2011 @ 13:37:26

    @Ridley: Eh, we have to agree to disagree somewhat. I mean, if author indeed does not stop at facts correction, sure I agree. However, I do not agree that it is better for me as a reader to read a review with wrong facts, if of course no other reviewers stated anything to the contrary. I have had authors very politely correct me couple of times on couple of my minireviews on Amazon, so I do not agree that they always go further than correcting the facts either. We are mostly arguing small disagreement, really and having said that, I definitely think that in general it is much better for the authors to pretend that reviews do not exist.

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  166. Janine
    Oct 01, 2011 @ 13:50:08

    @LG: I had seen and forgotten about that but then I missed it when I went back to reread. Great point.

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  167. Maili
    Oct 01, 2011 @ 14:05:51

    @Sirius: Does it matter, though? A major mistake in a review reflects on reviewer, not author or her book. When a reviewer consistently gets book details wrong in her reviews, then her credibility is dead in the water for most readers.

    The problem is, though, what defines ‘mistake’ or ‘fact’? From what I see so far, authors tend to have an issue with a reviewer’s interpretation of a character, action, situation or historically supposed fact.

    Example: One reviewer had an issue with Laura Lee Guhrke’s portrayal of black women in American historical romance ‘Breathless’. She felt a certain situation in the story was historically implausible and graded the book accordingly. Guhrke objected to this. Of course, this sparked a huge flame war among readers and authors.

    But what was reviewer really objecting to? Plausibility, accuracy, Guhrke’s portrayal, or that it doesn’t jive with reviewer’s knowledge? And what Guhrke was objecting to? Reviewer’s statement (that it’s historically implausible), reviewer’s low grade, or an implication Guhrke didn’t do her homework?

    So I do feel every author has a right to step in if she believes it’d amend readers’ perspective of the review (not the book).

    But I strongly feel that in most cases, it’s better for authors to just leave it alone and let their books speak for themselves.

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  168. Janine
    Oct 01, 2011 @ 14:06:47

    @Patricia Patton: As others have said, there have been many discussions of this topic in the past. You can find the ones that took place here at DA at:

    http://dearauthor.com/tag/ethics-in-reviewing/

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  169. Janine
    Oct 01, 2011 @ 14:11:57

    @Meljean:

    The books that writers think they write and the books that readers read are NOT always the same. I might think that my primary conflict is one thing, a reader might focus on something else or interpret it in a different way, and she won’t be wrong. I won’t be wrong, either. I would be wrong if I think I can expect/dictate/control how someone responds to my book.

    This. It’s natural to want readers to get out of our writing what we feel we put into it but reading doesn’t work that way. Authors have to find a way to live with that, however difficult that may be. Multiple interpretations and views of the work are something that comes with the territory of being published.

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  170. MaryK
    Oct 01, 2011 @ 14:21:08

    @Meljean:

    We don’t buy reviews — we just make up different e-mails and post them under different names, because it’s cheaper that way.

    LOL And readers end up with twice as many wakadoo reviews to weed out. :D

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  171. Sirius
    Oct 01, 2011 @ 14:26:51

    @Maili:

    Does it matter, though? A major mistake in a review reflects on reviewer, not author or her book. When a reviewer consistently gets book details wrong in her reviews, then her credibility is dead in the water for most readers.

    The problem is, though, what defines ‘mistake’ or ‘fact’? From what I see so far, authors tend to have an issue with a reviewer’s interpretation of a character, action, situation or historically supposed fact.

    Sirius’ response:
    It does matter to me sometimes because there are certain issues in the books that I would like not to read about and I do not want other readers to be misled about it. Of course where mistake of fact veers somewhat in the interpretation I think it would serve author ten times better to ignore the review.

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  172. meoskop
    Oct 01, 2011 @ 16:40:59

    @Sirius: Breaking the whole haiku thing for a minute – I think it’s a false hypothetical being presented. Patton clearly DID make inferences about this review, and when called on them retreated to this so called “taboo topic” that’s generally been discussed to death. When called on THAT she then offered this hypothetical review saying –

    “When a reviewer can’t summarize my plot accurately, criticizes me for plot twists I did not write, confuses my characters with somebody else’s and then accuses me of buying favorable reviews, is this the kind of constructive addition to the marketplace that anybody wants to see encouraged?”

    It’s pretty far afield of where she started. It’s a real “When did you stop beating your wife” question, especially when posed in this sequence. The actual author of the actual book being reviewed showed how an author responds and she did it wonderfully. For me, Patton has shown how an author can damage her brand via participation – ironically in a thread that did not negatively review her.

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  173. Jane
    Oct 01, 2011 @ 17:45:51

    @Sirius Sorry. The spam filter is going crazy for the comments in this thread.

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  174. Sirius
    Oct 01, 2011 @ 17:51:11

    @meoskop: Hi, I was solely responding to her hypothetical, I completely agree that her first post read to me as referencing this review.

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  175. Sirius
    Oct 01, 2011 @ 17:53:57

    @Jane: No problem and now I have to go and clarify my double negative in that post lol.

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  176. Sirius
    Oct 01, 2011 @ 17:55:49

    @Sirius: Sooooo, this was supposed to say:

    “One thing I do agree with, had it not already been made very clear that Jaiku was well aware that it was not romance.”

    Shakes head at myself.

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  177. Jennifer
    Oct 03, 2011 @ 13:41:46

    Someone recently posted a question to a librarians’ listserv for suggestions of websites with objective reviews.

    The best answer, from Todd Mason:

    What is an “objective” book review? “This has 250 pp. It has hardcovers.”

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  178. Janine
    Oct 03, 2011 @ 21:11:44

    @Jennifer: LOL! Too true!

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  179. Edith
    Mar 06, 2012 @ 21:01:46

    I’ve actually never read this whole book, but I’ve read a sample and many reviews, and the only part I hate is that, why’d she have to go and make Juba suck so horribly? I hate his portrayal in this book. He and Selene were known to have a relatively stable marriage, and they had at least a very good relationship. I’m sorry, but Steph just turned him into a Grade A jerkface. It’s not cool.

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  180. Moriah Jovan
    Mar 06, 2012 @ 21:04:53

    @Edith: Awww, I didn’t think so at all. I thought he was sad and lonely and didn’t know what to do to please her so he bailed. (And she was rather a spoiled brat to him, too.) I haven’t read the next book in the series yet, but IIRC, in that book, Selene and Juba do get their heads on straight.

    ReplyReply

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