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Wagon Train Sisters

Shirley Kennedy

Here, dear readers, is a short list of things you would be better off reading instead of Wagon Train Sisters: The back of a Mr. Bubble label. An outdated encyclopedia, cover to cover. A Bazooka Joe comic. And, last but not least, the pull tag on a pillow.

The novel starts promisingly enough. Sarah Gregg is part of a caravan driving from Indiana to California, alongside her newsman father Frank, anxious asthmatic mother Luzena, her tragically plain younger sister Florrie, her henpecked brother Hiram and Hiram’s spoiled, self-centered wife Becky.

The sudden disappearance of Florrie changes everything for the clan. Luzena insist on abandoning the wagon train to look for her youngest, and during one of those searches Sarah bumps directly into Jack McCoy. McCoy is a known scoundrel and card sharp, but he defends her from his associates, and with his partner, Ben, escorts Sarah back to her parents. After a little bit of friendly bonding with her folks, Jack and Ben agree to escort the family all the way to California, meeting with the wagon train and driving their oxen after Hiram suffers an accident.

Soon enough, Sarah and Jack are trading deep secrets and bonding, and Jack is staring at Sarah’s hips with less than chaste ideas in mind. As often as Jack tries to leave and get on with his life, fate conspires to throw them back together, ultimately landing both of them in the mining fields of Gold Creek, where Sarah meets with success and grows to love the rough town. Unfortunately, her family’s fortunes take a downturn and they decide to pull up sticks again and move on. Will Sarah have the strength to stay behind and make it on her own? Will she and Jack find a permanent space for their love? And will the missing Florrie ever surface again?

Let’s just say that Funk and Wagnall’s revelations are more spellbinding than the ones the novel offers up. The hero and heroine are bland. Sarah has a couple of layers to her and is amusingly flawed with streaks of gossip- mongering, but for all of her insistence that she wants to hang out with miners and live in a dangerous camp her ambitions remain shockingly boring throughout the novel. Only Sarah would look at a place like Gold Creek and think “gee, I think I’ll open a pie shop” – right next to the gunfight victim and behind the old brothel (almost literally). As for Jack, he’s yet another hero with a past, but aside from his drifting there’s very little of the scoundrel about him. From the first he’s instantly willing to throw aside his own ambitions for Sarah.

Their romance is, sadly, bloodless and develops in fits and starts. For example, less than ten pages after meeting Jack, Sarah’s suddenly sharing with him the dark secrets of her previous marriage, secrets she hasn’t previously revealed even to a blood relative. This kind of insta-bonding deflates all true narrative tension, and their commonality doesn’t extend much further than the bedroom. The author tries to fix this with a handful of mildly explicit fade-to-black sex scenes, usually immediately followed by some gunplay or life-endangering stunt. Nothing works. In fact, during the last quarter of the book when Sarah is presented with an enormous dilemma and she starts thinking obsessively about Jack instead, one wants to press her mute button.

The supporting characters aren’t terribly interesting either. You will want to punch Frank at least once before the book concludes and Luzena is amusing, but everyone else fades weakly into the background. Ben is a cipher who only exists to poke Jack in the ribs about his crush on Sarah, and Hiram and Becky could easily be replaced by signs reading “henpecked” and “witch”. When Hiram later says he loves Becky, the audience can only wonder why, and when he grows proud of owning a gambling establishment where men rush his sister while shouting ‘a woman!’ one is liable to cross their eyes in disdain (note that in this book’s skewed morality, prostitution is the worst sin in the world, but owning a gambling parlor where people act like gun-wielding lobotomized Muppets is considered a character virtue). And then there’s the mystery of Florrie, which bears a painfully ludicrous conclusion and served up with a dose of treacle so big Michael Landon would be envious.

The book’s worst point glares like a diamond in the sun: an unsettling undercurrent of racism. While such notions coming from the mouths of its PoV character makes some historical sense, the narrative voice delivers observations in a manner that’s artless and jarring. The treatment of Chinese and Asian characters, who appear as either pidgin-speaking victims of ridicule, gangsters or pimps, is particularly appalling. The only exception is Anming, a prostitute Sarah protects, who gets to speak perfect English in trade for a tragic backstory and allowing Sarah to play white savior for her. The author clearly thinks Sarah’s making strides for progress when she defends some Chinese customers from the racism of some white clients, only to have her think of the Chinese men as ‘strange looking’ in their outfits and have them spout things like ”pay dollah, wantchee catchee pie” (a direct quote). Ms. Kennedy has no excuse for such poor taste, and trying to paper over it with an ending filled with tolerance and love is like following a strip show with a Bible reading. I’m not even including several jaw-dropping revelations involving a ten year old version of the hero and a prostitute he admired, or the possibility that the villain is keeping the children of his prostitutes to…but I’ve said too much. Let’s just say her Native American characters, who appear to drink firewater and serve as a source of nasty rumors, get off easy.

All in all, Wagon Train Sisters would make an excellent doorstop. Or a fine trade-in at your local used bookstore. Now if you’ll excuse me I need to get back to my comic. Oh Bazooka Joe, you delightful scamp…

This Book is available on :

                   

Book Details

Reviewer :      Lisa Fernandes


Grade :     F


Sensuality :      Warm


Book Type :     


Review Tags :     



Recent Comment

59 Comments

  1. Dabney Grinnan July 19, 2016 at 7:58 pm - Reply

    “gapes”

    Really? Where was her editor?

  2. Caz Owens July 19, 2016 at 8:19 pm - Reply

    I am SO glad that I only had to read this review and not the actual book! You took one for the team on this one, Lisa, well done!

  3. Kristen Donnelly July 20, 2016 at 8:20 am - Reply

    If the comments allowed gifs, I’d have the one of Homer Simpson backing into the hedge here. What happened?! How many people at Lyrical did this have to get past?

  4. Anne Marble July 20, 2016 at 10:38 pm - Reply

    They … said… what?! 😮

  5. Eliza July 21, 2016 at 7:46 am - Reply

    This comment probably won’t be well received but bashing books and then having the staff jump on board seems more like Dear Author to me than the AAR I used to know. And the tone of the review resembles more of a Mrs. Giggles review than the more respectful ones I was used to on AAR, whether or not I agreed with reviewer. It’s a nice thing to support colleagues, or other readers who have similar tastes in books, but I myself never take just one reviewer’s opinion before deciding what to read or not..

    So is this going to be the new direction of AAR reviews overall? I ask because I saw another review of a book that I can;t find now that left me, well, dismayed, with its tone-deafness regarding ethnicity.

    • Lisa Fernandes July 22, 2016 at 4:02 pm - Reply

      Sorry you feel that way, Eliza, If you don’t like my opinion, I’m sure you’ll find someone out there who enjoyed it!

      Sadly the book in general is terribly tone-deaf when it comes to the way it represents POC characters. It may be a historical and one could argue that People Saw Each Other That Way Back Then, but in fiction we ought to be beyond simplistic Breakfast at Tiffanys-style ethnic stereotypes. I was about as respectful of the author’s work as I could be, but after the last hundred pages in which the author suddenly drops a narrative bomb on the audience that leaves them sitting there with their jaws hanging open on top of the bizarre moral equalizing, the limp and weak romance and the unfortunate ethnic caricatures it was hard not to be sarcastic.

  6. Eliza July 21, 2016 at 7:50 am - Reply

    So, I have an immediate answer because my comment was immediately tagged “awaiting moderation” before it barely showed up. Nice.

    • Dabney Grinnan July 21, 2016 at 8:00 am - Reply

      The tagging is done by a bot that looks for spam and is then sent to us to check.

  7. Heather Stanton July 21, 2016 at 3:46 pm - Reply

    Well crud. I love American historicals so this is disappointing. Thanks for a great review, Lisa!

  8. Julie Gettys July 29, 2016 at 6:04 pm - Reply

    Anyone who reads a book then hacks it all to hell needs to find a new way to spend their time. If you’re a writer, I’d love to see some of your work. I happen to love this book. This is typical of AAR reviews. I stumbled upon this review on Google. I’d never waste my time reading reviews on this website. There are ways to write negative comments about a book without trying to destroy the author.

    • BJ Jansen July 30, 2016 at 9:07 am - Reply

      Julie I’m glad you enjoyed this book and I know how personally we can take it when a book we loved is reviewed negatively.

      You mentioned that you don’t read reviews on AAR that is a shame because you will find that there are many different reviewers, with different tastes, and styles of reviews. I am evidence of this as I review the LGBTQ+ books.

      Many readers enjoy the style, where the reviewer injects sarcasm or wry humour into the review. I didn’t see this review as ‘trying to destroy the author’. In fact, as an author myself, I prefer negative reviews that contain passion than ‘sort of positive ones’ that found something I wrote to be just meh or okay.

    • Lisa Fernandes July 31, 2016 at 7:43 am - Reply

      Julie,

      Sorry you felt that way! I definitely wasn’t trying to “destroy” Ms. Kennedy with my review, of course; I naturally lack that power. But just because you enjoyed the book doesn’t mean others will do the same.

  9. Eliza July 30, 2016 at 7:20 am - Reply

    Very well said, Julie Gettys. You seem to be the only one besides the reviewer who actually read this book. All of the other comments are by AAR “staff” ,–kind of like an in-group who apparently base their book choices on a single review. I generally avoid the reviews here too but saw your comment posted on the AAR home page. Another note; I was glad to see that Caz and Mary Skelton didn’t join this lynch mob (since the books is a western). I just hope that as the new Editor -in-Chief Caz didn’t okay this review before it was posted because I’d be very disappointed by that.

  10. Eliza July 30, 2016 at 8:20 am - Reply

    Oops. Caz did join the rest. So sad and very disappointed.

    • BJ Jansen July 30, 2016 at 9:21 am - Reply

      Eliza I was so looking forward to seeing your opinions on reviews after enjoying your comments on the Brexit forum.

      I generally avoid the reviews here too

      I am sad that you visit the site but avoid the reviews. As I mentioned to Julie, above, there are many different review styles, reviewers and many different sub-genres of romance covered. I am fairly new to AAR and only review LGBTQ+ books, so our paths have not really crossed before.

      Having found the staff and reviewers here to be very professional – I really do not think that they acted as a ‘lynch mob’.

      Staff /reviewers at the site I worked for previously would write supportive comments below a review that had garnered a low rating. It was done as a form of support for the reviewer, as a negative review is more likely to receive harsh comments and a thank you for reading a book that would not have been to their taste either.

      • Eliza August 1, 2016 at 7:51 am - Reply

        Thank you, BJ, for your kind words. But this review and one other recently posted one that then disappeared is why I usually don’t take the chance to come aboard,
        And I have several post on this book alone “awaiting moderation.” I was told the last time this happened that the program considered it spam. Odd that I seem to be the only poster who appears to get this message regularly. Why would I want to be moderated or considered spam? 🙂

  11. Shirley Kennedy July 30, 2016 at 4:52 pm - Reply

    I’m Shirley Kennedy, author of Wagon Train Sisters. Over the years, I’ve received many reviews, both good and bad, but have always adhered to the author’s unwritten rule: No matter how insulted—hurt—indignant–crushed you might feel, never reply to a bad review. For the first time, I’m making an exception. Lisa Fernandez, you stepped over the line, and you owe me an apology. I don’t care if you thought my hero and heroine were bland, the romance sadly bloodless, etc. That’s okay. I can’t please everyone. What I do care about is your statement that my book has “undercurrents of racism.” Really?
    In the early days of this country, no ethic group was more poorly treated than the Chinese. During the Gold Rush, they were murdered with impunity, enslaved, cheated of their property, universally treated as less than human. These are the facts I endeavored to illustrate in Wagon Train Sisters. My Chinese characters are sympathetic, true-to-life, and certainly not up for ridicule
    Yes, a character says, ”Pay dollah, wantchee catchee pie.” That’s Pidgeon English, carefully researched, by the way. I used it because that’s they way they talked.
    Yes, my heroine thinks these Chinese are “strange looking’ in their outfits.” That’s because she’s living in the year 1852, long before political correctness.
    If I were to follow your logic, Lisa Fernandez, any author who accurately depicts the horrors of slavery or the Holocaust is using poor taste. From now on, let’s just gloss it over.
    As for the rest, I appreciate the remarks of others, like Julie, who recognized the unnecessary viciousness of this review. Oh, and by the way, Let’s not be dissing the Lyrical editors. They’re the best I’ve ever worked with.

    • Dabney Grinnan July 31, 2016 at 8:54 am - Reply

      I agree with you Ms. Kennedy that it’s extremely difficult to write about race, ethnicity, gender, class and all the other labels we use without offending someone. I applaud your courage in doing so just as I applaud Lisa’s courage in saying that the way you did so didn’t work for her.

    • Lisa Fernandes August 1, 2016 at 6:14 am - Reply

      Ms. Kennedy,

      While I’m deeply sorry that you found the review offensive, I do stand by my commentary on your novel.

      I would certainly call both Anming and Ling sympathetic, But I would also call them caricatures. Characters can be both, after all.

      I also wouldn’t suggest that every single Chinese sailor spoke in pidgin English without exception or fault, especially since the Chinese had been trading with America for two hundred years prior to the start of your novel (since the 1600s). Could a poor sailor possibly pick up more English than pidgin and be able to speak it? If they spend enough time around people who speak English, certainly; that’s how many Chinese-Americans accrued language skills and became multi-lingual.

      In any event, it’s not just a single thing that caused me to mention that subtle undercurrent; it’s the cumulative picture your book paints of every single character that’s not white. Your portrayal of native characters, for instance, added to that statement. And while it makes some historical sense for your characters to view non-white people who are not like them in that manner, it was such a recurrent sub-theme in the narrative that it stuck out for me and warranted commentary.

      As for you novel being a true portrait of the undeniable horrors that were unleashed on Chinese immigrants and workers in the 1800s during the Gold Rush, while we definitely learn something of the racism that went on back then and hear about the horrors dealt to Anming and Ling because of their race, the majority of the novel is about Sarah, her pies, her romance with Jack, and her quest to rescue Florrie from herself and her eventual battle with Florrie’s pimp to get back Florrie’s child. Labor struggles and racism toward Ling serve as a backdrop for Sarah becoming independent and forming her own business, and ultimately allows her to throw a stopgap up by integrating her restaurant; in other words it’s all about Sarah and Sarah’s feelings and Sarah riding in on her white horse and shutting down the racists and striking a blow for racial harmony. Anming and Ling may get their own business and they may get to have their romance, but those events warrant little more than a few paragraph each. Hiram and Becky’s marriage and his attempt at claiming control of same gets much more space. The pie-for-everyone scene I quoted in my review receives pages.

      In closing, as for the notion that no novel can be critiqued for its portrait of true-to-life racism if it’s accurate to the period, I’m afraid critics have been proving that one wrong for years on multiple projects in multiple mediums. When modern eyes meet difficult subjects, I’m afraid anything’s up for critique.

  12. Eliza July 31, 2016 at 12:35 pm - Reply

    AS I said earlier, I too think the reviewer crossed the line on this review, One either gets it or they don’t. A reviewer can not like a book and try to say so with with humor, but I too thought this was unnecessarily vicious, , Apparently this is group think because that was no apology to the author to my mind. And while I’m commenting on (1) the tone of the review and (2) solidarity among “staff”, also apparently no one else took the time to read the book to make an informed opinion besides Julie. THIS, BJ, is why I don’t generally read most AAR reviews.

    • Lisa Fernandes August 1, 2016 at 6:19 am - Reply

      Out of curiosity, why do you think Julie’s the only one to have a correct, informed opinion of the book ? Is it because she seems to read it or because she agrees with Ms. Kennedy’s opinion of the review?

      • Eliza August 1, 2016 at 7:31 am - Reply

        You misread what I said, I didn’t say I agreed on how she VIEWED the book; I agreed with her about HOW you critiqued this book, which was unnecessarily vicious. There is a large chasm between types of humor and it’s my opinion that you were over the top so that it became unfunny, and just cruel. That’s my opinion—on the language you crafted, having nothing to do with whether or not it’s a good book or not.

        • Eliza August 1, 2016 at 7:33 am - Reply

          Sigh… and I’m back to being “moderated”???? Why? That popped up seconds after I posted,

      • Eliza August 1, 2016 at 8:07 am - Reply

        I forgot! Julie made her opinion known about the tone of you review knownLONG BEFORE the author posted as did I.

        “Julie Gettys July 29, 2016 at 6:04 pm” (first)

        “Shirley Kennedy July 30, 2016 at 4:52 pm” (third)

        My comment was after Julie but before the author’s at “Eliza July 30, 2016 at 7:20 am” (second)

        And to be clear: no one was taking you to task for not liking the book; the main phrase was “stepping over the line” meaning your language and approach were unkind,
        You of course may consider it humor, but obviously three of us –Julie, Shirley and I–thought it vicious and unnecessarily unkind,

  13. Blackjack1 July 31, 2016 at 4:05 pm - Reply

    I read most of the reviews here and enjoy them, all the while knowing that I can and most likely will follow up and read other reviews to determine if I want to invest my time and money into a book. One bad review is not the deciding factor for me, though if the review is well-written it can be influential on how motivated I am to follow up with other reviews. I don’t think AAR is trying to control readers’ minds by posting reviews of books. I read this one and did not see anything wrong with it, including discussing how race is treated in the novel. I’m in favor though of *honest* reviews, and if for a reviewer that means posting a bad one, so be it.

    I do know what Eliza is saying though about “group think” and it’s too early to say if that’s the case here as it is for Dear Author where a staff member writes a review and all other staff members rush in to defend the reviewer against reader criticism. I hope that does not happen here and that readers feel welcome to comment on reviews without all the staff jumping. Lisa Fernandes is able to defend her writing, and she did just that. I think staff just need to be aware that there is a different dynamic between them and the readers that support this site.

    • Caroline Russomanno July 31, 2016 at 5:58 pm - Reply

      Thanks, Blackjack, for the thoughtful comment. It is valid to point out that a forum that feels “defended by” staff members isn’t an inviting community. I think it’s worth recalling that this review-comment function is brand new to us as well as to our site readers, and I know I’m certainly taking some time finding my rhythm. One extra variable is that the “recent comments” highlight on the front page draws more people (both staff and readers) to the same reviews, in a way that didn’t happen on the message boards. A post that is “hot” becomes hotter by virtue of already being hot, so to speak.

  14. Eliza July 31, 2016 at 8:30 pm - Reply

    I think your comment was thoughtful, too, Blackjack, as well as on target. Besides multiple AAR staff supporting a single review, particularly if they haven’t read the book in question, the other issue I have is that the reviewer herself should be the person to address issues with the review in the majority of cases. In the review of Love On My Mind, Kristen Donnelly did offer an apology which was immediately commented on by Dabney, and in this interview Dabney answered the author instead of Lisa. While I appreciate on one level Dabney’s loyalty and support of the reviewers, it’s my opinion that Caz as editor and then Dabney as publisher should get involved only if the reviewer is in trouble (or if they just want to comment in a different capacity as a reader).. Otherwise it becomes like Dear Author again, with the potential result of reviewers talking among themselves with few if any outside readers. I hope that was clear, but if not. let me know.

    • Blackjack1 July 31, 2016 at 8:44 pm - Reply

      Yes, I agree, Eliza, and that’s how I view the Dear Author site and the over-abundance of staff participation, which, whether intentional or not, creates a micro-management feel to the conversation. In the past at AAR readers created a thread for a reviewed book if they wanted to have a conversation about it, and the actual reviewer rarely chimed in, much less lots of staff reviewers. I’m not sure how this new function will play out going forward, but I hope it feels more reader-oriented than staff-oriented. If not, the forums might still be the best place for in-depth reader conversations.

    • Dabney Grinnan July 31, 2016 at 8:48 pm - Reply

      That’s very fair.

  15. Eliza July 31, 2016 at 8:39 pm - Reply

    II forgot to add that Kristen’s apology did quite a bit to diffuse her situation, while in the case of this book where the author requested an apology, no response of any kind was offered by the reviewer herself to said author. A mistake I think. JMO

    • Lisa (not that Lisa) July 31, 2016 at 9:19 pm - Reply

      Kristen was told her writing came across as racist. She apologized for that. You praise this.

      Shirley Kennedy was told (by this reviewer Lisa) that her writing came across as racist. Yet you are saying that Lisa should apologize for the observation, rather than Shirley for the writing.

      Doesn’t make sense.

    • Lisa Fernandes August 1, 2016 at 5:58 am - Reply

      I have been trying to craft a properly thoughtful response, Eliza. Which would explain my silence to Ms. Kennedy.

      • Eliza August 1, 2016 at 7:47 am - Reply

        Lisa, what you wrote the author that you considered an apology is what I call digging the hole deeper. Generally, an apology is short and to the point. Something like– it wasn’t your intention to to offend the author but you’re sorry that she was. And then say I’m sorry again. Period.

        Relitigating your review is unlikely to help. This not just review policy; it’s dealing with people in a kind way, period. You’ve already had your say in the review so there’s no need to retravel that same ground, which may indeed make matters worse. In retraveling that ground, you essentially wiped away what you said initially, which by the way wasn’t really an apology when you stoutly announce you stand by the review.

        What harm can come from apologizing to someone who was offended, Your review will stay on this board–which speaks for itself–, and so all that is left is to choose between the need to feel right or being kind,

        • BJ Jansen August 1, 2016 at 10:27 am - Reply

          Ms. Kennedy,
          While I’m deeply sorry that you found the review offensive,..

          Eliza I believe this was an apology from Lisa Fernandes. She does also explain the reasoning behind her review, but I feel it was probably in response to the author’s long comments about what she was offended by etc. The apology was equivalent in length and dissection.

          Forgive me, as I said I am new here, but have you read the book in question? It seems you are commenting on the reviewer, AAR and ways people should act, but not the actual book.

          Surely, the author would wish us to discuss her work? JMO

          Oh, and so as not to concerned you again – all written comments come up as awaiting moderation it is part of the site’s inner workings.

          • Lisa Fernandes August 1, 2016 at 11:46 am

            BJ is correct as to the apology and to the reason why the response wasn’t a single line. The author expressed her reasons as to why she felt my impressions were incorrect, and I responded in kind.

          • Eliza August 1, 2016 at 11:48 am

            The word “While” is a conjunction leading to the rest of the sentence, and so it at the least lessened the apology and more likely disqualified it.. More simply, it’s lame. IMO. We can agree to disagree but an apology started with the words “while, if, and but” are on their way to undercutting the apology, whether the reviewer truly intends that or not.

            What you are missing is the issue is on the _ language_ of the review, not whether someone liked the book or not. If a reviewer can discuss the language of a book being reviewed,I think it’s obvious that the language of a review can be examined in the same way. Besides that is exactly what Julie, Shirley and I have been talking about– the tone of the review and its effect on the author and at least two of readers, regardless of the reviewer’s intent.

            As for ‘awaiting moderation’? Then why did Dabney tell me in a personal email that it was a spam filter that she would take up with the development team? And my posts were re-submitted.after that. email. Surely that’s not going to happen with every post, is it? It hasn’t in other posts I made in other parts of the board, Just here were I’m talking about an AAR review. I feel “heard” by Dabney, but with your comments, I’, going back to the other sites I look at for reviews. I’m sure you’ll all be glad to hear that. One Dear Author is enough without a second one coming online.

          • Lisa Fernandes August 1, 2016 at 12:05 pm

            Actually, Ms. Kennedy’s problem with my review had nothing to do with the tone of the review, it had to do with my “undercurrent of racism” comment. One can scroll right up and read her full post about the situation. Your argument and Julie’s have taken on a completely different tack.

  16. BJ Jansen August 1, 2016 at 12:42 pm - Reply

    Besides that is exactly what Julie, Shirley and I have been talking about– the tone of the review and its effect on the author and at least two of readers, regardless of the reviewer’s intent.

    The reviewer, Lisa talked about an ‘undercurrent’ of racism in the work, and it was this that the author objected to – not the tone or the sarcasm etc., which seems to be what annoyed you and Julie. I can see where Julie is coming from, as I mentioned above we all hate to see a novel we enjoyed, reviewed negatively.

    However, I am sorry Eliza, but as you haven’t read the book, I don’t believe you can comment on the ‘undercurrent of racism’ in it. Plus, as the author was not offended by the other parts of the review, I am at a loss to see why you are.

    • Eliza August 1, 2016 at 5:29 pm - Reply

      MY very first comment very early on was on the TONE and over the top meanness OF THE WORDS OF THE REVIEW. I never argued race or the grade of the book.

      TO BE VERY CLEAR, I’ll repeat what I said FIRST, before either Julie or Shirley posted anything. Scroll up if you don’t believe me.

      “Eliza July 21, 2016 at 7:46 am – Reply
      This comment probably won’t be well received but bashing books and then having the staff jump on board seems more like Dear Author to me than the AAR I used to know. And the tone of the review resembles more of a Mrs. Giggles review than the more respectful ones I was used to on AAR, whether or not I agreed with reviewer. ”

      Get it? Your response BJ reinforces the piling on of staff, mimicking DEAR AUTHOR. NO THANKS! Go ahead and do whatever the heck you want. As I said, I just won’t read AAR reviews or staff comments on books any more. That should make everyone happy.

      • Blackjack1 August 1, 2016 at 6:22 pm - Reply

        It was no doubt a scathing review, but when you’re giving someone an F, it usually indicates that there are few if any redeeming qualities to the particular piece of writing. It happens in the world of writing. Also, the reviewer did not attack the writer, only the actual writing, and that seems fair. I’m actually though in favor of tough reviews as long as they stay squarely focused on the writing itself and so this review did not bother me. I don’t even think it would have bothered me had it been written about a book from one of my favorite authors.

      • Lisa F August 2, 2016 at 9:13 pm - Reply

        BJ commented on the fact that you continue to group Ms. Kennedy’s complaint in with the ones you and Julie have made, even though they are entirely different issues with the same review. I believe that that’s a valid complaint.

  17. Dabney Grinnan August 1, 2016 at 1:10 pm - Reply

    Eliza,

    The spam filter is out of our control. I don’t really know why some comments get pulled. I look at the “pulled comments” section several times a day and, if they’re not spam, approve them. I wonder if your more recent comments were pulled because you’d posted several in a short period of time. At any rate, in keeping with my commitment to free speech, I approve almost every comment that isn’t clear spam.

  18. Blackjack1 August 1, 2016 at 5:18 pm - Reply

    I don’t have much patience with readers who believe reviewers shouldn’t write negative reviews. AAR, thankfully, is not a fan site and we should expect reviewers to hold books to high standards.

    The main issue here, I thought, seems to be around how the author incorporated race in her novel and how the reviewer interpreted those representations. The reviewer expressed concern that “the narrative voice” is racist and reinforces stereotypes of minority groups. I have not read the book and so I can’t say if I agree with that assertion, but the assertion itself seems a valid one to make if the evidence backs up that claim. Having minority groups speak broken English while being represented only as victims or villains is problematic, especially if that is the only representation of minorities present in the book. Is that realism or is it reinforcing negative generalizations already floating around in our society? Clearly, the reviewer had difficulty finding the representations of Asians and Native Americans as anything other than a stereotype. The question for me is always whether an author is endorsing a particular representation or is s/he critiquing it? It sounds like the reviewer felt the author was participating in stereotyping.

    • BJ Jansen August 2, 2016 at 9:14 am - Reply

      What Blackjack1 said 100%

      Eliza I am so sorry that you felt I was ‘piling in’ that wasn’t my intention, however, as I caused you to feel that way, I genuinely apologise.

      I have not read this book so cannot comment on the elements the reviewer found. I did find her case compelling, but it was written in a very different style to my own.

      However, that is but one delightful element in having so many diverse reviewers, as much as books I search for reviewers whose opinions I trust, and whose style of reviewing I enjoy.

      Please do not be concerned about the ‘awaiting moderation’ it truly is an automated ‘spam bot’. I have been unfortunate enough to read some of the adverts and strange comments that float in – believe me, you wouldn’t inflict them on your worst enemy and the software enables them to be automatically filtered out. All other comments are ‘approved’ as soon as the relevant person can press a button.

  19. Eliza August 2, 2016 at 2:31 pm - Reply

    Once again, I wasn’t addressing the race issue or negative reviews. I was talking about RESPECTFUL LANGUAGE (or TONE) no matter your take on a book. The only time I mentioned negative review, I used the word “bashing”: because of review TONE, and then followed up about all the staff piling on, again like DEAR AUTHOR. Can’t anyone here read?

    The interview began with an insult and ended with one—

    Opening: “Here…is a short list of things you would be better off reading…: The back of a Mr. Bubble label. An outdated encyclopedia, cover to cover. A Bazooka Joe comic. And, last but not least, the pull tag on a pillow.”

    Closing: “All in all, Wagon Train Sisters would make an excellent doorstop.” .

    Those are INSULTS that are unnecessary even for a negative review. I wouldn’t talk that way to anyone, repeat _anyone_,, so I sure as heck wouldn’t do it in writing either. If you can’t recognize an insult when you see it, I’ll try very hard to feel sorry for you, but it will take some work, I admit. If you think those lines were funny in this context, instead I’ll hope you’ll mature someday.. And for everyone, I hope you aren’t ever on the receiving end of such insults.

    • IronyAhoy August 2, 2016 at 9:25 pm - Reply

      You:
      >Those are INSULTS that are unnecessary even for a negative review. I wouldn’t talk that way to anyone, repeat _anyone_

      You, throughout this comment:
      >Can’t anyone here read?
      >If you think those lines were funny in this context, instead I’ll hope you’ll mature someday..
      >If you can’t recognize an insult when you see it, I’ll try very hard to feel sorry for you, but it will take some work,

  20. Eliza August 2, 2016 at 2:34 pm - Reply

    Typo second graph—should be The review began…

    Another failure of the new site– no preview feature which is needed more than ever with the various tag markups. among the text

  21. Blackjack1 August 2, 2016 at 5:22 pm - Reply

    Those who hate negative and snarky reviews definitely want to steer clear of Roger Ebert’s _Your Movie Sucks_, a book I love in more ways than I can count. I enjoy snarky reviews if the reviewer gives evidence to support opinions, which this review did. It takes some writing skills to write a compelling snarky review, and by the response to this one, I would say it was a success. I wrote what I hope was a scathing reader-review of Emma Chase’s _Tangled_ a while back. It’s a very popular book on Goodreads, but the book troubled me so much that I took the time to compose a review filled with my contempt for the ideas and overall writing. And for those who really cannot abide negative reviews, the grade of an F should be a clear tip off to go no further in your reading.

    • Lisa Fernandes August 2, 2016 at 9:39 pm - Reply

      Ebert is one of my longtime idols, I admit he’s a strong critical influence of mine.

    • RichMissTallant August 3, 2016 at 1:21 pm - Reply

      Blackjack, I love a good snarky review. I’ve mentioned this before but SBTB has the best rant/review for Big Girl Panties by Stephanie Evanovich, a book that made me so angry I was speechless when I finished. Some would probably find it excessive but I thought it was perfect.

      • Blackjack1 August 3, 2016 at 5:36 pm - Reply

        I need to read SBTB reviews!! Thank you for that recommendation!

  22. RichMissTallant August 2, 2016 at 7:34 pm - Reply

    I’m finding this comment feature directly under reviews creates a bit of a different dynamic than when we discussed the books in threads on the board. Maybe because, as someone said above, the “recent comments” draws attention to a review. I didn’t even look at this particular review until I saw it was getting a lot of comments and wanted to know if I was missing something interesting!

    A lot of good points have been made about having multiple staff appearing to jump to a reviewer’s defense and how that can potentially be off-putting for readers. Having said that, no matter how vehemently we disagree on here, surely there’s no need for remarks like “can’t anyone here read?” I frankly find it pointless to engage in a conversation with someone who says something like that and I’m sure others may feel the same.

    • Blackjack1 August 3, 2016 at 5:37 pm - Reply

      Agreed, RichMissTallant! Once personal insults start, discussion pretty much ends.

  23. Eliza August 3, 2016 at 9:19 am - Reply

    Eliza July 21, 2016 at 7:46 am – Reply
    “This comment probably won’t be well received but bashing books and then having the staff jump on board seems more like Dear Author to me than the AAR I used to know. And the tone of the review resembles more of a Mrs. Giggles review than the more respectful ones I was used to on AAR,”

    Julie Gettys July 29, 2016 at 6:04 pm – Reply
    “Anyone who reads a book then hacks it all to hell needs to find a new way to spend their time. If you’re a writer, I’d love to see some of your work. I happen to love this book. This is typical of AAR reviews. I stumbled upon this review on Google. I’d never waste my time reading reviews on this website. There are ways to write negative comments about a book without trying to destroy the author.”

    Shirley Kennedy July 30, 2016 at 4:52 pm – Reply
    I’m Shirley Kennedy, author of Wagon Train Sisters. Over the years, I’ve received many reviews, both good and bad, but have always adhered to the author’s unwritten rule: No matter how insulted—hurt—indignant–crushed you might feel, never reply to a bad review. For the first time, I’m making an exception. Lisa Fernandez, you stepped over the line, and you owe me an apology. ….. As for the rest, I appreciate the remarks of others, like Julie, who recognized the unnecessary viciousness of this review.

    Everything else is just dancing around or going off point of what these three initial comments said.

    • IronyAhoy August 4, 2016 at 12:59 am - Reply

      Didn’t you say you were leaving the review section of this site forever?

      Also Shirley said Lisa owed her an apology because of the racism comments and said she “.(..doesn’t) care if you thought my hero and heroine were bland, the romance sadly bloodless, etc. That’s okay. I can’t please everyone. What I do care about is your statement that my book has “undercurrents of racism.” Really?” She thought it was vicious because of the claim that her work was racist.

    • BJ Jansen August 4, 2016 at 8:35 am - Reply

      Oh dear, I promised myself I wouldn’t comment again but really….
      Eliza,as ironyahoy quite rightly pointed out, you edited Shirley Kennedy’s comment to prove your point when in fact the full quote disproved it.

      “.(..doesn’t) care if you thought my hero and heroine were bland, the romance sadly bloodless, etc. That’s okay. I can’t please everyone. What I do care about is your statement that my book has “undercurrents of racism.”

      and as for quoting Julie Getty’s comment –

      “This is typical of AAR reviews. I stumbled upon this review on Google. I’d never waste my time reading reviews on this website.”

      How could she know what is typical of AAR if she stumbled upon this review, and would never etc. – sigh.

      I offered a sincere personal apology to you Eliza, which you have not acknowledged but just continue to argue a point that some might agree with, but many do not. I have found that continuing to push a point with the hope of changing opinions is often futile and causes upset.

      I sincerely hope other parts of our site will please you, or if they do not, may I wish you well in your search for a site you enjoy.

  24. Anne Gresley August 4, 2016 at 7:48 am - Reply

    I don’t know if Julie Gettys above will be back to read the rest of the thread, but I wonder if she’s the same Julie Gettys who wrote “Della.”

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