Archive for the ‘Review Sources’ Category


Tuesday, January 8th, 2013

Small hatchet2Winning an award for a hatchet job may not sound like a good thing. The Ominvore (not to be confused with Omnivoracious, Amazon’s book blog) begs to differ. They created “The Hatchet Job of The Year” award in 2011 for the year’s most scathing book review, in an effort to “crusade against dullness, deference and lazy thinking. It rewards critics who have the courage to overturn received opinion, and who do so with style.”

So, congrats to one of EarlyWord‘s favorite reviewers, the Washington Post‘s Ron Charles, who is one of eight nominees for the “Hatchet Job 2012” for his review of Martin Amis’s Lionel Asbo. His review is one of just two that appeared in American publications (the other is Zoë Heller’s review of  Joseph Anton by Salman Rushdie in the New York Review of Books).

Here’s hoping that Ron wins a well-deserved year’s supply of potted shrimp (supplied by The Fish Society, the “UK’s premier mail order and online fishmonger,” which sponsors the award — we leave it up to you to speculate on why).

Rotten Tomatoes for Books

Monday, July 16th, 2012

A new site called I Dream Books is being called “Rotten Tomatoes for Books,” a reference to the movie site that rounds ups critics responses to movies.

The founders tell Publishing Perspectives that although there are several other book review aggregators, their site is different because their user interface is better, “it’s made for discovery: there’s an emphasis on covers and images. The site is like looking in a shop window.”

After examining it, we’ll stick with our favorite aggregators; Bookmarks magazine’s web site, which lists the reviews for the week from 25 publications, as well as the most-reviewed titles for the past 8 weeks and the subscription service Publishers Marketplace ($20/month, which includes a host of other services). The latter indexes reviews from over 40 publications, with a brief excerpt and a simple indicator of whether each review is “Generally positive” or “Generally negative”.

In comparison to those sources, I Dream Books is not as timely. The latest reviews we could find are from May; no reviews are listed for Hilary Mantel’s Bring Up the Bodies (published by Macmillan, one of the Big Six publishers that I Dream Books is currently focused on). Bookmarks shows 14 reviews for the title and Publishers Marketplace, 13. In addition, some of the information is perplexing; several titles are listed by their paperback release dates, with no mention of the hardcover.

I Dream Books has an advantage in the number of sources they coverincluding several book blogs. As print coverage of books shrinks, this could be very useful. However, since many book blogs are by genre fans, they skew the listings. For instance, Jinx, a new graphic novel version of the Archie Comics, is listed as the #2 Top Rated fiction title of the year.

News stories:

Huffington Post — iDreamBooks Review Site: Rotten Tomatoes For Books? Is Like Rotten Tomatoes For Books – AppNewser

Publishing PerspectivesiDreambooks Promises “Rotten Tomatoes-like” Site for Books

Demo video:

New Book Review

Wednesday, April 20th, 2011

A new online book publication with an unfortunate acronym is in the midst of a launch, the Los Angeles Review of Books, or LORB. It is supported by the U. of Cal Riverside, where editor Ton Lutz is on the faculty, and other donors. The publication has an impressively long roster of contributing editors, including James Franco (we’re assuming that is the same James Franco as the author, actor, film director, screenwriter, painter, etc.)

Today, LORB released its first sample, which includes an essay on Nancy Mitford by Jane Smiley, Buster Keaton and the World of Objects by Geoff Nicholson, and The Death of the Book by Ben Ehrenreich.

Under “Further Information,”  the editors outline ambitious goals:

The LOS ANGELES REVIEW OF BOOKS is the first major, full-service book review to launch in the 21st century, and is designed to exploit the latest online technologies in ways that respond to a significantly transformed publishing world.  We are still working on the coding for the full site, and offer this ‘preview review’ in the meantime.

The great tradition of the American comprehensive book review, in magazine and newspaper form, has been in its death throes for years, replaced in partial and inadequate ways by crowd-sourced or user-generated forums for book talk on the web. There are numerous blogs, some quite excellent (and we will have deep linking relationships with the best of them), but very little in the way of full-range book reviewing—rigorously edited, carefully curated, deeply informed discourse by experts in their respective fields—has been mounted to take the place of the dwindling print reviews. The disappearance of the newspaper book review supplement … has been accompanied by an explosion of titles in the book market. The net result: twenty times as many titles are published each year than were in 1980, and we have one twentieth of the serious book reviews.

Unfortunately, none of the books published recently get serious attention in the currently available sample (in fact, the Keaton piece makes passing reference to just a single book; Keaton’s autobiography, which he dictated, but never read).

We’ll be watching to see how LORB develops. The list of forthcoming articles, however, promises more of what’s in the sample.

The NEW Newsweek

Tuesday, March 8th, 2011

The latest incarnation of Newsweek, under the editorship of Tina Brown, arrives on newsstand today. In her introductory editorial, Brown makes a valiant effort to explain why a print weekly still matters today.

Our focus is more narrow; what about books? In recent years, the weekly news magazines have cut back their review sections. On the other hand, Brown’s online publication, The Daily Beast, launched a book section early in 2009. We heard that the new Newsweek would include a book section in each issue, so we had hopes.

We haven’t gotten our hands on the print version yet, but in the online version, the book section is rather meager and buried. The only book feature is “Bookbag: Jodi Picoult’s Picks,” in which the bestselling author shines her light on three novels;  Allison Pearson’s I Think I Love You (Knopf; Feb), Benjamin Hale’s The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore (Twelve/ Grand Central; Jan) and Caroline Leavitt’s Pictures of You (Algonquin; Jan).

Picoult calls Leavitt an “undiscovered jewel.” While not exactly “undiscovered” (Pictures of You was a Costco Pick and it was on the extended NYT Paperback Fiction list), Leavitt does deserve a broader audience (check out Carolyn See’s review in the Washington Post).

Pictures of You
Caroline Leavitt
Retail Price: $13.95
Paperback: 336 pages
Publisher: Algonquin Books – (2011-01-25)
ISBN / EAN: 1565126319 / 9781565126312

OverDrive; Adobe EPUB eBook
Highbridge Audio; UNABR; 9781615736553; Library Edition, 9781611741025

NYT BR Expands Picture Book Reviews

Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011

The New York Times Book Review will post an additional, online-only picture book review each week. The first one is for Il Sung Na’s book about the change of seasons,  Snow Rabbit, Spring Rabbit.

Snow Rabbit, Spring Rabbit: A Book of Changing Seasons
Il Sung Na
Retail Price: $15.99
Hardcover: 24 pages
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers – (2011-01-11)
ISBN / EAN: 0375867864 / 9780375867866

Also available in library binding

NYT Expands Best Seller Lists

Thursday, February 3rd, 2011

Get ready for 14 NYT best seller lists, rather than the usual 8.

The Feb. 13 lists expand to include E-Books (adult Fiction and Nonfiction), as well as Combined Print and E-Books lists.

Also, there are new combined paperback and hardback lists in both fiction and nonfiction.

The only revelation from the new lists is that people buy the same titles in eBooks as they do in print — James Patterson’s Tick Tock tops the fiction in both formats and Lauren Hillenbrand’s Unbroken leads in nonfiction.

Washington Post Adds Pop-Culture Book Reviews

Wednesday, January 19th, 2011

The Washington Post announced that, beginning January 23, it will publish a separate tabloid-size Sunday “Style “section. Among the new features will be “pop-culture book reviews.”

The new coverage will not affect book news and criticism in the “Outlook” section (Quill & Quire, 1/18/11).

We’re looking forward to seeing what they mean by “pop-culture.”

The Washington Post angered book lovers in 2009, when they closed down the stand-alone Sunday “Book World” section.


Thursday, November 18th, 2010

The Sexiest Man Alive is Ryan Reynolds.

Oops, sorry, the real news is that the 11/29 issue of People gives three books the four-star treatment (but the lead title, Bush’s Decision Points gets only 3.5):

The Distant Hours, Kate Morton, “A nuanced exploration of family secrets and betrayal, Morton’s latest [after The Forgotten Garden] is captivating.”

The Distant Hours: A Novel
Kate Morton
Retail Price: $26.00
Hardcover: 576 pages
Publisher: Atria – (2010-11-09)
ISBN / EAN: 1439152780 / 9781439152782


Foreign Bodies, Cynthia Ozick, “Who would dare rewrite Henry James? Ozick proves up to the task, recasting The Amabassadors with Jewish Americans in post-war Paris.” It will be featured on the NYT BR cover this week.

Foreign Bodies
Cynthia Ozick
Retail Price: $26.00
Hardcover: 272 pages
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt – (2010-11-01)
ISBN / EAN: 0547435576 / 9780547435572


Louisa May Alcott, Susan Cheever; “Cheever brings her characteristic lyricism to this loving, incisive portrait.”

Louisa May Alcott: A Personal Biography
Susan Cheever
Retail Price: $26.00
Hardcover: 320 pages
Publisher: Simon & Schuster – (2010-11-02)
ISBN / EAN: 141656991X / 9781416569916

Changes to NYT Best Seller Lists

Tuesday, November 16th, 2010

In an interview on the Austin, TX PBS station, Sam Tanenhaus, editor of the NYT Book Review says what we already knew — they are going to do an eBook best seller list (the NYT’s announcement said it will debut “early next year“). He also says they are going to do “complicated, fun interesting things” with all the lists.

Unfortunately, he does not elaborate, but does go on to say how they assign books are for review.

A Rolling Stone on the Cover of the NYT BR

Friday, November 12th, 2010

It had to happen. The cover of the 11/21 NYT BR goes to Keith Richards for his memoir, Life (if you are suffering a bit of déjà vu, so are we. For some reason, last week’s NYT BR preview listed Liz Phair’s review as appearing in that issue). The book also moves to  #1 on the Hardcover Nonfiction best seller list, up from #2 last week.

The “biography of cancer,” The Emperor of All Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee, gets a better reception than Janet Maslin gave it in the daily NYT yesterday.

In nonfiction best sellers, Stacy Schiff’s Cleopatra arrives on the list, as we predicted, at #11 and the Cake Boss, Buddy Valastro, arrives at #4 on the Advice, etc. list. In children’s, Kathy Reichs’ first book featuring the fictional niece of the protagonist of her adult mysteries, Virals, debuts at #6 on the Chapter Books list.

CLEOPATRA Gets the Cover; NYTBR, 11/14

Friday, November 5th, 2010

Stacy Schiff’s bio of Cleopatra has already received a boatload of reviews and is now featured on the cover of the NYT BR for 11/14. Liz Phair reviews Keith Richards’ memoir and the NYT BR selection of The Best Illustrated Children’s Books of 2010 are announced.

Best Sellers

Room by Emma Donoghue pops back onto the main Hardcover Fiction list, at #15. after moving to the extended list last week. Its peak position was #9 on Oct. 10th.

Two books with single-word titles arrive at #1 and #2 on the Nonfiction Hardcover list resulting in strange bedfellows. Keith Richards is at #1 for Life, followed by Glenn Beck at #2 for Broke.

The Last Boy continues in the top five after three weeks. More publicity is coming. Author Jane Leavy is scheduled for NPR’s Talk of the Nation on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving (when lots of people will be in their cars, listening to the radio).

Finishing the Hat, Stephen Sondheim’s lyrics annotated with personal anecdotes has been getting press attention and arrives at #11.

Tyler Perry’s movie, For Colored Girls opens today. The script of the play has been selling in anticipation; it arrives at #9 in Paperback Trade Fiction list.

Sondheim Leads NYT BR

Friday, October 29th, 2010

“After reading Finishing the Hat, I felt as if I had taken a master class in how to write a musical. A class given by the theater’s finest living songwriter,” says Paul Simon (yes, THAT Paul Simon) in the 10/30 NYT BR cover review of Stephen Sondheim’s collection of lyrics and commentary. The book is already riding high on Amazon sales rankings (now at #19 and rising) after Terry Gross’s interview with Sondheim on NPR’s Fresh Air yesterday (listen here).

Finishing the Hat: Collected Lyrics (1954-1981) with Attendant Comments, Principles, Heresies, Grudges, Whines and Anecdotes
Stephen Sondheim
Retail Price: $39.95
Hardcover: 480 pages
Publisher: Knopf – (2010-10-26)
ISBN / EAN: 0679439072 / 9780679439073

Ian Frazier’s Travels in Siberia has received several admiring reviews (San Francisco Chronicle,  Minneapolis Star Tribune. Boston Globe, among others). Here it gets the full treatment; a review as well as an inteview with Frazier by NYT Book Review editor Sam Tannenhaus (listen to the Book Review Podcast on the site).

Libraries are showing holds;  ratios are high where ordering is light.

Travels in Siberia
Ian Frazier
Retail Price: $30.00
Hardcover: 544 pages
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux – (2010-10-12)
ISBN / EAN: 0374278725 / 9780374278724

Macmillan Audio; UNABR CD; 9781427210531

An EarlyWord favorite, Bruce Machart’s debut The Wake of Forgiveness, (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Oct. 21) is hailed by Philip Caputo, who describes it this way,

Spanning some 30 years from the twilight of the frontier to the 1920s, The Wake of Forgiveness is a mesmerizing, mythic saga of four motherless brothers at war with one another and with their stern father, driven to establish himself as the biggest landowner in Lavaca County, Tex. Above all, as its title promises, it’s a story about forgiveness and a hard-won redemption.

Best Sellers

No surprise, Lee Child’s Worth Dying For (Delacorte Press, Oct, 19), lands at #1 on the 11/7 Hardcover Fiction Best Seller list, followed by Jan Karon’s In the Company of Others,(Viking, Oct. 19) at #2. Child was profiled by CBS Sunday Morning last week.

The Autobiography of Mark Twain (U. of California Press and on audio from Blackstone), which has been high on Amazon (currently at #12, it’s been in the Top 100 for 23 days), arrives at #2 on Hardcover Nonfiction. The bio. of Mickey Mantle, The Last Boy (Harper, Oct. 1) continues  at #4 after 2 weeks.


Wednesday, October 27th, 2010

It’s not coming out for another year, but The Help leads the People magazine “Movies” section in the 11/8 issue (on most newsstands this Friday, but we have a secret source). Photos from the movie feature Emma Stone as Skeeter, Viola Davis as Aibileen, Octavia Spencer as Minny and author Kathryn Stockett, who has a cameo role. The movie is scheduled for release August 12, 2011.

The Walking Dead, the new AMC series based on the graphic novels by Robert Kirkman (see Robin Brenner’s earlier story) gets 4 of a possible 4 stars in the “TV” section.

For the second week in a row, the “Books” section reviews just one title (we’re hoping this doesn’t indicate a trend) and its NOT John Grisham’s The Confession, but Keith Richards’ memoir Life, which gets 3.5 stars.

NYT BR, 10/22

Friday, October 22nd, 2010

The NYT BR’s cover this week is cleverly topical, but it won’t sell many books. It features two views of American politics today, as reflected in books; “The State of Conservatism” by Christopher Caldwell, senior editor for the conservative magazine, The Weekly Standard and “The State of Liberalism,” by Jonathan Alter, Newsweek columnist and MSNBC political analyst.

Chelsea Cain provides a lively review of John le Carré’s Our Kind of Traitor (sample; “John le Carré is to spy fiction what Lindsay Lohan is to TMZ. It’s hard to imagine one without the other.”) It’s as likely to bring new fans to her writing as to his. Cain’s next thriller, The Night Season, (Minotaur), is coming in March; le Carré hardly needs any help; his book debuts on the Hardcover Fiction list this week at #7.

The daily NYT profiled Tom McGuane this week and the Book Review follows with an assessment of his new book, Driving on the Rim (Knopf); “the rambling plot is sustained because the individual episodes are a pleasure, often farcical and always acutely observed, and because the hero is sympathetic in his dissociated journey.”

In best sellers, the Man Booker winner, The Finkler Question (Bloomsbury) hits the Paperback Trade Fiction list at #14; last year’s winner, Wolf Hall is still on the list at #20. Our own award nominees are not faring as well. The National Book Award finalists were announced the Wednesday of the week the lists were compiled. Nicole Krauss’s Great House, (Norton) is the sole title to appear on any of them. It’s on the extended Hardcover Fiction list at #24.

Jane Leavy’s bio of Mickey Mantle, The Last Boy, (Harper), arrives at #4 on the Hardcover Nonfiction list, Condoleezza Rice’s memoir, Extraordinary, Ordinary People (Crown/Archetype) at #9 and Nelson Mandela’s Conversations with Myself (FSG) at #10.


Friday, October 15th, 2010

Good timing; Nicole Krauss’ Great House, was announced as a National Book Award finalist this week and is featured on the cover of Sunday’s NYT Book Review, with a rave.

How much does her new novel, Great House, resemble its predecessor [The History of Love]? The good news is: very much indeed. And the good news is also: not so very much.

Who is the perfect reviewer for the new bio of Mickey Mantle, The Last Boy? The Book Review picks Keith Olbermann, who was a sports caster before he moved into the game of politics. He says that author Jane Leavy’s novel approach, “…refreshes and underscores the facts and patterns of a life, and enables [her] to connect the dots in new and disturbing ways.” It’s now at #10 on Amazon sales rankings.

In Children’s Books, the review of Lane Smith’s It’s a Book carries the brilliant headline, iRead.

In best sellers, Michael Connelly’s The Reversal (also reviewed in Marilyn Stasio’s crime column in the same issue) shots to #1 on the Hardcover Fiction list, moving Ken Follett’s Fall of Giants to #2.