Occupation: Girl

Please close the door and switch on the fun without fail.

I wish I could "like" this. It's insightful and something we can all learn from. (I have a small book review column at my college paper.)

That is maybe the one Facebook-related feature I actually would like LJ to add.

Your reviews have enabled me to enjoy things I would have shunned outright, and given me the ability to politely converse with fans, and bring up the points I disagree in a calm manner if the situation is appropriate.

Plus, you bring laughter into the world of a girl with crippling mental illnesses.

There is a reason that I middle-named Mommas cat after you.

Edited at 2011-03-03 05:59 pm (UTC)

^this, so much. Save for the crippling mental illnesses and the cat. :)

I find the "this is so baaad and everyone who likes it is so duuuumb" style of reviewing really unappealing, and I've always thought you neatly avoided that. Your approach has always struck me as quite gentle and empathetic, really. It seems weird that that one writer apparently uses your name as a shorthand for vicious mockery. Strange.

This exactly. Cleolinda's reviews made it okay to read the books, go WTF at the books and still be able to enjoy what was salvageable, and have a good laugh along the way.

I don't think calling people who like a particular set of books dumb is productive to anything and it certainly won't provoke any sort of discussion other then trolling and "OMG YOU'RE SO COOL" responses, so yeah, I don't much get those sort of reviews either.

Speaking as a book reviewer, this is absolutely gold. Agree with you 100%

I have followed you since way before the M15M book was published and I've always thought you were hilarious without denigrating the work of the authors you review or their fans. I especially love your Twilight reviews which are, IMHO, a lot kinder than some of the others out there.

I don't think being a blogger should preclude you from being a writer and getting namedropped in that review, to me, seemed out of context for what you do. Keep doing what you're doing and I, at least, will keep following.

I have followed you since way before the M15M book was published and I've always thought you were hilarious without denigrating the work of the authors you review or their fans.

This, exactly.

Well, yes. In fact, hell yes.

So on and so forth ad infinitum, and then someone divides by zero and the universe collapses in on itself.

I LOL'd. Shared on FB; hope that's okay.

This Mafia thing has got to stop. It is absurd. I got my name dragged into at one point because of hubby and my editorial street cred.

Yes, I do know a lot of authors and editors but that happens when you work in the publishing industry.

Some people see ghosts in every corner. Others tell themselves that the reason they can't get published is because of the ___________ Mafia is keep them out rather than looking at their work with a more critical eye.

You know, I understand the paranoia in general, when you either haven't been able to get published or you're afraid you won't, and you see that all these people are friends, and you start to feel anxious or insecure. I mean, I feel that way sometimes, too. But I'm also aware that that's my fear and not actual fact, that there are not people saying, "Well, Publisher, I know you think this is a great manuscript and will make money, but this writer was MEAN TO ME ON THE INTERNET." "Oh, well then, SHUNNNNN!"

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I think I might have seen that one (or another like it, sadly). Again--reviews are readers speaking to readers. You don't have to be a professional to know whether you liked a book or not.

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Reviews are not for authors.

YES. OMG. YES. I have actually found it fairly dispiriting how many creators-of-works don't grasp this. Thank you for stating it so perfectly and succinctly. I've never been all that interested in hearing a creator defend/deconstruct their own work after the fact (other than in the internet-trainwreck-hilarity way, which I'm sure makes me mean but whatever), and that is not what reviews are for. I just want to know what it's about and whether I might enjoy it. That's what reviews are for.


This is brilliantly written and incredibly apt, and not just for the YA community, either--I'm part of the slam poetry community (I know, I know, don't say fucking def jam to me or I'll e-smack you) and this carries over there as well in interesting ways.)

I think we had a quick Twitter-chat about this as well, Cleo, and I agreed with you then and I agree with you now. It's very, very hard for artists to NOT take reviews of their art seriously, because art is so personal, and writing especially so, but the answer is never, ever to go crazy and lash out and retaliate.

More importantly--and I say this as a person who spent a LOT of time in shitty college writing workshops--you can ignore critique. You can take it into consideration, or you can ignore it. There was this girl who I ended up having two workshops with and she and I were completely different in our writing, and neither of us really liked the other, and eventually I realized that we were just interested in different things and never going to really help each other creatively, and that was okay. "I don't like it" doesn't mean "it's bad" or "it's not art," it just means "I didn't like it."

Yeah--so as you saw, I'd been meaning to write this up for a while. "YA Mafia" was just the point where I couldn't put it off anymore.

Honestly, I didn't learn to write better in writing workshops so much as learn how to give critique. I learned to write better from... discussing, reviewing, and recapping books here.

"A cinematic vampire"? Hey, break out the teeth!

More seriously -- good post.

a) Yes, writers and editors as co-workers. Good way of conceptualizing it. That'll still make some people on the outside bitter, but they'll be bitter no matter what.

b) You're snarky, but you're not vicious. (The "baiting" part, I think is just poor word choice.)

c) There are occasional discussions of "Should book reviews only be positive?" in various parts of the internets. I don't think only-positive reviews are /ever/ very useful, but it's much easier with reviewing gigs that are anonymous (or at least theoretically so).

As someone who (used to) blog about books a little bit, and who has various authors on her flist, I did think about what I was saying and how I wanted to say it. It's not a crime, it's just a fact.

And yeah, a choice.

Edit: And d) as I meant to say originally, yes indeed, reviews (be they formal ones or not) are not meant for the author. It's a response to what the author put out there. It can be a conversation with the author, potentially, /at a remove/, but the review itself is not a forum for that.

Edited at 2011-03-03 06:33 pm (UTC)

I really don't understand the "Book reviews SHOULD only be positive" stance, unless it's coming from writers (who would obviously benefit from it). That's like... well, guess we can't review half (or more) of all the books in the world, then. There's a line between "Don't post it if it isn't positive" and "You have to post the review (because that's what your site does) AND it has to be positive" that's too thin for me. What next, just have the authors ghostwrite the reviews?

As another poster pointed out, I'd never have known anything about Twilight beyond OMGWTFHORRORHORRORBADLITERARYTOUCH if not for your blog, which means Stephenie Meyer and Summit have, indirectly, profited by the $19 or so I spent to rent the movies on DVD only because of you.

What I take away from this is that there are still people who regarding the Internet as a bad place full of unchecked amateur shenanigans rather than a maturing medium for networking and discovery - rather to their detriment, in my opinion - and that haters, as ever, gotta hate.

I love your work and it is one of my Happy Places. Thank you for sharing it with me and everyone else.

I actually enjoy the films you wrote about in your book MORE because of the humour you brought to them. That doesn't seem like "baiting" to me. I feel like what you do actually makes a good complement to the film, because I may or may not have enjoyed the film on first seeing it, but I enjoy your writing, and then I bring that back with me when I'm re-watching the film.

"Baiting" seems much more provocative and reductive to me. It's not my experience of reading your book.

You are an amazingly insightful, brilliantly hilarious writer and that person clearly didn't get you.

Well put. Everything you've said here makes perfect sense, and it points to a larger trend regarding the interwebs. Basically, people go online and common sense flies out the window and then Miss Cleo facepalms. My motto in life is "just because you can doesn't mean you should" and I think about it every time I'm about to post anything on the internet, whether it's on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, LJ, etc...

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About the original comment... it also just strikes me as possibly an illustration of certain divisions of perception, which we run into all the time whether it's between fans, or between fans and professionals, or between professionals.

First, of course, there's the possibility that it's an age thing. Just as the older reviewers tended to be the ones not to like the M15M book, and to categorize it as (what we are guessing they mean to be) "college humor", perhaps the person who came up with the "Cleolinda style snark-baiting" description is one of those people for whom a writing style with any whiff of that form of humor throws up a wall that they can't get past (to see that there is some thoughtfulness or generosity present as well). Which leads me into...

Second, we ALL know (or know of, or have run across/afoul of) people who consider any criticism or disagreement, no matter how civilly written, no matter how helpful in intention on the part of the writer, as "flaming". I don't think that is limited by age or experience. Some folks just seem to have that outlook and there's nothing you can do about it. Nothing you can write will NOT receive that reaction from them, unless what you write is unfailingly positive, if not outright cheerleading.

So that writer's decision to classify you that way may not have a lot to do with how you actually write. It may have more to do with that writer's own idiosyncratic reactions to humor and criticism.

... But even just realizing that that's going to happen is valuable for people who are contemplating the choices you go on to outline. Choosing what to write, or choosing to write at all, isn't just about, "do I want to be honest here, and damn the consequences?" It's also about understanding and making peace with the fact that what you write WILL be taken the wrong way by someone. You'll possibly be judged not just for what you have written, but what someone else THINKS you have written (even if you think it doesn't very much resemble what you think you have written). Worse, you'll possibly be judged by someone (maybe someone important) purely on the basis of a second-hand and maybe unfair summary of what your writing really is.

Second, we ALL know (or know of, or have run across/afoul of) people who consider any criticism or disagreement, no matter how civilly written, no matter how helpful in intention on the part of the writer, as "flaming".

one of my husband's good friends is like this. he once got all offended because a security guard at a mall (which was closed at the time-because we had gone to a late movie but parked on the opposite side of the mall) asked us where we were headed ("to our car by panera") and then let us go on our way.

he seriously would not stop talking about it. like DUDE he was doing his job! STFU


teal, deer
I see what you did there.

If cleo ends up sticking with teal, I swear I want a TEAL DEER MASCOT for this journal.

To expand on my typo-ridden tweets:

That was me, and I'm sorry. I can see how that comment could have hurt, and it wasn't my intent.

In talking about reviews with authors, I've heard a lot of authors talk about how they're scared of "Cleolinda-style" reviewers (as I said in my tweets, The Sparkle Project is another project I absolutely adore that's been talked about in these terms), because they seem to believe they're some kind of incitement for readers to step in and start mocking authors, even if people haven't read the books in question(hence my using the term "snarkbait"). I don't think, and have never thought, that this was your intent, or that your reviews aren't thoughtful. Because frankly, I love them. They've made me think about YA more deeply.

But so many writers seem to think there are two kinds of reviewers: those who demure from sharper, more cutting criticism and say things like, "It wasn't for me, but . . ." and those who go whole-hog. The girl I know who shut down her blog was definitely the former. It still wouldn't have been right if she was the latter, though.

The irony is that, in all this talk about seeing reviewers/authors as people, I forgot that you were one, too, and used your name as a sort of straw man to represent a certain type of reviewer, and that was unfair, and wrong, and I'm really sorry about that.

Though I have to say it kind of cracks me up to hear all of these guesses at the type of person I am through a few cobbled together words posted to livejournal late at night. Really! I love humor! Yooou guys, seriously!

Ah well. Can't impact public perceptions.

Reviews are not for authors.

Thank you. Also, if I may bring up a personal opinion, all reviews are not for all readers. Each reviewer has particular tastes. For me, as a reader, the key to finding useful reviews is to find reviewers who not only intelligently engage the material, but whose tastes more or less parallel mine. Richard Roeper's opinions on film, frex, so rarely match mine that I almost never read him; on the other hand, I put a lot of stock in James Berardinelli's comments, because he seems to see and enjoy (or despise) many of the same things I do in a movie. Which doesn't mean that Berardinelli is a better film critic than Roeper; it just means his reviews are more helpful to me in figuring out which ticket to purchase to the Saturday matinee.

Well, I'm that way with Roger Ebert. I love his writing and his enthusiasm, but I also know that if it's an action movie with a busty chick, he's going to love it, and I might not. And there's other things I like that he's not going to. But I still enjoying reading his reviews whether we agree or not, because I like his voice as a reviewer.

you can have it different ways, but you can't always have it both ways.

This is a *wonderful* observation.

Heh, thanks. I think I wanted to get across that you don't have to make a black/white choice between publishing and blogging. But you are going to have to make some choices as you get into grey areas.

I have to say, I've always found your reviews thoughtful, never malicious, and I think that's what separates you from reviewers who are just "I HATE THIS BOOK." You've always stated why a certain aspect doesn't work for you and it's always done in a humorous way.

And I totally agree with your first point that reviews are not for authors. I always get secondhand embarrassment when an author goes to defend themselves on a blog or Amazon. As a writer, I know not I'm not going to win over everyone, and I can't imagine trolling the internet for those negative reviews. (Mostly because I hate conflict.)

I think it comes down to respect--both as a reviewer reviewing another person's book and as an author recognizing that everyone has a right to their opinion.

Good post (as usual). You are so right about book reviews to be for the potential reader and not the author. "Baiting" was an odd and unfortunately word choice, as anyone who's actually read your reviews would know that you don't troll. In fact, the very idea of you being picked as a posterchild for baiting is kind of hilarious, given some of the vitriol I've read about Twilight and its fans.

Funny that you should post this today, as my most recent post is also about reviewing books, though from the other side of the table (as in, I've never tried to hire an agent or get published).


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