Thursday, October 22, 2009

two for the price of one

Julie and Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously Julie and Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously by Julie Powell

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I watched the movie first, and this is one of those rare occasions where I'm really glad I did it in that order. I knew going in what to expect, which was not a book about cooking, but a humorous navel-gazing book about finding a passion and sticking to it. I wish there had been more about Julia Child, but that's really my only complaint. Sure, Julie does some things that are deplorable - most times, I felt awful for her husband, and sometimes, I really didn't like the author and would have loved to say a few things back to her, but overall, this book made me laugh more than it made me cringe, and even the cringes were worth it.

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Her Fearful Symmetry Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
If you read Time Traveler's Wife, think about all of the bits that tore you apart inside. Don't think about the romance, though that was wonderful - think about the miscarriages, the loss, the parts that made you want to cry. Amplify those gut wrenching bits from 40% of the book to 70%, replace a time traveling husband with ghosts, twins, a cemetery, and an incredibly screwed up family, and you'll come close to Her Fearful Symmetry.Note - if you take a drink every time you read the word "Victorian" in the first 20 pages, you'll have to pick the book up days later after you've sobered. Otherwise, this was the most satisfying book I've read in a very long time. And every character gets exactly what she deserves.

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Thursday, October 8, 2009


If I had a soap box and a loudspeaker, I'd be on them. This is the next best thing.

Again, from the lovely Janet Reid: "Now the reason the proposed FTC reg changes are important for you is that if these go into effect, there's a $1000 fine for violations. That means that if I take down that rather snotty FTC notice on the right side of my blog, and I mention a couple books here I received for free, and do so because the author asked me too, I could be asking for donations to help pay the fine.
"You don't need those powerful imaginations of yours to work too hard to see what kind of chilling effect that could have on one of the most powerful weapons for visibility authors now have: word of mouth via the internet."

And this, from author Courtney Milan: "Book bloggers can avoid the FTC regulation by disclosing any and all relationships. Authors cannot.(...)What can I do to avoid liability? The FTC explains that I can police the relationship by asking bloggers to disclose, or I can tell them to edit their reviews. In other words, the only way I can avoid liability is to tell book bloggers what to write."

Also from Courtney, a very interesting look at what mandatory disclosure means, especially for blogs written anonymously.
I hadn't made this connection before. Many publishing blogs are written anonymously, for myriad reasons, up to and including not wanting their blog followers to take any rejections from them personally. Some are by editors, who never talk about the books that they've worked on for obvious reasons, but have input, both positive and negative, on what they've read. Some of the best books I've read recently have come from recommendations on these blogs. I wouldn't have heard of them otherwise. Sure, I might have seen them in the bookstore, but I wouldn't have known to go looking for them. I know that these blog writers might have been given the books as ARC's - that's generally how publishing works - houses release ARC's into the wild, hoping to get word of mouth going, but with no expected control over what's actually said.
And that's the key here. There is no expected control. ARC's do not equal a bought and paid for good review. If I'm reading on the internet, I don't expect a completely unbiased view. I expect opinion. That's all blogs are. Opinion.
Putting out a rule that you can't write about anything without completely disclosing all of your connections would effectively be a gag order to the likes of Ms. Snark, Moonrat, and countless other anonymous bloggers who provide amazingly valuable insights to writers and readers.

And this isn't just about books, though that's what affects me the most personally, so that's where my focus is right now. It also affects celebrity endorsements. Is that *Total Gym not working for you? As of Dec 1st, if they play that ad with Chuck Norris endorsing it, you can sue him directly for not getting the same results. I don't know if you'd win, or how enforceable these "guidelines" will be, or even what sort of jurisdiction they have, but it's there.

Sure, anonymity can be annoying. I hate reading flaming comments signed off by "anonymous," but it is completely their right to do it. One more quote for you, again from Courtney Milan: "Under the First Amendment, we protect people who voice unpopular opinions from disclosing their identity. We think the opinions they have to share are more important than the value the public gets from the disclosure. And it is this that makes me quail from the FTC guidelines: The disclosure the FTC seeks, in some cases, requires a person to leave a trail of informational breadcrumbs leading to her identity, as a precondition for engaging in speech that is both politically and culturally valuable."

*I sold Total Gym about 5 years ago. I should say attempted to sell. I wasn't very good at it, but I'm sure I sold at least one.