thefourthvine: Girl in pajamas with laptop. (I sleep with computers.)
Keep Hoping Machine Running ([personal profile] thefourthvine) wrote2015-03-29 11:30 pm

Goodreads and Me: Not a Love Story

I read Brenna Clarke Grey's post on why she quit Goodreads and decided to write up my own recent unfun experience there. (I haven't quit the site, but I'm on hiatus from it. Again.)

In January 2015 I was hungry for fiction and had run through my friends' recommendations, so I started looking through Goodreads. I found a book called Flight of the Silvers, by Daniel Price. The reviews were largely positive and the summary seemed interesting. I downloaded a sample and decided it was engaging enough to buy.

Trouble began shortly thereafter. At the 20% mark, I knew this book and I would never be friends. The story wasn't right for me for many reasons, ranging from Science Doesn't WORK That Way to These Women Are Like No Human I've Ever Known to Please Stop Using That Word Please Stop PLEASE JUST STOP. The pacing fell off as the author tried to manage more characters and a more divided plot than he knew how to handle. There were long chunks of text that desperately needed editing. And I was frustrated by the fact that one of the characters, Hannah, was described pretty much only by her boobs. Her characterization could be summarized as "the attractive one with the giant hooters." Her plot role was "the mobile boobs that everyone either admires or is jealous of." The obsession with her breasts was like a dripping tap: ignorable right up until it becomes all you can think about it. I read distractedly, waiting grimly for the next mention of Hannah and Her Boobs. (As there were typically multiple mentions per page in any section she was in, it was never a long wait.)

From 25% on, my notes in the ebook consist of:
  1. Increasingly sarcastic comments on some of the mentions of Hannah's boobs (they come too often to note all of them).
  2. Complaints about overuse of the word "shined." (Three months after reading the book, I'm still flinching when I see it. It was really overused.)
  3. Lengthy strings of question marks after some of the seriously, um, interesting word choices in the book. (After a while, I started to slip some exclamation points in these, too.)
Here's an example. At one point, one of the characters describes a pseudoscience substance as "both airy and dense." A male character (one of the good guys, of course; misogyny is a noted good guy trait) responds, "Huh. Just like Hannah." The next part, a direct quote: "More people laughed as the actress irreverently narrowed her eyes at Zack. He shined a preening smirk." Okay, so I think we can see that this is, just in general, really bad writing (he shined a preening smirk?), but what the hell is irreverently doing in that sentence? It makes no sense. My note on this one: "????? wtf wtf wtf EW also shined NO." As you can probably tell, the book was getting to me.

We all know how this goes. The bad writing distracted me from the, you know, actual story. (I probably missed a lot of it, which is what bad writing does: it gets between you and what the writer is trying to convey.) The pacing, already flawed, entirely stopped carrying me. I reached the point where I was looking for things to do instead of reading, which is weird for me. I'd read a page, spend five minutes on twitter, and come back and realize I had no memory of what I'd read, also very weird for me.

I should have walked away. I didn't.

When I was done (so very done) with the book, I went to Goodreads and reviewed it. I have to either adore or truly despise a book to churn out a 3000-word review of it. Flight of the Silvers didn't seem worth that, so instead of detailing all my problems with it, I wrote a description of what reading it felt like to me. The word "boobs" is featured very heavily. And that was it. Two people read my review, I think. No one really pays attention to that stuff.

All of this is textbook standard reader behavior. I bought a book, I read it, I didn't like it, I complained about it to my friends. And that should have been the end of it.

Except. Then Daniel Price read my review. And he got mad, which is totally understandable; someone slamming your work is always tough to swallow. (I'm going to guess that most authors know better than to read one-star reviews for this reason.) And then he decided to respond, which was probably not the best choice he could have made. His response makes me so embarrassed on his behalf that I've never read it all the way through; I get maybe a quarter of the way through skimming it and my brain just shuts down. But, basically, as far as I can tell, he was trying to be funny. He missed that mark for me, but maybe that was because I was, you know, writhing in secondhand embarrassment. Or maybe that's because I was his target rather than his audience. Hard to say.

And then a few of his fans got involved, which was inevitable -- they love his work, they saw him doing this, they assumed it was okay. (Guess how many comments it took before someone accused me of being his ex-girlfriend. GUESS.) He also started complaining about me on Twitter, which encouraged more of his followers to comment angrily on my review.

In response, I did a Dumb Thing (because not responding is the only way to deal with this stuff) and complained about this situation on Twitter myself, which meant that my friends started reading my review and Price's response. (This is how my review ended up the first one on the book's page on Goodreads. Authors, if you're looking for motivation not to get into it with a reviewer, there's a point to consider.) My friends also started searching through the other reviews. And noticing stuff. Several of them pointed out that while other reviewers complained about the boob fixation, Price only got publically mad at the lady who did. This may not be a coincidence.

The commenters on my review got personally insulting (remember, folks, it's not that you disagree with the reviewer, it's that the reviewer is a terrible person and a troll or simply a bitch) and kind of gross. I stopped visiting the page, which kept me from getting notifications about further comments. My friends kept on following them, though, so I got occasional updates on the situation. It apparently took Price a week or two to stop complaining about me on Twitter. (Or, I guess, for my friends to stop looking.) It took longer before his fans stopped insulting me on Goodreads. (If they ever have.)

And here's the thing: this is, by itself, a minor incident. But it isn't fun. It isn't how I want to interact with a community, or something I want to deal with. And I realized that using Goodreads meant accepting a chance of this kind of bullshit every time I posted a less than five-star review. There is a lot I like about Goodreads, but I am not that invested in reviewing in that space, not enough that it's actually worth being harassed by an author and his fans. So I finished my self-assigned challenge (rate the first 24 books I read this year) in February and started avoiding Goodreads again. I'll maybe try again next year. Who can say?

Is there a way to avoid this? I don't know. But Goodreads doesn't seem interested in trying. And, in the end, this part of the internet isn't important enough to me to wade through the sewage.

Wanted: a mostly sewageless place to review and discuss books.

(Also wanted, always wanted: recommendations for great books you've read lately.)
ratcreature: reading RatCreature (reading)

[personal profile] ratcreature 2015-03-30 07:50 am (UTC)(link)
I usually use Goodreads only non-socially, just to track my book collection and reading. I never write reviews, or actually I almost never, because I have written reviews six times so far always when a book really annoyed me and I just had to share my complaints. So far I never got any reaction.

Three of them are about German books though and the only reviews on them, so apparently nobody cares about these on the site. Like in one I complained that a YA series which started out as one of the things teaching kids about important historical momements through regular people living then suddenly included bizarre paranormal elements, another was about racism (the thing was a historical mystery set around 1900 and I like the series for being set in my city and talking about architecture and city development a lot because the writer is an art historian, and the period typical colonialist racism by the characters is one thing, but in one installment the killer's motivation turns out to be that New Guinea cannibals ate his wife, not that just that a deluded person believes that to have happened, and the people's name the author used are one of these famous for not having had contact with Westeners until the 1970, so it was very wtf even on top of the inherently problematic cannibalism trope). ETA: Actually checking on my examples it turns out both have another more positive three star review and a handful of people just rated them so it's not true that nobody else bothered, just that the authors aren't on the site and there's no following.
Edited 2015-03-30 08:03 (UTC)
renay: Pink pony with brown hair and wings on a yellow background bucking hind legs in the air. (Default)

[personal profile] renay 2015-03-30 09:26 am (UTC)(link)
I've reviewed several books there in the past and had to delete my review completely (and the book from my shelves), wait a few weeks, and readd the book, sans review. With some authors (and it was always men with me) it seems like they feel like since it's not "your space" they have the right to comment because Goodreads is "shared" space, unlike a blog review. Goodreads has not handled the breakdown between author/reader very well and most of their efforts to discourage this behavior in authors seems to be restricted toward finger-wagging warnings rather than firm policy that they'll risk their account if they use their position and social capital to hassle reviewers. They do have the "do not allow non-friends to comment on my reviews" setting which I started using last year. It doesn't help if it escalates to Twitter, but at least in those cases it's easier to block/mute folks and pretend it's not happening while the Goodreads account itself stays functional for people you've friended to talk about books with.

The breakdown of the wall between author/reader and the continuing investment of authors into their own publicity continues to cause problems and really worries me. I keep my text reviews in space I fully control these days because it's impossible to know which authors are going to get angry and poke me over my criticism. Really sorry this happened, because however minor it is it really just amounts to being told that your feelings and experience with a story are invalid and an excuse for insult slinging/abuse. That crap is exhausting.
copracat: Emma Peel looking up from a newspaper (Emma reading)

[personal profile] copracat 2015-03-30 09:44 am (UTC)(link)
Well, fuck.
out_there: B-Day Present '05 (Default)

[personal profile] out_there 2015-03-30 10:50 am (UTC)(link)
Wow. I'm amazed at the authors immaturity. I mean, not responding to a negative review just seems like common sense to me -- responding won't get you anywhere and it won't change that reader's opinion of the book.

I'm always amazed when fannish interaction seems more mature and reasonable than supposed professionals.
hannah: (On the pier - fooish_icons)

[personal profile] hannah 2015-03-30 10:56 am (UTC)(link)
You weren't kidding about how bad the book was - I skimmed the Amazon preview, and I'm sure there's a good book somewhere in there, but it sure isn't screaming to get out, or even knocking politely.

As for recommendations, would you like fiction, non-fiction, Star Trek tie-ins? Because in order, I'm recommending The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly (young girl wants to be a scientist in 1899 rural Texas); Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking by Anya Von Bremzen (the political is personal, and sometimes surprisingly delicious); and both The Crimson Shadow by Una McCormack (still posting on A03 under her fandom name; this book includes a couple of brief appearances by a pair of elegant Cardassian lesbians) and A Stitch in Time by Andrew J Robinson (the actor who played Elim Garak, and he doesn't believe there are any heterosexual explanations possible, either).
kangeiko: (k/s)

[personal profile] kangeiko 2015-03-30 10:19 pm (UTC)(link)
WAIT, Una McCormack has a fandom presence??? Do you have the name, so I can go read everything?

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wyomingnot: (elis books 1)

[personal profile] wyomingnot 2015-03-30 11:04 am (UTC)(link)
Ugh. People suck (yes, I was compelled to go read the review and comments. Loved your review). I skimmed the preview available for the book. Even if I hadn't read the author's response to your review, I'd be giving that one a pass.

Book rec - Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie. A little slow to start, but totally worth the effort. It was never a slog, though. Human who used to be a spaceship is on a quest. No, really.
Edited (might be nice to say *something* about what the book is about) 2015-03-30 11:06 (UTC)

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thady: (Black Widow  - comic Natasha)

[personal profile] thady 2015-03-30 11:10 am (UTC)(link)
I second [personal profile] hannah's rec of The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly. I was really impressed by it.

I also love The Summer Book, by Tove Jansson.
califmole: Iron Man (Default)

[personal profile] califmole 2015-03-30 11:29 am (UTC)(link)
Sigh. Sorry to hear you were attacked in this way.

Once Amazon bought Goodreads, that was it for me. Because Amazon has a long history of allowing this kind of stuff on their own website. And authors are told by marketing that they must be active on Goodreads so many of them actively monitor reviews, and feel like they need to respond to each one.

Unfortunately there are some authors who are complete nutjobs, who will have public meltdowns over <5 star reviews on Amazon, Goodreads, blogs etc, and then unleash their followers (or their sock puppets) to attack.

And yes, like most things on the internet, criticisms made by a male are far less likely to be attacked than comments made by a user who identifies as female.


(Anonymous) 2015-03-30 11:45 pm (UTC)(link)
This is Laurajv; not logged in on this device and can't remember my password, whoops.

A friend of mine writes pro m/m romance, and she has been asked to be on "street teams". What is a street team? It is people who deliberately seek out and comment on reviews of an author's books. She has turned down the requests because she thinks street teams are awful, but I was fascinated that there is an actual name for one's gang of dogpilers.

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mific: (Default)

[personal profile] mific 2015-03-30 11:54 am (UTC)(link)
Wow, that sucks. I only spectate at Goodreads, and only to look up a book I'm interested in and check a few reviews. I probably use Amazon reviews just as much.

a mostly sewageless place to review and discuss books. er, here? I'd read the heck out of any book reviews you wanted to post.

I recently discovered Mal Peet - sadly, I learned yesterday that he died earlier this month. However he's British and uses rural/regional English dialects a lot in his works. I liked that but I suspect it's not for everyone, maybe especially not for US readers. Put it this way - if you got into Feersum Enjinn (Iain Banks) then you'll probably not be bothered by Mal Peet's renderings of dialects. So far I've read "Life: an exploded diagram" which was excellent, and "The Murdstone Trilogy" which I LOVED TO DISTRACTION for the first 2 parts and which then left me dismayed and distressed at the end as it went utterly dark and I'm a wuss like that. It's aimed at adults, the rest of his books are called YA but really seemed pretty like any adult fic I've read, just featuring youngish central protagonists.

I strongly second the rec for the two "Ancillary" books published so far - really excellent, loved them both. A society where all pronouns are female as gender's irrelevant societally, telepathy, amazing world-building, space empire, everyone drinks tea, etc. etc.

Also "The Goblin Emperor" - best fantasy I've read in years. By LJ user truepenny, under a pseud. An almost moment-by-moment account of a rejected young heir forced into the emperorhood of an elven empire which discriminates against goblins, and how he survives. Brilliant writing and characterisation and completely gripping.

ETA: oh, oh, and William Gibson's "The Peripheral" which was SO good, one of his best for years. Tech that links two realities in the multiverse through time travel --like a VR headset that allows communication, even insertion-- and the way the good guys in each verse manage to help each other out. It's funny and touching and triumphant.
Edited 2015-03-30 12:07 (UTC)
out_there: B-Day Present '05 (Default)

[personal profile] out_there 2015-03-31 02:18 am (UTC)(link)
William Gibson's "The Peripheral" which was SO good, one of his best for years.

Oooh. I haven't read William Gibson for years, but I'm going to make an effort to check that one out.
princessofgeeks: (Default)

[personal profile] princessofgeeks 2015-03-30 12:10 pm (UTC)(link)
Good heavens! I'm sorry that happened to you; what a mess.

I don't have a site to suggest to you and I imagine you've read everything I've read so far, but I can scroll back through your journal and see.
jadelennox: Senora Sabasa Garcia, by Goya (Default)

[personal profile] jadelennox 2015-03-30 12:10 pm (UTC)(link)
I feel so lucky that I get to review in an anonymous capacity, and complaints get filtered through an editor who only forwards me the funny ones. Because, yeah, hostility against ladypeople who have opinions about things is a strong feature of the internet.
melannen: Commander Valentine of Alpha Squad Seven, a red-haired female Nick Fury in space, smoking contemplatively (Default)

[personal profile] melannen 2015-03-30 12:11 pm (UTC)(link)
I have never had (nor heard of) this kind of shenanigans happening as regards LibraryThing reviews (although I can't guarantee it hasn't, it must at least be less widespread - when I searched the LT forums for people mentioning situations like this, the first several results were people talking about stuff that happened to them on Goodreads.) There's a strong user culture there encouraging authors to stay the heck out of their own reviews or criticism of other users' reviews, and a small and responsive staff that focus mostly on user experience rather than selling users' eyes to other people.

Of course that's probably partly because LT is a much less social-oriented site than GR - there isn't actually any way to reply directly to a review, you can only upvote them, and publishers/authors/etc. pay a lot less attention to it.

Also, augh, this sounds like a terrible thing to have happen to you. :/
Edited 2015-03-30 12:14 (UTC)
brainwane: My smiling face, including a small gold bindi (Default)

book recommendations

[personal profile] brainwane 2015-03-30 12:19 pm (UTC)(link)
My sympathies on the conflict with that author and his fans.

Up Against It by MJ Locke - first five chapters free online. It's a mystery/procedural, it's solid hard scifi, and it's a character study of the protagonist, Jane Navio, head of the Resource Commission. She is the kind of creative, tough leader who can abandon a few likely-to-die people in order to save resources the asteroid colony's going to need in three weeks' time.

Greg Milner's Perfecting Sound Forever: The History of Recorded Music. This is the review that got me to buy it. Reading it has helped me listen to pop music with more joy and interest.

A ton of Courtney Milan romances. Feminist, funny, (mostly) believable.

If you can track down R.K. Narayan's My Dateless Diary, about his book tour in the United States, I think you would really like it. He finds the US (and the process of doing a book tour) charming and confusing.
rivkat: Rivka as Wonder Woman (Default)

[personal profile] rivkat 2015-03-30 12:32 pm (UTC)(link)
Yuck! I am so sorry you have to go through that. I wish I could be an angry cat lady sitting on top of that review, hissing. I have had nothing but positive experiences on LibraryThing, which I mainly use for cataloging purposes/also getting free Early Reviewer books. There seems to be less discussion than on GR, but it does exist.
wychwood: chess queen against a runestone (Default)

[personal profile] wychwood 2015-03-30 12:49 pm (UTC)(link)
That guy was a total dick - and I'm sorry I hadn't realised it was still going on! Ugh. I've been lucky enough that no one cares about my reviews on GR (although once I got flamed by an author on LJ! She threatened to sue me, IIRC!).

Selfishly, I think you should post your reading and book reviews here on DW, because that would be awesome.
metaphortunate: (Default)

[personal profile] metaphortunate 2015-04-02 05:04 am (UTC)(link)
Selfishly, I agree!
nestra: (Default)

[personal profile] nestra 2015-03-30 01:21 pm (UTC)(link)
What a dickbag.
watersword: An open book (Stock: book)

[personal profile] watersword 2015-03-30 01:29 pm (UTC)(link)
WOW. I quit goodreads when they were bought by Amazon, and everything I hear about what's happened to the site in the past couple of years makes me 100% uninterested in reconsidering. What makes people think this is an acceptable way to behave?
tesserae: white poppies in the sun (Default)

[personal profile] tesserae 2015-03-30 01:51 pm (UTC)(link)
I keep hearing these things about Goodreads & have managed to avoid it completely, maybe as result. Also I am a cranky, cranky reader & rarely take recs.

But, if you haven't read it yet, Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall is absolutely gorgeous writing, sharp and complex without any of that annoying opacity people who are trying to write complex books descend into too frequently.
laurashapiro: a woman sits at a kitchen table reading a book, cup of tea in hand. Table has a sliced apple and teapot. A cat looks on. (Default)

[personal profile] laurashapiro 2015-03-30 02:12 pm (UTC)(link)
Well, that's dreadful. I had been considering signing up at Goodreads, but wow, I think not.
cofax7: climbing on an abbey wall  (Default)

[personal profile] cofax7 2015-03-31 04:37 am (UTC)(link)
Yeah, I still get pissy about a certain Hugo-Winning Author arguing with me about my review of her first novel on my LJ (followed by a really passive-aggressive attempt to get her LJ-readers to dogpile me, which happily didn't work). I can't see any good coming from joining a site that is basically set up to encourage that sort of thing.

Plus there's the story about the angry author who hunted down a Goodreads reviewer and hit her over the head with a bottle of wine in a grocery store...

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ambyr: pebbles arranged in a spiral on sand (nature sculpture by Andy Goldsworthy) (Pebbles)

[personal profile] ambyr 2015-03-30 02:15 pm (UTC)(link)
Booklikes might be a site of interest to you? I was never quite able to get into it myself, but it's where a lot of my Goodreads friends who wanted some place more social than LibraryThing fled to.
macey: (sheep!)

[personal profile] macey 2015-03-30 02:40 pm (UTC)(link)
Ouch. Why is it so fraught to Internet While Female. T_T

(If you're Into That Sort Of Thing, I'm about 50 pages from the end of Watching The English by Kate Fox, an anthropological study of the English, and it is a /great/ book. Particularly if you ever wish to comprehend the silliness of Us English Types.)
hannah: (OMFG - favyan)

[personal profile] hannah 2015-03-30 02:50 pm (UTC)(link)
I loved that book. Anthropology for the win!

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davidgillon: A pair of crutches, hanging from coat hooks, reflected in a mirror (Default)

[personal profile] davidgillon 2015-03-30 02:46 pm (UTC)(link)
"Shined"? "Shined"?! "Shone" surely! (British biases showing - but if even normal use of 'shined' can annoy me I dread to think what this book would have done to me).

And it annoys me that female writers get hit both ways, both reviewers in the way you've noted here and authors by stuff like the campaign to give Laurie Penny's latest book bad reviews on Amazon just because she's a feminist author who dares to express her opinions. But then much of the behaviour of my gender on the net (gamer-gate, sigh, men's rights, even heavier sigh) tends to drive me towards beating my head bloody against the nearest solid object.

No suggestions for somewhere to review and discuss books, DW is meeting my needs there at the moment. As for recommendations, I'll echo the recommendations on the Leckie, though at the minute I'm engaged in a reread of Terry Pratchett's City Watch books, wonderfully wise about accepting everybody for who they are.
kouredios: (Default)

[personal profile] kouredios 2015-03-30 03:40 pm (UTC)(link)
I never got into goodreads. I just never felt the need to be that public about what I was reading and what I thought of it. Or maybe it just felt too much like *work* :D

Anyway, I get all my best book recommendations these days by following authors I like on twitter and elsewhere. I've found that books liked by authors I like also tend to be books I like. Surprising! So, I've dug into everything Seanan McGuire has written, but also tried Chuck Wendig because she likes him. And Greg Van Eekhout's new series, because I think I once saw her describe it as Leverage with a magic system, and I was so there. John Scalzi's Big Idea series on his blog is also great at introducing me to stuff and helping me determine whether I'd like it.

I'm also reading Jo Walton's The Just City right now, which I adore, but that might be because a story about Athena dropping a bunch of scholars and children from various time periods and nationalities into a pocket Atlantis to test out whether Plato's Republic would actually work was clearly written JUST FOR ME. :D
sdani: tea (tea)

[personal profile] sdani 2015-04-01 01:34 am (UTC)(link)
I love Seanan McGuire's October Daye and Incryptid series - I'll have to check out Greg Van Eekhout, because that sounds awesome.
sage: crop from a painting of the front window of a bookstore showing books on display and shelves behind. (joy: books)

[personal profile] sage 2015-03-30 05:08 pm (UTC)(link)
Augh, that is terrible. What a dick. :(

On GR I was dogpiled once for a gender-race-disability critique of a middle-grade book, but its author was female and most of the attacks on me were by allegedly female reviewers. I froze comments and haven't looked since. I was also contacted once -- extremely graciously and apologetically -- by a male author to ask what had given me the (mistaken) impression of a character's orientation, because it wasn't what he'd intended. I answered and he answered and it was all very cordial. But he opened with "This is a total breach of etiquette and I apologize in advance for asking..." That made all the difference, I guess?

I do find the "lists with this book" tool useful sometimes.

As far as recs, I just finished the most recent of Cat Valente's Fairyland books. They're kids/middle grade, but feminist, queer positive, and generally very fun.
lightbird: http://coelasquid.deviantart.com/ (Gators gonna gait)

[personal profile] lightbird 2015-03-30 05:42 pm (UTC)(link)
Have you checked out riffle books at all? I haven't been on there long or using it much (I'm so used to Goodreads, and it always takes time for me to get used to the new thing after using the old thing for so long, lol), but it's newish and not associated with Amazon. I joined because I wanted to have an alternative to Amazon. So it might be worth trying.

I'm so sorry this happened to you. I read your review and some of the comments, including those from his fans, and yeah, it's a truckload of douchebaggery over there. I've never read Daniel Price and after this I have no intention of ever giving his stuff the time of day. Nice to see that there were some people over there who backed you up and didn't act like assholes. And I did see the comment from a dude who also criticized the constant use of 'boobs' and 'shined' -- but of course the author didn't attack him.

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