Why this blog?

I’ve been thinking a lot about what I want this blog to be. I know the blog will meet a personal need to keep track of what I read. But as I was driving to pick up my kids from camp yesterday, listening to the Audible.com version of Susan Mallery’s Irresistable, it hit me what else I want it to do: be a meta review site.

Being an academic, I research everything. I hate to be a walking (typing?) stereotype, but it’s true. So, when I am thinking about whether to buy a romance novel, especially by an author who is new to me, I read lots of reviews.

When I am deciding whether to purchase a book, I read reviews on Amazon.com (often this makes me feel a bit icky afterwards, but I have to start somewhere), then on to my favorite romance review websites (see the links on the sidebar). It is no surprise that reviews on Amazon.com are all over the map, what with authors’ husbands, BFFs, critique partners, and pet parakeets vying to get the raves in before disgruntled former fans, competing authors, and evil pet monkeys skew things with their one star slams. And then you have the batch of folks who wandered in from some other genre, complaining that the book focuses heavily on the central relationship between the heroine and hero, that there is sex (!), and that everything gets resolved in the end. So, not so reliable.

The dedicated romance review websites which I usually turn to next are much, much better. These are knowledgeable folks who understand the genre — its constraints, possibilities, history, and often, thanks to their industry connections, current and future trends. Reading reviews on those websites usually enhances my appreciation and understanding of a book, and I consider them part of the reading experience itself. Still, despite purported objectivity in their rankings (An “A” grade, or a “five star” review, is supposed to mean not just “I like it”, but “It is good, and I like it because it is good.”) there are a lot of differences among those reviews as well.

Most online reviewers acknowledge the subjective aspects of their reviews, so this is not all that surprising. One reviewer might admit that she has a hard time reading about substance abusing parents because she had one, for example. But the reviews don’t just differ on the points that are obviously subjective. They also differ on core elements of the text. One reviewer thinks things were resolved too quickly at the end. Another reviewer disagrees.

A lot of colleagues in my academic discipline spend their lives trying to determine which aspects of the appreciation of literature (and yes, using this word to describe the genre has a political component, just like using “fetus” rather than “unborn child”, or, in a nod to the Brangelina twins, using “conceived via IVF” rather than “test tube babies”) are objective and which are a matter of personal taste.

Don’t worry — I am so not going there on this blog. This is supposed to be fun, not work. Besides, I like the disagreements, and find that when I read differing reviews, it is like entering a conversation. It’s especially nice for me, since I don’t know anyone else who reads romance novels in my real life, and the spousal unit can only take so much third party interest in what I’m reading.

But I thought it would be interesting to try to gather up the different reviews and put them in one place, so that’s what I plan to attempt, not for every book out there, but for a few of them anyway. I have to try to force myself not to think of this in terms of gathering data or future publications. It will not be scientific or complete.

But I’m gonna do it anyway, for my own edification and amusement. And hopefully, for a few others’ as well.

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Published in: on August 5, 2008 at 1:53 pm  Comments (2)  
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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. OK, I am totally in love with your blog. Going to pimp it.

    : )

  2. Ana,

    You had me at “my interview with Meljean”…

    🙂 thanks

    Jessica


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