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Thursday, March 3rd 2005

5:26 PM

The winner!

In my opinion, reviews are not like hard news stories -- or even editorials. The writer doesn’t hide any emotions or biases; he celebrates them. The best reviewer is open about her perspective. We are reminded that a single person, with his unique history and set of standards, is interacting with the book. Years ago, The New Yorker’s Pauline Kael set the standard for reviews that gave a face to the writer -- an individual’s flavor to the examination.


Yes, these might be more self-involved pieces, yet they are the only honest ones. When someone evaluates her reaction to a book, she does a disservice to her readers and the book when she attempts to hide her own possible biases.  If he presents himself as some sort of arbiter of Truth, instead of an ordinary grubby human like the rest of us, the reviewer gains a false authority that should be held only by original works and not commentary on them.


Since this is not like the rest of the world -- my opinion actually matters for once -- I have to give Alyssa the prize. I must say the other reviewers are very good and are all clear in justifying their positions. To simply state a position with no evidence to back it up is a crime that should be punished, perhaps with sharpened pencils up the fingernails. (I will look for evidence that this is a truly criminal act later.)  Alyssa wins because she follows the strongest criterion I established for myself.

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Monday, February 7th 2005

2:15 PM

A few More RULES

 The blog owner will remove any entries she feels are not acceptable to a standard of reviewing* (NO ad hominem attacks will be tolerated. Even the really funny ones. We want to see reviews of books, not writers -- directly.)

* if someone has a standard of reviewing manual, I'd love to see it. The blog owner has read enough to feel qualified, but she is open to advice and conversation.


  RULES might change without notice. The blog owner is new to this.


  Remember this contest is supposed to be fun and provide good reading, not a promotional opportunity. [If the blog owner can't put her name in all over the place, neither can you] Don't just submit a review because it makes your book look good.  It has to be a GOOD REVIEW as in WELL-WRITTEN.


  Reviews should be 1,000 words or fewer.

  IF the review is longer than 300 words, you'll have to email it to me.  Here's how: Go to the tagboard on the right side. Click on the TBO. It should open an email screen.

  IF the review has appeared online, please give us the URL where we can find it!


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Monday, February 7th 2005

5:00 AM

Review of Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons

Engel Cox
posted at Amazon.com Through the late 1900s and into the 20th century, English novelists were full of woeful tales chronicling the sad fall of gentry from affluence to poverty. Stories like Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice joined the work of Charlotte and Emily Bronte, entertaining the turn of the century reader with these melodramatic tales. By the 1920s, when some had thought this trend had passed, it moved into another phase, with pulp paperbacks filled with lurid descriptions and the purplish prose imaginable. Stella Gibbons in 1932 attempted an emergency rescue, and succeeded wonderfully with her novel, Cold Comfort Farm, recently re-released to coincide with a new movie version by director John Schlesinger.

Flora Poste is the recently orphaned waif who finds it necessary to impose herself on some body of relatives. Her meager inheritance of 100 pounds a year is not enough "keep you in stockings and fans," as her good friend Mrs. Smiling remarks. She writes to several distant family members and receives three replies. Most of them are appaling, except for the one from her cousin Judith Starkadder, which is, at least, interesting and appaling. She writes back and accepts the offer of boarding from Cold Comfort Farm, to find out what "rights" she has that cousin Judith mysteriously refers to. Her arrival at Cold Comfort begins a warming trend that ends up firing up every Starkadder in sight, including: Amos, the hellfire-and-brimstone owner of the farm and preacher to the Quivering Brethern; Reuben, his son and would-be caretaker of Cold Comfort; Seth, the hunk-a-hunk-a burning love that has terrorized the female countriside, to his mother's extreme shame; the flighty Elfine, who whisks around in ethereal garments quoting her own poetry; and the matriarch who rules Cold Comfort Farm with a iron fist, Aunt Ada Doom, who saw something "nasty in the woodshed" when she was a little girl, and who hasn't left Cold Comfort Farm since.

Gibbons is artfully playing on the conventions of the melodrama, and it helps the reader to be familiar with the work of Thomas Hardy or Jane Austen to fully appreciate some of the playful work here. Without this meta-nature, Cold Comfort Farm would be amusing, but not nearly as effective. For modern readers, this is one novel that has weathered the intervening sixty years well, due in some part to Gibbons deft touch with her satire, but also her clear, readable style when not trying to out-purple the purple prose-wizards of the melodramas.

This is the perfect novel for those book-weary high-school students still suffering under the weighty tomes of "literature" that is force-fed to them by our assembly-factory education system. A good dose of parody, a kind of 1930s National Lampoon, should help them feel better about books, and literature in general.

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Monday, February 7th 2005

12:00 AM


Most congenial "this book sucks" review:

romanticafanatic writes ""Between the Sheets" by Meg Bellamy
Triskelion Publishing
Amethyst Inferno/ contemporary
ISBN# 1-932866-49-3
Pricing: $4.99
2 stars

After a 4-year hiatus, Courtney Clayton is back in action and she wants to change her teenage idol, pop singer status to full-grown woman pop singer.

Dylan, a 28-year-old movie critic, is asked by his good friend, Courtney’s new hotshot producer, to listen to and critique Courtney’s not yet released CD. Dylan thinks she has a great voice but he doesn’t think her voice has the life experience quality that it takes to sing the romantic songs she put on the CD.

When Dylan dares to tell Courtney that she isn’t grown up enough to sing romantic songs she feels challenged and insists on convincing him that she has grown up, and that she is definitely woman enough to sing any song. She’s even willing to “suffer for her work” and have sex with him just to get him to change his mind. Dylan can’t help the attraction he feels for Courtney and “allows” her to seduce him, and after one incredible night spent in each other’s arms he thinks that he may have been a little hasty in saying she wasn’t mature enough. But now, Courtney realizes that Dylan was right all along, and now she knows she has to re-record the songs.

I think the author did well with descriptive scenes and plot building, however I think the story line and characters are very immature. Right from the beginning Courtney is spoiled-rotten, petulant, and immature and it shows when she thinks that after one bout of great sex with Dylan her tone of voice will reflect her newfound sexual maturity. I won’t even tell you what I think of a 28-year-old “man” who thinks sexual experience makes a woman mature enough to sing romantic songs. I think this story line could be appealing to a very young age group (i.e. teenage Britney Spears fans), however due to the graphic sex scenes I could not recommend it for anyone under the age of 18. Unfortunately I don’t think this story line will be appealing to most mature readers.

-- submitted by Mrs. H.

An entry for Most Convincing (either to read or not read a book) from Amazon reviewer J. Mullally "CBDB".  It certainly convinced me not to read. This is absolutely the worst book I have ever read. The writing is like that of a two year old, the character's motivations as well. Nothing rings true, not even the anger or desire for revenge. It devalues the experience of every single woman who has ever been raped, and also every woman who has lost a child to a hit and run driver. This isn't entertainment on any level, and there is certainly nothing morally uplifting about this overwrought tripe.
The woman in question who is raped is not only raped, she is raped and sodomized in front of her husband who is handicapped and can't help her. Talk about laying on the sensationalism with a trowel.

I am appalled that this book was published, even more shocked to see that it is part of a series-apparently a seven book series. This book was brief enough, printed in large print, I doubt it was even 50,00 words, but however many it was, it was way too many for me. It was predictable, overwrought, and just shows that publishers will do anything for sensationalism, and for new 'product', a book with a prominent writers name on it. And this author has the gall to think she has invented a new genre, 'the man in peril'.I think everyone offended by this book should complain to the publisher, and perhaps the rest of these extremely offensive series will be confined to the trash heap.


How they can surgically castrate the three men, leave their testicles in plastic bags, and then find it FUNNY when the men turn up at a doctor's office (not the hospital?) to ask to have them put back, is just too sick for words. And the doctor's secretary selling the story to the tabloids for $50000 is even more sick. Avoid this loser of a series if you have any taste or sense.

-- submitted by C Vowels.

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Sunday, February 6th 2005

4:39 PM

THESE are not winners. . . [just entertaining space fillers]

Thanks to Jen Erik.

A few reviews to entertain you

some reviewers who are presumably too dead to win:
'The only consolation which we have in reflecting upon it is that it will never be generally read' - James Lorimer reviewing Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte, 1847
'This is a book of the season only'- New York Herald Tribune on The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
'Sentimental rubbish ...Show me one page that containd an idea' - Odessa Courier on Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy, 1877

(Quotes from The Return of Heroic Failures by Stephen Pile

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