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A few days ago, Shirley Jump, (Maili, does her name apply?) wrote an interesting column at RTB, entitled Too Much Simon.

Her column started like this:

As you can imagine, I totally disagree.

She continues:

She says that being nice can go a long way, I’m sure it can and does, but isn’t the world so PC’d out that sometimes it’s a relief to find somebody who wont sugarcoat shit for you?

We don’t trust politicians because of the very fact that you can never get a straight answer out of any of them, so why would we ask ordinary people to behave like they do?

Shirley continues:

Basically, her beef is that she thinks that too many reviewers play to the gallery by making their reviews extra snarky, rather than finding a nice way of saying that an author’s work is shit.

I’ve never subscribed to the “if you can’t say something nice” thought process. Balls to that, I want honesty, so that I at least know where I stand.

This was my response:

OK, the JW McKenna line was a bit harsh, but fuck it, I hate his books, and I don’t give a shit who knows it.

The thing is, as somebody wisely pointed out, reviews are for readers, and although they are wholly subjective, I appreciate an honest review any day, more than a book that’s been Harriet Klausnered.

I’m a huge advocate of letting readers rip the crap out of a book if they thought it was wank, after all, they went to the trouble of (probably) buying it and reading it. Besides, it’s just one persons opinion, after all.

If an author wants a nice gentle critique, they should go to their editors, or their author pals. Readers and reviewers aren’t there to pander to writer’s egos, as far as I’m concerned.

Without the Simons of this world to keep balance, every book would probably read like a Thea Devine soap opera.. Thanks but no thanks, give me a Sarky Simon over a Perky Paula anyday!


  • Bangladesh
    February 27
    7:22 pm

    I have to agree with the columist I am also o so sick of simon!


  • sybil
    February 27
    8:10 pm

    I don’t like Simon either. So guess what? I don’t watch.

    Anyone that goes on that show has to know what they are getting themselves into. They are taking their chance to be the winner and they are taking their chance to have someone rip the fuck into them.

    hmmm much like anyone that publishes a novel… Hey you could have a best seller! Or you could have someone rip the fuck into you. But you take the chance and put it out into the world. Should reviews attack the author vs the book? No, but if it does and that sends the writer running from the writing room – they never should have published in the first place.

    I love reviews. I generally disagree with giggles and can’t count the number of books I have bought from her snarky ass reviews. What she hates, might be something I like.

    Do I rip into people when I review? No, I say what I like and I say what I don’t. And anyone that reads it can agree or not. I except it. In fact I like to talk about what I did and didn’t like about a book that someone else loved or hated.

    It is life. To get the good you might get some bad. Get over it, or don’t publish. Write your book, print it and give it to your mother. Well unless your mom is like mine, uh give it to a friend. A REALLY fucking nice one.

    Damn you karen! I was so good to not respond to this! But oh no you had to bring it back up 😉


  • jmc
    February 27
    8:21 pm

    I don’t watch American Idol. I’m outing myself as a total dork, but I’ve never watched and I’m not planning on starting. Having said that, one doesn’t have to watch it to know who Simon Cowell is or how he rates contestants. Since I haven’t watched, I cannot say that he’s always appropriate or that he doesn’t play to the audience. But I think it’s comparing apples and oranges to compare his snark to a book review.

    The idea that SJ wouldn’t write a review if she couldn’t find something nice to say is a crock, IMO. That’s a weak excuse that people hide behind when they don’t want to tell the truth. And I think it’s another example of women socialized to be nicey-nice, instead of being real with each other. Are movie reviewers lambasted for telling the truth when a movie sucks? No. Are art critics? No. Do academic writers expect criticism when they publish? Absolutely. Only romance novelists expect book reviewers to be nice, and to be silent if they can’t say something nice.

    Not wanting to say something mean because one knows how hard a writer worked to get published isn’t an excuse either, in my book. The writer put the work out in public, knowing that it was subject to review. If s/he didn’t want to be read or couldn’t handle criticism, s/he should have just put the manuscript in a drawer. Once it is published, it is a product, and it open to the same criticism and review than ANY product is, from baby food to electronics. And if I don’t like something or it doesn’t work as advertised, I have no problem saying so…especially if I paid full price.

    Sorry about the rambling rant.


  • Megan Frampton
    February 27
    8:34 pm

    This whole ‘if you can’t say anything nice…’ argument is one of my biggest pet peeves. I think there’s way too much niceness in romance (and I’m guilty of it too–I don’t want to mention a lousy book by a woman I might meet at the next RWA event). If you publish a book, some people might dislike it. And say so, in not so nice terms. Whatever. I don’t watch AI, never have, but I do appreciate people being honest with their opinions, no matter who it offends.



  • Eve Vaughn
    February 27
    11:11 pm

    Without Simon that show would go down the tubes. Yes, he’s a bit of jerk at times, but people do listen to what he has to say.


  • Millenia Black
    February 27
    11:45 pm

    I’m with you, Karen. I love Simon. It’s Paula that irks me!

    Agree with Eve, too. Without Simon it’s, “American what?” There’d be no show. That’s not to say he couldn’t be replaced with an equally “tell it like it is” personality. But, I love the accent. 🙂


  • Misty G
    February 27
    11:57 pm

    I don’t find Ms. Jump’s opinion to be all that wrong, exactly, but maybe too Pollyanna like in the thought process. It’s not wrong to enjoy a bad review, even if sometimes the humor at the expence of the author can be a bit overkill. I tend to wonder if there’s any more truth to a “snarky” review than I do to a “sticky sweet” review just because there seems to be a growing fad to be cutting edge.

    But, if a reviewer only writes positives, where is the honesty in the critique? I think there can be a balance without losing the personality of the person who is doing the judging, but I also thinks it’s a disservice to readers to only print what you like (and the same goes for those people who only print what they don’t like, I mean Jesus, take a happy pill or something)

    Why be afraid to speak the truth? It can be done in a way that is funny, but helpful. Simon is what he is, he gets paid a lot of money to do what he does, and I somehow doubt he’d be paid so much if he had the same kind of opinions that his co-judges have. And I don’t think Roger Ebert would have had a job in movie reviews if he only talked about the stuff he liked, and none of what he didn’t.

    I also don’t think it’s too beyond the rhelm of possiblity that there are people out there who say things more for the effect than the truth, so I guess the issue goes both ways. There are fakes on both side, and it’s our job to find the fake we like best or figure out who the real people are from the idiots just out to get attention.


  • Dakota Cassidy
    February 28
    1:58 am

    I hate to say it, but I lean more toward a combo of Paula and Randy. I’m not an advocate of being cruel for any reason. If the contestants shouldn’t consider singing as a career in their future, I’m not afraid to say it. However, it can be said decently, but then, where would AI be without the snarky comments?

    Simon’s been pretty harsh to some folks–especially the one overweight woman who has a fantastic voice. I think that SUCKS. Period. It isn’t necessary to be hurful. Did she need to hear she was overweight? Uh, I think she knew. We tune in because we know he’s going to be outrageous.

    I do. I just ignore him.

    As to the book reviews, well, I don’t agree you should rip anything or anyone apart. I think it takes far more smarts to say you hated it with your good vocabulary skills, than to say, this is a wanker book.

    I know if it was any of us Simon or a reviewer was humiliating and quicker on the draw when doing it, we’d not appreciate that tablespoon of honesty quite as much. It hurts when people are mean to you.

    Honest doesn’t have to mean asshole. LOLLOL

    Just my .02

    Rebecca from Sunnybrook Farm, er, Dakota 🙂


  • Dakota Cassidy
    February 28
    2:06 am

    Oh, and I forgot to say. I don’t know about pandering to egos of authors. I can’t remember the last time I asked anyone to pander to me. If you don’t like something, that’s A-ok with me.

    I do know about pandering to humanity and being kind. Without the Simon’s of the world, we wouldn’t have controversy and yeah, that could get boring, but I think boring beats making someone else feel like crap.

    I’ll never agree it’s okay to bash anyone or anything and I don’t think it’s pandering to be honest enough to say, I didn’t like that book and say it without being nasty.

    Okay, Karen, my love–you can yell at me now. LOLLOL

    STILL Rebecca from Sunnybrook Farm LOLLOL

    Dakota 🙂


  • Dawn
    February 28
    11:39 am

    Well, if I was a writer, I’d much, much rather see an honest review. It can be done without trashing the author.

    Now, AI. I’m sure that the contestants put much more stock in Simon’s comments than Randy’s or especially Paula’s. I mean, for crying out loud, if the singer blew chunks how the hell, can she say, “Well, you know what I like about you, is that you took the song and made it your own. You have a nice tone.” WTF does that mean? Why does she have to be so fricking nice? Can’t she just say, “OK, that was not a good performance.”

    OTH, Simon does seem to have an obsession with the “ghastly hotel cabaret” thing.


  • Anonymous
    February 28
    1:46 pm

    Within the context of the program Simon represents the type of critic these people can expect to encounter outside of the contest which is American Idol. I don’t like his personality but I do agree with his opinion more times than I’d like to admit. Only a favored few become recording artists in the music industry. Why lie to them and tell them they’re wonderful if indeed they are awful? anna


  • Bookwormom
    February 28
    5:19 pm

    I have to say I’d rather go shopping with Simon than Paula. Why? He’d be honest. It may hurt my feelings, but I’d have his opinion, whether I agree or not. Who wants friends who can’t tell it like it is? Are egos really that fragile? Stupid question.

    I’ve tried to ignore to finger wagging ‘you’d better play nice or else’ arguments about reviews. All I have to say is, I agree with you Karen. Want to go shopping? LOL


  • Elizabeth Kerri Mahon
    February 28
    6:32 pm

    Karen, I agree with you whole-heartedly about Simon. Randy plays just as much to the audience with his dawg pound as Simon, Paula is incoherent much of the time, but the great thing about Simon is how honest he is. I truthfully think he feels that he’s doing people a service, and saving them alot of heartbreak in the long run. And he’s even willing to admit when he might have got it wrong as he did last week with Mandisa and Taylor Hicks.

    I also can’t stand reviewers who give every book they read 4 stars like the reviewer you mentioned, you can be constructive without being devastating but sometime you have to call crap crap, IMHO.

    I’d rather someone look at my work, say ‘this is good’ ‘this needs work’ etc. then someone who is generic.


  • Karen Scott
    February 28
    7:21 pm

    Hi Bangladesh, you’re not alone in your dislike of Simon, but I think it’s his straight forwardness that I love, you’d always know where you stood with him.

    Sybil, I know it’s possible to review a book without ripping it apart, but the thing is, I generally buy all my books brand new, so I spend a lot of money. If I spend £6.99 ($12)on a book and it’s shit, it should have the freedom to say what I like about the book, not about the author personally, but the book itself.

    Meegan, this whole being nice shit is probably one of the reasons romance books will be always be the poor relation. I’ve read literary reviews that were so scathing, they practically peeled skin, romance writers should be held under the same tough scrutiny without noses being put out of joint.

    Eve, I totally agree with you there! Simon always gives a succinct analysis, whereas Paula waxes lyrical, and by the end of her ramblings, you still don’t really know what she’s talking about.

    Hi JMC, I totally agree with you, not wanting to review a book because you couldn’t find anything nice to say about it is a total cop-out. Her attitude explains why I’m very selective about which author blogs I visit.

    Millennia, I think Simon’s great, let’s face it, his is the only opinion I’m interested in, sometimes I agree with him, sometimes I don’t, but I still want to hear what he thinks.

    Misty G, there are worse things in the world than being told that the book you wrote is crap. As long as the review doesn’t personally attack the author, as far as I’m concerned it’s open season! You’re probably right about people being snarky for effect, but shouldn’t the authors take such reviews with a pinch of salt?

    Dakota, the thing about Simon is that once you’ve been Simonised by him, you’re left with no illusions as to what he thinks. The music industry is a very harsh environment, and his brand of sarcasm at least prepares you for what you’d get from other A and R people. The reason most of the people on Idol go on there (apart from wanting their 15 minutes of fame)thinking they can sing, when they obviously can’t, is because well meaning friends and relatives told them they could make it in the music industry. That’s waaay cruel. It’s like telling your overweight friend that she looks great in spandex when she doesn’t. The truth would save a lot of grief in the long run.

    There are nice ways of saying things, and I certainly don’t advocate being mean to people because of something they were born with, or is maybe a part of who they are, but reviewing books is a whole different ball game. Once you put your stuff out there for public consumption, then you’re asking for people to tell you what they think of your book. Some people will like, and other people will think it sucks donkey dick, that’s just life.

    And don’t worry, I love people who disagree with me and aren’t afraid to say so *g*
    Besides, like Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm!

    Lol Dawn, he’s always going on about the whole cabaret thing, even when he does X Factor, he always says the same thing! By the way, I can’t believe Paris has a high slap factor for you, she’s bloody brill!

    Anna, my point exactly. He at least prepares them for the real world if they do want to pursue their dreams. Too few people make it, and they are treated much worse on the outside!

    Amanda, I’m often the first person my friends will ring if they want an opinion on something, purely because they know I don’t beat about the bush. Yes, I would love to go shopping.

    In my family, honesty has always been a valued trait, and if any of my brother’s do something to piss me off, I’ll tell them in no uncertain terms. I didn’t realise it wasn’t like that in all families until I met my other half’s family. hey are so goddam polite to each other, it makes me want to scream. His sister is a 37 year old woman living with her parents still. WHAT THE FUCK? I’ve often mentioned to the Tall Guy that he ought to say something about her lack of life, but in their family that’s not how they deal with things. So she happily makes cakes, knits, and wears her hair the same way she had it when she was a teenager, and is deathly afraid of doing anything outside her comfort zone.

    I’ve often joked with The TG, that one day, I’m going to Trinny and Suzannah her. The girl needs a good make over, and she needs a life, but her parents wont tell her, and her brother can’t be arsed telling her to that life is passing her by.

    If she was my sister, I would have dragged her kicking and screaming into the 21st Century, and told her in no uncertain terms that she needed to make a change or she’d die a lonely old woman with her dolls houses, and her razor sharp bangs.

    People may argue that she’s happy, but I know that she isn’t, not deep down, but she’s not my sister, thus, not my responsibility.

    She truly needs somebody to tell her to get a life, and because nobody is willing to do that, she keeps doing the same old thing, day after day, hoping that somebody will come and wake her up before she’sold and grey.


  • Karen Scott
    February 28
    7:26 pm

    Elizabeth, I’m in complete agreement. And I happen to think that Simon is doing them a favour. If they can take a negative criticism and turn it into a positive, then all the better for them!


  • Maura
    February 28
    7:49 pm

    I must be alone in that I don’t even watch American Idol. I hate pretty much EVERY un-reality show so I vote with my feet and just don’t watch them.

    The reviews I really hate are the ones that don’t give any concrete information on why they like or do not like a particular story. Simply “this sucks rocks” really doesn’t help me…. or the author, I’m sure.

    I certainly don’t like some of the stories I read all that much but I do try to say why. A few times I’ve said it in some rather … un-PC language, especially when it was the 3rd one by that author that sucked in the SAME WAY.

    But I do think honesty is a MUST. No one wants to hear their shit don’t stink when everyone is simply wearing noseplugs.


  • Dakota Cassidy
    February 28
    10:46 pm

    I agree 100%, cookie. However, he can say, I hate your voice, without making some of the crude comments he has now and in the past.

    Sure, you can say someone’s singing sucks big, fat titties and you can say that about a book too. In that I agree, however I disagree that it has to be said with crude, crass language, cuz it just makes the person giving the opinion look kinda lame and uneducated, if you ask me. And no, I sure wouldn’t want someone to let me wear spandex if I looked like shit. But you can say that in a decent way. “Hey, I don’t think those are for you.How about we try loose and flowing?” Certainly not, “Do we have a bigger stage?” Much the way Simon did to the nice lady who’s name I’ve completely lost. What does the size of her ass have to do with that incredible voice? Not a lot.

    And, no, I’m not afraid to disagree with you. I just do it all nice like. LOLLOL

    And I’m glad you still love me. Sunnybrook Farms can be a VERY lonely place. LOLLOL

    Hugs and sloppy Kisses,
    Dakota 🙂


  • Anne
    February 28
    11:23 pm

    Well, I have to say that I like Simon and his brutal honesty. What’s the point in sugar-coating it when saying YOU SUCK? I mean, just get to the point, don’t tap dance around it… what exactly sucked about it?

    I WANT to know what sucks. Such is the case with my WIP. I sent it to Karen for critque… Yes, it was a very, very nerve-wracking time for me. LOL BUT, I did send it to Karen because I KNEW she’d be nothing but honest with me. So, she told me exactly what she thought and I was very grateful to her for that… more than grateful actually. The first thing I said was “Holy shit!” because needless to say there are major rewrites needed, but that’s what I was looking for.

    I’ve heard of a few authors asking other authors for their critique or opinion of their work and when the person asked comes back with a way to improve something or shows a way to better the story, the writer then gets in a snit because Lord knows their work is flawless. So, then, WHY ASK?

    So, in my honest opinion, if you aren’t ready for the truth, don’t put yourself out there to be judged.


  • Desiree Erotique
    March 1
    1:29 am

    I don’t watch American Idol, so I can’t comment there.

    But as a former reviewer I suppose I am in a minority as I tend to agree with the lady. When I created Literary Nymphs I remembered the often heated and cruel things I had previously written about books I didn’t like; reviews filled with that “brutal honesty” thing, or in other words, comments that made me feel good just because of my own sour grapes left after a disappointing read. That was not professional, it was self-indulgent on my part. Over the years I have come to believe that constructive criticism is the mark of not only the professional reviewer, but the conscientious commentator. As for my own most recent reviews, I had made it known that if I couldn’t find something “nice” to say, I simply wouldn’t write a review. This may sound cowardly, but on the contrary, when you post this forewarning on your review site, then refuse to write a review on the book in question, the author knows immediately that YOU HAVE NOTHING GOOD TO SAY. And talk about some “brutal honesty” from an angry writer LOL


  • sybil
    March 1
    2:15 am

    hmmm I must have not expressed myself well but then I cut a lot cuz I felt like I was take up to much room ;).

    Regardless of how much money you do or don’t spend, *I* think you have the freedom to review the book however you want. Just as I, megan, misty or Dakota from Sunnybrook Farm does :). None of the reviews are ‘right’. They are just opinion, cool to read, nifty to talk about and for the reader.

    If all you do is rec what you like, you are not a review site/blog you are a recommendation site/blog.

    And I completley agree this kind of only be nice and buy the world a coke thing is why romance is the underdog in the lit world.

    Of course I hate people that set out to make asses of themselves so stay far far away from any reality tv. LOL and I agree your sis-in-law is prolly not happy but unless she were to say it, you can never be too sure because you are judging her life by what makes you happy.

    not that you asked but since you threw it out there 🙂 Of course I have no idea how you have managed to NOT say something to her. I don’t think I could be that strong.


  • Ann Wesley Hardin
    March 1
    10:30 am

    I’m surprised no one has mentioned that Karen is our very own little Simon here at erotic romance central. *gg*

    I can’t speak for others, but I can say that her intelligent, well thought out critiques are the ones I wait for, even while I’m thinking please let her like it, please let her like it. *ggg*

    Go Karen!


  • McVane
    March 1
    5:33 pm

    I didn’t realise it wasn’t like that in all families until I met my other half’s family.

    Holy cow. Same here. When I was a teen, I had a serious culture shock when I visited a friend’s family home. They were so polite, quiet, and, you know, very genteel. Wheras my family was opinionated, openly affectionate [slobby mock kisses, big hugs, and all that], etc. [But our parents did make damn sure we will always remember to say thank you, please, may I, and always be polite to elders, no matter how horrid they are; I bet yours are like that, too]. Occasionally, a couple of fistfights among us siblings [a rarity nowadays, I swear]. 😀

    In a way, we lack “proper” skills when comes to assessing a situation to determine which level of honesty, bluntness, and tact we should use. I do get frustrated by that, sometimes.

    Then again, the definiton of tact is in the eye of the beholder, isn’t it?


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