Smugglers Stash

Smugglers’ Stash & News

Hello everyone and Happy Sunday!

Things from This Week:

This week was absofreakinglutely bananas. In case you weren’t on the internets, here’s a quick roundup of the ridiculousness: our very own Book Smuggler Ana and Renay (of Lady Business & contributor to Strange Horizons) were accused of being “bullies” – a baseless accusation made by folks who do not understand the distinction between bullying and reasoned (if forceful) argument.

Goodreads Censorship

Nonsensical behavior must have been catching because Goodreads jumped on the bad decision train, too. On Friday, Goodreads announced its new content policy, which states:

We have had a policy of removing reviews that were created primarily to talk about author behavior from the community book page. Once removed, these reviews would remain on the member’s profile. Starting today, we will now delete these entirely from the site. We will also delete shelves and lists of books on Goodreads that are focused on author behavior. If you have questions about why a review was removed, send an email to (And to answer the obvious question: of course, it’s appropriate to talk about an author within the context of a review as it relates to the book. If it’s an autobiography, then clearly you might end up talking about their lives. And often it’s relevant to understand an author’s background and how it influenced the story or the setting.)

Goodreads states that reviews of the author’s behavior are not relevant to the book, that they believe “books should stand on their own merit, and it seems to us that’s the best thing for readers.” Reviews were deleted and hidden, and people were understandably outraged – because despite Goodreads’ claims to the contrary, the new rules are censorship.

We were all even more outraged when this tweet went up showing Goodreads’ new friendly author message on a 1 star review. We find the contrast between author treatment (encouraging pat on the head) and reviewer treatment (belligerent deletion & censorship of reviews) fascinating. Needless to say, we’re not thrilled with Goodreads’ new policies from an ethical perspective, but also from a more jaded marketing/business perspective. (This feels very much like new owner Amazon throwing its weight around and commoditizing the social media platform to fit its needs – wherein reviewers are much less important than authors on the totem pole of priorities.)

Is anyone else similarly disillusioned with Goodreads? We’re taking a good hard look at Book Likes. Any other suggestions? (We were formerly on Library Thing but are wary because of the company’s ownership and frustrating user interface.)

Kirkus NYC Literary Tour

In brighter news, Kirkus Reviews is turning 80 this year! To celebrate, Kirkus is doing 80 days of giveaways, culminating a big NYC literary tour.

The grand prize includes:
– Round trip airfare to NYC (for 2)
– 2 nights at Library Hotel
– Breakfast at the Algonquin Round Table
– Gift certificates to Strand Books, McNally Jackson Books and Three Lives & Company bookstores
– Passes to the Greenwich Village Literary Pub Crawl
– Dinner at PUBLIC

The contest runs from 9/16-10/22/13, and is open to addresses in the US only – check out the official giveaway and enter HERE.

Giveaway Winners:

We have a few giveaway winners to announce! The winner of a copy of What’s Left of Me and Once We Were is…

What's Left of Me Once We Were

Ellie Julianna

The winners of a copy of Picture Me Gone by Meg Rosoff are:

Picture Me Gone

Tünde Lepp

Megan S.

And the 3 winners of Cracked by Eliza Crewe are:

Cracked (India) Cracked (UK)

Heather Christensen

Rebekah Havanas Cade


Congratulations to the winners! You know the drill. Send an email to contact AT thebooksmugglers DOT com with your snail mail address, and we’ll get your winnings to you as soon as possible.

This Week on The Book Smugglers:

Now that the drama has settled down and we can focus on reviews, here’s what we have planned for this week! On Monday, we kick off the week with a cover reveal for Greenglass House – the new book from one of our very favorite authors, Kate Milford. Plus, Ana is over at Kirkus with her review of The Incrementalists (for realsies this time).

Kate Milford Incrementalists

On Tuesday, Ana reviews Inheritance by Malinda Lo, the sequel to last year’s fun extraterrestrial conspiracy thriller Adaptation. We also have Malinda Lo over for a guest post to talk about the book.

Inheritance Malinda Lo

Then, it’s time for September’s Old School Wednesday Readalong! Join us as we discuss Jackaroo by Cynthia Voigt.


On Thursday, Ana reviews She is Not Invisible by Marcus Sedgwick, and Thea reviews The Waking Dark by Robin Wasserman.

She is Not Invisible The Waking Dark

Friday, Thea reviews Vicious by Victoria Schwab, plus we have a giveaway of the book. And, over at Kirkus, Thea gears up for Halloween season with some of her recommended spooky reads.

Vicious Doctor Sleep

PHEW. That’s it for now! Until tomorrow we remain…

Breaking Bad by BossLogic

“Breaking Badass” by BossLogic (via Geek Art Gallery)

~ Your Friendly Neighborhood Book Smugglers

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  • Ana
    September 22, 2013 at 3:07 pm

    I also just wanted to leave a link to this great take about the Goodreads thing written by Fangs for the Fantasy:

    An important excerpt:

    “This whole idea that the author doesn’t matter is something we have discussed before. Author identity matters, author experience matters, author authenticity matters. Each of these things add context to the books produced, adds a level of depth and a level of knowledge; the context of a book can add considerably to that book.

    It also matters when it comes to bigotry. There are a lot of people who were and are unaware of Orson Scott Card’s bigotry. It is grossly ridiculous to claim the author’s giving money to hate groups and actively campaigning to have gay people imprisoned is somehow irrelevant to buying his books. That is ridiculous. It is not just ridiculous, it’s grossly offensive and obscenely privileged to discard these concerns as unimportant and speaks volumes about the priorities of those who try to do so.”

  • Ceilidh
    September 22, 2013 at 3:12 pm

    The Goodreads mess baffles me. The contrast between blindly deleting reviewers’s work and shelves without warning while hand holding authors on 1 star reviews is striking. I made a comment earlier about how GR seemed to be switching from a site for readers to a site for authors but I don’t think that’s accurate. I think they want to be a site for retailers and business, hence their new weirdly cult-like comments on how snarky named shelves and discussing author behaviour isn’t within their ethos or something. It’s sad to see a site I loved sink so low.

    I’m currently on Booklikes, which isn’t without flaws and needs some work (you bet that site’s going to be upgrading real soon) but the GR meets Tumblr style is very much to my liking and could get addictive very quickly.

  • de Pizan
    September 22, 2013 at 3:40 pm

    I haven’t heard of Booklikes before, but it kind of seems derivative of Shelfari on first look?

  • Celine
    September 22, 2013 at 3:42 pm

    Aside from their appalling treatment of reviewers, the Goodreads assumption that all authors are likely to throw a wobbly upon so much as glimpsing a one star review is condescending in the extreme. They’re not running a kindergarten. They should tackle disruptive behavior when and if it happens – not assume it in advance ( especially when the majority of users have been and are going about their book-related activities in a mindful, considerate manner causing no harm or disruption to anyone)

  • Ceilidh
    September 22, 2013 at 4:08 pm

    @de Pizan: Booklikes wins one up over Shelfari because it doesn’t ask you to sign in with your Amazon account or type in your full name. BL has a lot of creases to iron out but they’re working on them pretty quick from what I’ve seen (the introduction of direct messaging and proper shelving were mentioned on Twitter).

  • Caroline (@piefaceline)
    September 22, 2013 at 5:02 pm

    The whole Goodreads thing is so disappointing, on the one hand because it would be such a faff to swap everything over but also because the internet is surely meant to democratise author/reader relationships, rather than put authors on a whole new pedestal?

  • Parnassus Reads
    September 22, 2013 at 5:45 pm

    I’ve tried both booklikes and and much prefer libib. The interface is better, in my opinion. I should note that I’m not a fan of tumblr either, which booklikes is clearly akin to. Libib is promising major new features with the roll out of the app in a month or so, and they have said that a social aspect will be included.

    Neither site has the magic of goodreads, but they certainly have better policies. I also have a librarything acct and rarely use it because I have reached the limit of books you can have on the site before you have to pay for its use and because of the horrible interface.

  • Ros Jackson
    September 22, 2013 at 6:12 pm

    Coincidentally I was looking into Goodreads alternatives just before this news broke. I think Bookdigits is also worth keeping an eye on, although it’s very new and has a long way to go.

    There are a ton of start-ups lately that mimic Goodreads in one way or another, either for its community aspects or its recommendations. I don’t know that it would be a good thing for any single site to replace it, though, because then we’d be back in the situation of having one company with undue influence over readers, and that company would be able, at a whim, to censor people all over again.

  • Joel
    September 22, 2013 at 7:06 pm

    I recommend LibraryThing — but does depend on what you’re looking for in a platform.

  • Andrea K
    September 22, 2013 at 10:38 pm

    My take on Goodreads is that it’s always a good idea to have a backup. Any collection of work which is held entirely by a third party exists at the mercy of that third party. Given the huge amount of work some people put into their reviews, even if you’re not choosing to shift to one of the other options, it’s worth exporting your Goodreads reviews every so often.

    This current policy shift won’t stop me from using Goodreads – it has the best interface for what I want to do with my reviews – but I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s a policy shift which sees Goodreads decline in dominance as a reader review site. Especially since it’s clear that the “talking about the author” policy is only going to extend to “saying non-positive things”.

  • Jennifer
    September 23, 2013 at 12:31 am

    That’s disappointing from Goodreads, I am not a member but I love its lists and reviews. Especially since I’m quite picky and seeing negative and articulate reviews is for me a better indicator of my liking or not a book. Or at least it gives me a more balanced view of a book, by example, even if I like something, I can find amusing other people dislike it.

    And anyway… I am pretty sure that when I do a work about a book, I am supposed to talk at least a little about the author because it may help to know more about the book. Arbitrary deciding authors behaviors, actions, past, morals etc… have nothing to do with theirs books is ridiculous.

  • Jana
    September 23, 2013 at 1:18 am

    It’s definitely upsetting to see a shift in policy for Goodreads, especially since I’ve written a little over a dozen reviews for different books–and not all of them are positive. While they may think they’re “protecting” the authors, the simple fact of the matter is that some books just aren’t good, and reviewers need to be able to say so!

    That aside, I’m very much looking forward to reading Ana’a review of The Incrementalists and the read-along for Jackaroo, which is a book that I have loved for a very, very long time. 🙂

  • Kate & Zena
    September 23, 2013 at 2:30 am

    Well, that’s a load of shit (sorry for the swearing.) I sometimes think the author’s background can profoundly affect the way you read a book or how you relate to a book. Sometimes, you can read a book you love, then you read about how that author behaves and then your whole point-of-view on the book shifts, you know?

    I guess part of the reason I’ve always kept my profile private except to my friends is because, while I would love an author to respond to my review (if I do leave one), is that I would be criticized. I’m very sensitive and my thoughts are my own but I would hate for someone to attack me for my thoughts. I’ve been very hesitant on leaving a review for Code Name Verity (I loved it, by the way) because I don’t know what I’d do if one of my friends would criticize my opinion. It’s one of those books I found so special I don’t know how to review without baring my soul.

    To know if I left something negative and it could be taken down….that’s not fair, is it? You are still expressing your opinion, and for some, it’s still expressing their soul in a way. To deny that because of an author’s behavior is ridiculous.

  • Sarah
    September 23, 2013 at 8:15 am

    I have been following this whole issue avidly. I’ve had a few private responses from authors to negative (and positive) reviews I’ve left on GR, and while they have all been very nice, it makes me perhaps more tactful and self-conscious than I would otherwise be about books I dislike. The censorship depresses me. And the patronising advice to authors would incense me.

    I was naively unaware of Orson Scott Card’s bigotry until now, but I have always been extremely uncomfortable with the portrayal of relationships and particularly sexuality (or creepily repressed lack of it) in the few books of his I have read, so I feel vindicated that my unease was justified!

    OK, now I feel paranoid that OSC is going to cyberstalk me.

  • Patricia Eimer
    September 23, 2013 at 8:48 am

    As an author I never, EVER comment on reviews. Once the book leaves my hands and goes to the publisher it’s no longer mine, IMHO. Do I read reviews? Sure. I want to know what people liked and didn’t like and what worked and didn’t work so that I can use it to improve my later writing.

    Do I like getting bad reviews? No but that’s what chocolate is for. An author commenting is never productive to a conversation on books and at some level it’s just rude horning in on someone else’s conversation.

  • Jennifer
    September 23, 2013 at 8:49 am

    Knowing about Orson Scott Card’s stance hasn’t changed my opinion of his books because I think he didn’t have an anti agenda in the books I have read from him. It isn’t like I expect all the books to have gay relationships or sex in them (even if I was annoyed by a relationship in the 2nd Ender book… but I am also annoyed by relationships in many other books not written by Card). After all even if he follows a kind of church, he doesn’t preach for it in his books as far I have seen or it is so subtle that he obviously fails to make me spot a message for it, let alone convert me. Of course, I may also be be the one to be oblivious to certain things.

    Of course I understand that because of his opinion, some people are reluctant to buy his books.

  • Bibliotropic
    September 23, 2013 at 9:45 am

    Call me the voice of dissent here, but I think I can understand where GoodReads is coming from. I’m not going to say I’ve never commented on author behaviour before. I have. And I probably will again. But the problem ends up being people taking that for granted and using groups like that as a free-for-all in which anyone can just start trash-talking and being belligerent and abusive, and unfortunately it’s a lot easier to just say, “Sorry, we’re not allowing groups like this anymore,” than to go through and delete every individual message in every group that contains abusive commentary. And unfortunately, that means that legitimate discussion gets blocked in the process, but that’s what tends to happen when a few bad apples get thrown in the barrel. It spoils things for the rest of us.

    It sucks that they’ve removed the power for authors to reply directly to negative reviews, it’s not hand-holding. It’s not censorship. It’s not like the author can’t direct a private message at the reviewer, or contact them in some other way. It’s a way to cut down on shitstorms.

    And a comparison between the reviewer and author treatment isn’t as bad as you’re making it sound. Or so I think. Cutting down on potential or actual trash-talking on one side, and, er, cutting down on potential trash-talking on the other side. It’s kind of similar. It’s not like the Goodreads fairies are going around and deleting every 1-star review on the site; that would be censorship, and I’d say that people have a right to get royally pissed off about it. But to me, this seems like little more than good sense and reminders about what can and can’t be done on the site. And I don’t have a problem with it.

    Personally, I’m not going to be leaving GoodReads any time soon. They’ve actually screwed me over less than other similar sites, lied to me less, and have a better interface. I’m relatively happy with them.

  • Annamal
    September 23, 2013 at 3:32 pm

    Jennifer, it’s not just his opinions (although the way he’s expressed them suggests to me that he lacks rationality and empathy which would indicate to me that I can find other better books out there), it’s the fact that he is a member (and sometime board member) of a group that is actively trying to make gay people’s lives worse.

    If you found out that an author you were potentially going to read was contributing funds to the KKK, wouldn’t you think twice before buying their book?

  • A J Dalton
    September 24, 2013 at 6:43 am

    As an author, I would absolutely expect to be judged on my behaviour – as long as a death sentence wasn’t passed LOL. Similarly, knowing something about an author’s background can add new dimensions to the reading of a book. Look at how knowledge of what Scott Lynch has recently been through affects readings of The Lies of Loche Lamora. With Empire of the Saviours, knowing that I attended a stultifying and censoring religious school when young has to add a certain poignancy to the opening chapter (which might otherwise seem a tad cliched). Anyway, maybe a GR compromise might be if they create a new category of review or something, rather than making some ‘high and mighty’ decision which risks alienating a good section of the fantasy community. Good idea?

  • Kitty
    September 26, 2013 at 12:22 pm

    Re the BA kerfuffle, I have to admit I’m baffled at the response your bloggers had to what I thought were some pretty inoffensive and mild-toned remarks from the writer. Lost some respect for your site after that one.

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