Sunday, January 27, 2013

Victoria Foyt wants YOU! (to review her book)

I know, I know. Some of you are immediately scoffing and rolling your eyes at the idea of reading the second book in general. Others might already be sharpening your pitchforks and licking your snarky  chops in anticipation of tearing the book apart.

I've been debating whether or not to order a copy of the book. I've hesitated due to the price and the knowledge that I'm very likely to not like Adapting Eden. Part of me does want to see if the series could improve and I'd like to think that I would go into it with the idea that Foyt could have taken in some of the criticism thrown at her from the previous book. I know some would tell me it's a hope in vain, given the snafu everything turned into, but I'm a fairly optimistic girl. It's part of why I stuck with Anita Blake for so long: I just kept hoping that eventually Hamilton would take the criticisms to heart.

Anywho, I wanted to drop this quick note to let any potential reviewers know that Foyt is soliciting for reviewers via Twitter. If you're interested, drop her a line. My only reservation would be that if you know that you are likely to give a negative review, be honest about it. You don't have to detail about how you're going to write a twelve page snark review, but at least let her know that you will be going into this with a handicap. I'm not saying that you shouldn't leave a negative review or maybe even post comments as you read, just be up front about everything. The last thing we want is for her to get upset because someone misrepresented themselves. If she reads this, I want to be clear: I did leave a negative review and I did post book snark, but I am willing to give the series a second chance. I do not promise that I will give a positive review or that I won't snark while I read, but I will promise to at least try to be open minded.

Here are the two tweets that Foyt posted:
*Status #1 via @SaveThePearls
*Status #2 via @SandDollarPress

I have to admit that I'm not exactly expecting a review copy.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

GenXposé: How STGRB is threatening to dox the wrong person

John Green alerted me to this earlier this morning and I have to say that like so many other people, I'm long since ready for STGRB to fade into obscurity. What is STGRB? Many of you have already heard about this group, but for some the whole scenario is so long and elaborate that you're kind of lost on all of what is going on.

To sum it up as briefly as possible, STGRB stands for "Stop the Goodreads Bullies". It's a group that claims to be working to stop bullying on Goodreads. However nice that might sound, the group doesn't really do any of that. What should have been a group aimed at trying to be a diplomatic go-between for authors with hurt feelings and reviewers set on defending their peers is instead a group that is not only known to side only with the authors, but in the past has also released highly personal information on some of the reviewers they deem "bullies". They've since claimed that they have never revealed personal information, but more than one blog has screengrabs of the group posting things like names, locations, and personal habits along the lines of telling people where the reviewers go on certain days. Some of the reviewers have claimed that people have used this information to call them and harass them. STGRB claims that it wasn't them, but once you put someone else's information out on the internet you run the risk of someone else using it to find and harass whomever you claim is "bad". The thing about releasing that type of information is that you can't give the internet everything but their underwear size and then say "now totally don't call up this girl and make death threats, K?" That's not how it works and that's why doxing people is so bad, even if you say you have no plans or intents for anyone to harass the user.

Their justification behind this was the idea that people wouldn't make such harsh comments if not for the veil of anonymity that the internet requires. Maybe they wouldn't, but it's really hard for STGRB to throw stones when almost all of their users are anonymous themselves. The only person on their site who is readily open about who they are is the author Caroll Bryant. Like him or hate him for all of his actions, at least the guy has the balls to state who he is. As far as who exactly the other people are on the site, it's anyone's guess. Some people say that Melissa Douhit runs the site via several sockpuppets. Others say that it's a number of self-published authors. Either way, nobody really has 100% confirmation on anyone's identity aside from Bryant. What irritates so many people about the whole doxing that STGRB does is that they claim that they want things to be transparent, but hide behind their own smokescreens. I mean frack, people have even been saying that the site has a firewall that bans random people.  And really, what does doxing really serve? So you say that Nasty Reviewer X is Roberta Robinson of WallaWalla Washington. So what? What good will that ultimately do for author/reader relations? If anything, it puts everyone on the defensive and makes people that much more likely to jump to the defense of the latest reviewer, whether they view the review as unnecessarily nasty or not. And yes, some of these reviews do get a little nasty sometimes.

Moving on to why I'm writing this blog, I wanted to state the above to show that doxing can be serious business and that ultimately it serves no purpose. What makes doxing even worse is when you're wrong. That's what happened with GenX and reviewer Amanda Welling. Both are people who have been particularly outspoken about the whole STGRB fiasco, but both people have claimed that they're not the same person. According to her blog, GenX has said that she's been threatened by STGRB to either stop her blog or they'll publish all of her information on the net. Needless to say, GenX didn't take this very well, especially when she knows that they'll be releasing the information on someone that isn't her.

There's just something very nasty about telling someone that if they're not quiet that you'll spread their information on the internet. This includes the implication that people might use this information to harass said person. Given that the previous round of doxing ended with several people getting royally harassed at home and that even posting the names of various reviewers has resulted in them getting harassed via blogs and other social media sites, you can't say that they aren't fully aware of what releasing the information might result in. Even if they did have the right person, threatening to release personal information to get your way is NOT the way to accomplish your ends unless all you want is to cause more trouble.

This just isn't cool. I have to say that I've yet to see STGRB do anything that really benefited any of the people they're supposed to be protecting. I do think that there needs to be a group or a person to help soothe tensions when an author reacts badly to a review that they think is unnecessarily harsh or when a reviewer takes an author's comment badly. This just isn't the way to do it and I have to say that since STGRB has come out onto the scene, tensions between authors, notably indie or self-published authors, and reviewers have actually gotten worse. This is part of the reason why most authors, when discovering that STGRB is "supporting" them, tend to disavow any connections with the group. They know that even though the group claims to be working in the interests of the author in question, their help will hurt more than it heals.

I'll give STGRB the benefit of the doubt that they started their efforts in good faith, but at this point the whole scenario is so toxic that it's better for them to just cut their losses and find a new way to deal with what they see as bullying. Perhaps rather than screaming "so and so is bad" or "this review is bad and this reviewer is a bully", they could say how they would have phrased the review to more eloquently get the reviewer's displeasure across? In the process they should remember that although some reviews seem unnecessarily harsh or even mean spirited, those reviews are someone's opinion and those reviewers do technically have the right to say what they please. Sometimes it's just better to walk away.

Further reading:

I made the Fab Four (or is it Five?) (GenXposé)

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Hmmm...: Out by Laura Preble

I discovered Laura Preble's book Out today. I have to say that I'm kind of leery about it, but I am curious. Here's the book's synopsis, if you're curious:

In a society where “perpendiculars,” opposite-sex couples, are forbidden, persecuted, freakish…Chris Bryant, a preacher’s son, finds himself in love…with a girl. 

Chris has always been faithful to his Anglicant religion – even though he’s never felt like everyone else, never felt…parallel. And then it happens: he meets her. Carmen. Daughter of one of the leading Perpendicular prosecutors…the girl he knows he can’t live without. 

Carmen has always thought the treatment of Perps is barbaric – but to actually be one? To fall in love with Chris and openly admit to it is suicide. 

Their only chance to be together is the Underground, a secret society Chris’s sister introduces him to that is determined to mount an attack against the social restrictions of the Anglicant church. They want to make an example of Chris and Carmen, two Perps from high social families, to become the catalyst for an uprising that will threaten the traditions of their society’s families and church. 

But the cost of involvement just might be death for them both.

The thing about reversing situations like this is that it has to be very, very delicately done and you have to have incredibly good justifications as to why everything is the way it is. When it comes to stuff like this it's very easy for stuff like this to fail even when the author has very good intentions because sometimes it can read as homophobic even when that's far from the author's intentions. That's why when you have books, movies, and shows that establish same sex couples as the norm for society, many choose to set up the society as being completely separate from other genders. It makes it easier to justify how same sex couples would become the norm and why any other pairings would be seen as strange.

I guess what one of the biggest problems with reversing whatever -ism the book is about is that at some level it's always going to be faulty. Simply reversing the sexuality of the society doesn't work because you're dealing with the idea that heterophobia would end up looking exactly the same as homophobia. You also have to build up the world pretty well to explain how it would come about. Just saying "society developed with same sex couples" isn't really enough, nor is just saying that scenario X caused humanity to do Y. It's so insanely hard to build up enough of a world to adequately establish this that many choose not to go this route. It's possible for it to happen, but for every Noughts & Crosses you get a Save the Pearls that pretty much misses the point.

Part of the issue with simply reversing the mainstream opinion in the story is that you're assuming that all it takes is to swap places. That rarely works because it's not as simple as just swapping one sexuality for the other. There are a lot of things that go into homophobia and part of the issue some had with STP is that it oversimplified the problem of racism by saying that it's just a matter of Caucasians being the norm.

In any case, I'm slightly curious and considering that the author has yet to really post anything strange, I'm willing to give it a chance. This book could end up covering the material in a sensitive manner, so anything is possible.

So far she's been pretty decent about the flak she's getting, with this being the only thing I've really seen so far from her end:

I've already had hate mail about this book, even before it was available to read. People read the description and decide I'm a gay-basher, which is as far from the truth as you can get. I've been a Gay-Straight Alliance advisor for nearly twenty years, my own son is gay, and I've worked for PFLAG, GLSEN, and many other groups. This book is not about anything except love. It's a love story, just as the story of same-sex couples in our country is a love story. My goal was to give people who are in the lucky majority, the opposite-sex couples, a glimpse of what it would be like to be told that who you are and whom you love is deviant and unacceptable. LGBT people live every day with discrimination, both subtle and direct. I've seen it happen at my school, with my son, and with other people less close to home. I've done research; there are still people who believe in reconditioning LGBT people, or "praying the gay away." This isn't fiction or far-fetched. It exists. There are people who still believe that aversion therapy is the way to go, that psychological torture will "heal" people of their "addiction" to their same-sex attraction. The world of OUT is, of course, fictional. It is heightened reality. Our society does not physically imprison people for being LGBT. But in many subtle ways, the system does imprison them. People are still beaten, killed, ostracized, and disowned for being gay. I know students in my high school GSA who cannot be in the yearbook picture because if their parents found out, they'd be without a place to live.

So, I suppose people who read the book will have lots of reactions to it, but at the core, I meant it to be a love story between two people whom society did not see as acceptable. Love is love. No matter what anyone else says or thinks, I know that is the message of my book.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Save the Pearls 2: Adapting Eden

Yes, you heard me. Save the Pearls does indeed have a sequel.

I have to hand it to Foyt in that she decided to go ahead and publish the second book. Given the extreme backlash she received over the first book, you'd imagine that she would abstain from writing a sequel entirely. Even if you were to approach this from a snark standpoint, how exactly do you top the previous volume?

Well, we only have to wait until January 23, 2013 to find out. Until then, we have this plot synopsis from Amazon:

In the sequel to the award-winning, dystopian novel, Revealing Eden, Eden Newman must adapt into a hybrid human beast if she hopes to become Ronson Bramford's mate. She has no choice but to undergo her fathers adaptation experiment at his makeshift laboratory in the last patch of rainforest. But when the past rears its ugly head, Eden and Bramford must abandon camp along with their family and friends. Luckily, an Aztec tribe that has survived with the aid of a healing plant provides them with sanctuary or is it? Too late, Eden realizes she is at the center of an epic spiritual battle between love and war. To survive, she must face her deepest fears or lose everything, including the beastly man she loves.

Before you ask, apparently the award it won was the Eric Hoffer award. I've never really heard of that either, but given how clueless Foyt was over how some could see the book's contents as offensive, it's equally possible that there are enough equally clueless people out there that would give it an award.

I have to admit, I'll probably check it out if I can get my hands on a copy. While I did find the book unintentionally offensive, I'm willing to give this a shot to see if she's improved anything since the last book. Although considering that one of the things people previously cried foul on was the constant referral to Bramford as a "beast" and she refers to him as a "beastly man" in this plot synopsis, well...   I'm fully aware that he's half-animal and that's what she's referring to, but part of what pissed off so many readers was that she used these phrases and terms without realizing that something that might seem inoccuous to her would come across as offensive to others because she herself has never actually had to deal with the negative stereotypes and images that they would. I admit that I've read things in some of the reviews that I didn't initially pick up on as offensive that came across as offensive to other readers.

In any case we only have about 5 days until the book becomes available. There's no word on whether or not there will be a Kindle version. I'm slightly curious enough to plunk down money if ARC aren't made available, so if I do fork over some of my own cold hard cash for review purposes then I'll either make it available for the review circuit afterwards or I'll hold a drawing on my page. Assuming I purchase it, that is.


I went searching to see if I could find any confirmation and Foyt's website gives the release date as Spring 2013, so I'm guessing that this is indeed going to release next week. The site also gives us the book's prologue. I'm giving you the link for you to follow at your leisure.

OK. This certifies that I'll probably have to get the book and give Foyt my money just so I can read the WTF in all its glory. The series had previously had a distinctly dystopian flavor, but now elements of fantasy are getting mixed in? And Eden is the world's last hope for survival? 

Oh wow... I can't even begin to go over how badly the idea of "white girl saves the world" will go over, considering some of the criticism over the last book. I know that tradition is that the main character of the book is the Chosen One, but why isn't it Bramford that is the Chosen One Who Will Save The World?

Update 2: 

If you're curious about the first book, Revealing Eden, then I want to let you know that you can enter into a drawing for a copy via Goodreads. All you need is a membership on the site, which is free.

Enter to win Revealing Eden

On a side note, I'd really like to take this opportunity to ask people not to review the second book unless you've read it. Will the book stink? Dunno. Probably. Maybe. But until you've read more than a few paragraphs, it's really not fair to leave a starred review of Adapting Eden. If it's going to get negatively reviewed, let it gain those reviews fairly. 

Friday, January 18, 2013

When covers go bad...

I started this blog after I discovered a particularly funny looking cover on the Amazon Vine program. It kind of made me think about some of the particularly bad cover artwork that I've seen over the years. So I'm going to copy what just about every other blog and their mother has done and do a "bad cover art" post. Some of these covers are awful. Others are merely funny. All of them are "bad" in one way or another, although occasionally I think this might be intentionally done.

I do want to state first and foremost that bad cover art does not automatically mean that the book itself is bad. I've read some books with absolutely awful covers that were fantastic and I've read books with beautiful and immaculate cover art that were absolute stinkers. I also want to say that when authors are working on a budget, what you can get for cover art almost always ends up being on the lower end of the scale. So that disclaimer aside, on with the badness!

1. Tiger's Eye by Barbra Annino. 

  The plot line of this actually sounds pretty good, but I couldn't get past the woman on the cover's lack of a nose. She's like Voldemort's sister or something. 

Skinny-dipping makes her skin fall off the way tequila makes her clothes fall off?

Jean Reno from The Professional and Helen Hunt from As Good as it Gets brings you a love story that transcends time and space!

Don't you hate it when you finally get to that point in your relationship where you're ready to give your man a handy in public and then find that he's less than a handful and melts in your hand almost instantly? 

OK. I admit it. I'd read the hell out of this book. And then I'd hate myself for how much I loved this cheesy cover.

I've seen a few photoshops in my time and something tells me that this has been heavily shooped.

9. The Best Dad is a Good Lover by Charlie W Shedd

OK. Now I admit that part of this is based on the title. I mean seriously, this is a WTF title in any time period. I'm posting both covers, but the "bad cover" has to be the second one with the little girl on the cover, which I think was the original one. There's just something about the look of abject fear in her face that makes me want to get a time machine and smack some sense into the person who thought that this title or cover was a good idea.

10. Drivers License for Women by Dr. Frank Stahl

Finally I give you this. Surprisingly it's not a cover for a manual on how to drive a car, but a manual on how to drive your man. Yeah.

If you want more, check out these links:

* Have you judged a book by its cover?
*10 Worst Book Covers In The History Of Literature

Book Review: Gabriel's Inferno

Title: Gabriel's Inferno
Author: Sylvain Reynard
Publisher: Omnific Publishing
Release Date: Out Now!
ISBN: 1936305623

This book took me an awfully long time to finish, part of it because the heroine and her love interest weren't really the most likable of people. Julianne starts this book as a spineless fish that sort of just goes along with everything and Gabriel, well... he's a jerk. Plain and simple. Now in Julianne's defense, this is somewhat explained later on as to why she's so willing to be led by the hand everywhere.

Enigmatic and sexy, Professor Gabriel Emerson is a well respected Dante specialist by day, but by night he devotes himself to an uninhibited life of pleasure. He uses his notorious good looks and sophisticated charm to gratify his every whim, but is secretly tortured by his dark past and consumed by the profound belief that he is beyond all hope of redemption. When the sweet and innocent Julia Mitchell enrolls as his graduate student, his attraction and mysterious connection to her not only jeopardizes his career, but sends him on a journey in which his past and his present collide. An intriguing and sinful exploration of seduction, forbidden love and redemption, "Gabriel's Inferno" is a captivating and wildly passionate tale of one man's escape from his own personal hell as he tries to earn the impossible...forgiveness and love.

As far as Gabriel goes, he's not really truly redeemed as far as his character goes. He's a jerk up until a certain point in the book, where his character seems to go through an instant transformation into everyone's dream lover: sweet, sensitive, and oh-so-willing to please. It's like someone flipped a switch and is pretty much the epitome of wish fulfillment literature that you have this guy that is almost completely changed by having his dream woman's attentions. This might be a little bit of a spoiler, mentioning this part, but this happens relatively early on in the book and it's pretty much a given that at some point he and Julianne get together.

I was fully prepared to dislike this book. I was expecting it to be something along the lines of Fifty Shades of Grey, a book that relied far too heavily on the reader bringing along the personalities (or the lack thereof) from the Twilight books and that love for the series. What surprised me is that Reynard actually does try to make the characters in Gabriel's Inferno their own people. Oh sure, there are definite points to where you can see this book's origins as original fanfiction, but this really is fanfiction in the loosest sense of the term. I'd go so far as to say that if I wasn't already aware of its origins, I probably never would have guessed this was originally fanfiction. This isn't the best book out there, but I think that people dismissing it offhand as "another Fifty Shades" are really doing it a disservice. I can't guarantee they'd like it, but this book is far, far, FAR better than Fifty Shades. Fifty Shades was sort of written as a way to see the two main characters of Twilight getting it on in naughty-ish positions. (Not that there's necessarily anything wrong with that.) Gabriel's Inferno actually tries to tell a story.

As long as you can look past some of the lightening quick and at times rather unbelievable character personality switches, as well as the fact that this is almost a perfect textbook example of Mary Sue wish-fulfillment, this actually isn't a bad book to pass the time with. Again, it's not perfect and it won't ever be on the top of Oprah's "required reading" list, but it's fun and I didn't always feel like taking my shoe off and beating the bejeebers out of the main characters. I just wish that this had gotten the same amount of publicity that Fifty Shades did. It's better written and would be much more interesting film than FSOG would be. Yes this is sort of along the lines of "bodice rippers" at times, but it tries to be more than that and I couldn't help but find it quickly becoming a guilty pleasure as the later parts of the book took hold of me.

Oh and FYI, this actually doesn't have any sex in it. The sole sex scene in the book actually happens in the last part of the book. Sex is frequently referenced and sexual situations do happen, but there's no bump and grind until later on in the book. And yes, it does continue to play on the wish fulfillment ideas of what people wish their first times would have or would be like. If you're not OK with the book being blatant wish fulfillment and somehow made it that far, this scene would be the point where you hurl the book against the wall and start bringing out the matches. I kind of hope that people do give it a chance since this was fun as far as wish fulfillment fantasies go.

(4 out of 5 stars)

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Book Review: Ever After by Kim Harrison

Title: Ever After (The Hollows #11)
Author: Kim Harrison
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Release Date: 1/22/2013
ISBN: 0062228153

Are you a wizard, Kim Harrison? Seriously, you can tell me if you can, because what you create here in the Hollows books is just pure magic. This has to be one of the better books in the series and one that will have fans eagerly anticipating the final two books in the series.

The ever after, the demonic realm that parallels the human world, is shrinking. If it disappears completely, so does all magic. It's up to witch-turned-daywalking-demon Rachel Morgan to avert catastrophe and keep life from changing... for the worse.

While saving the world is important, it isn't Rachel's only motivation. There's also the small fact that she caused the ley line to rip in the first place, setting off a chain reaction of unfortunate events. That little mistake has made her life forfeit unless she can fix it. It's also made her more than a few enemies, including the most powerful demon in the ever after—a terrifying entity who eats souls and now has an insatiable appetite for her. He's already kidnapped her friend and goddaughter to lure her out, and if Rachel doesn't give herself up soon, they'll die.

But Rachel has more than a few impressive and frightening skills of her own, and she isn't going to hand over her soul and her life without one hell of a fight. She's also got a surprise: elven tycoon Trent Kalamack. With this unlikely ally beside her—a prospect both thrilling and unnerving—she's going to return to the ever after, kick some demon butt, rescue her loved ones... and prevent an apocalypse before it's too late. Or, at least that's the plan...

I freaking loved this book. LOVED IT. There's so much here to like, after all. We're shown more of the history behind elves, demons, and the Ever After, with some rather big revelations as to how everything tied together and why the Ever After looks the way it does. We've known that the elves weren't the sweet innocent cookie makers that Keebler would have us believe, and this book cements it. Also rather interesting is a look into how Al and Ceri interacted with each other during her time as his familiar. This aspect is touched upon lightly in the book, but it's important for how much it implies about their past, the past interactions of demons and elves, and what this might mean for the future.

Most of the book focuses directly on the action surrounding Rachel. This might sound like a "no duh" sort of thing until you realize how much happens in her periphery. Major stuff goes down in the sidelines, a big change from previous volumes. It used to be that when something bad happened to her friends, Rachel was usually right there with them rather than hearing about it afterwards. This really shows the distance that's growing between her, Jenks, and Ivy. They're there for moral support and to help with what they can, but most of what Rachel is going through in this book are things that neither of them can really deal with. Previous books had her predominantly relying on them, this book has her learning how to trust herself and others more. She still has to rely on others to some extent, but doing so means that she has to let go of old fears and prejudices, which in turn means that she has to become more honest with herself. That is probably one of the hardest things she's done so far because if there's anything Rach is good at, it's at denying what she's really feeling.

The ending of this book is pretty exciting, especially if you're a Rachel/Trent shipper. No, there's no firm pairing off in this book of Rachel with anyone. There's movement towards her potentially ending up with someone in the final book, but I think that Harrison will leave us guessing at the ultimate pairing until the final book. I think that everyone expects it to be a Trent/Rachel pairing, but then again Harrison has also given us some rather good reasons in this book as to why they might never really be able to be together.

In any case, this book is a must read for fans of the series. Definitely one that I'm glad I've read, even if it does mean that it'll be at least another year before the next book is out! (sobs)

5 out of 5 stars

(eARC provided by Harper Voyager)

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Authors and Amazon Reviews: a nasty turn of events

I was just reading some of the posts in the Amazon Vine forum when I came across a thread that focused on a newer aspect of Amazon's review rules that I wasn't aware of:

Authors are allowed to review books on as long as they are not in the same genre as the reviewer's own book. Also, the reviews must be positive and within guidelines. Please see our posted guidelines on what is acceptable content:

The poster in question asked for a little more information and she was told this:

As stated in our previous correspondence Authors are allowed to review books on as long as they are not overly negative reviews in the same genre as the Author's own book. This is in place to prevent competing Authors from attempting to drive sales away from others and attempting to increase the

m on their own books.

What this ultimately means is that a lot of people are seeing their reviews removed because they're an author in the same genre and because their review tripped some sort of arbitrary trigger to where it was "too negative". This would be grand if it meant that only the reviews along the lines of "LOLOLOL, this author sucks donkey balls, I would't read this out loud to a dying gerbil, every time you buy this book an orphan gets cancer, etc etc". No, I've been hearing that a lot of the reviews aren't the type of reviews that are soul crushing or anything to that extent.

I'm worried about what this could mean for a lot of reviewers. Does this mean that all it takes is for one person to say that their feelings were hurt that Rosie Romance's review of the new Nora Roberts book was too harsh and that since she's a romance author, that review should be removed? What constitutes the difference between an attack review and a review that states a person's honest feelings? If Rosie really didn't like the new NR and wants to leave a one star review comparing the book to morning dog breath and the stench of a hockey team's locker room after playoffs, then she should be able to.

I am aware that there are people out there who purposely set out to create a smear campaign for their fellow authors. They do exist, but they're in the minority. I'd say that they make up less than .01% of the authors out there. But this new rule lumps all authors in with that small minority and encourages people to leave ratings and reviews that they really don't believe in. A reviewer shouldn't set out to write a hateful review because in the end those reviews really only help that reviewer and a handful of other people, although it is their prerogative to write it if they so choose. But neither should they feel like they have to raise the star rating to a higher grade or sugarcoat their words because they're afraid of setting off some sort of censor bar.

I just feel like this is an attack on honest reviewing in general. There are serious problems out there in the review world. This much is obviously true but punishing everyone will only breed resentment and maybe even decrease interest in a lot of authors in general. Not to mention that it's more than a little insulting to us consumers. Like we can't tell the difference between a helpful negative review and an unhelpful one? Sure, we'll laugh at the ones comparing the author to an asteroid intent on negating all life on earth, but we then roll our eyes and move on to the next review. Most of us can tell the difference between a valid negative review and one where the person just wants to hand out a quart of haterade. Besides, even the overly negative reviews have their merit: how many of us picked up one of the infamously bad books this year because the negative reviews made it seem like it'd be a lark? I can name at least three that I picked up, so the idea of a negative review decreasing readership is somewhat a myth.

Further reading:

*The Value of Cover Quotes
*Why is Amazon deleting reviews written by authors of other authors' books?