We’ve all got our guilty pleasures when it comes to reading material. For some, it’s werewolf romance. For others, military space dramas. For me, it’s YA stuff, especially when it’s in the genres I normally read. But I’ll even bend that a little bit and say that if it just sounds like it might be interesting, like a coming-of-age tale set in ancient Mongolia or something (actually, that does sound like it could be good), I’ll likely cave and read it.
Which is no bad thing, in an of itself. But what about reviews?
Some review blogs have a wonderfully professional tone, and they stick to their chosen genres really well. Others, like mine, are a touch more varied. I might read and review that coming-of-age Mongolian story right alongside the latest high fantasy novel. But is that what’s keeping my blog from getting bigger and better?
I’ve wondered this a lot over the past little while. Some say it’s good to have varied reviews, since that will attract a broader range of readers. But that doesn’t really tally with what I actually see on blogs. It’s one thing, for example, to read YA novels in a range of genres when your blog focuses on YA literature. But it doesn’t quite have the same effect when you’re not focusing on a particular age category so much as a selection of genres. The most successful fantasy/speculative review blogs I’ve seen stick to their genres and rarely make deviations, even into areas like a switch inaudience age.
How does this relate back to the topic of fluff reads and guilty pleasure reads? It all comes down, I think, to credibility. When we read our nice fluffy pieces, we’re more than likely going to enjoy them, and we’re going to enjoy them on a more emotional level than a critical one. I can’t deny that I’ve really enjoyed reading some books that are, when you get right down to it, poorly done with derivative plots and average writing. (House of Night series, I’m looking at you.) But if I review those books, I get down to a dilemma. Review it critically, or say that I liked it? Or somehow try to strike a balance and say that I liked it in spite of (or because of) its flaws?
Which wouldn’t exactly endear me to any potential people who approach me with an offer of a book in exchange for a review. It’s not the best marketing strategy to say, “I like crappy books.”
I’ve wondered if I ought to stop reading quite so many fluff reads. Or maybe it’s better to say that I’ve wondered if I should stop reviewing so many fluff reads. I’ve tried to strike that balance, to review critically while also conveying that I liked it, but it really is a hard balance to strike, and often the review ends up being more negative than I actually feel abou the book. Reviewing it critically actually manages to ruin books I might otherwise have just left in my mind as a happy memory.
How do you handle fluff reads, those easy unchallenging books that just make you feel good in spite of their problems or their genre or style or whatever your bit is? Do you review them? Do you pretend you’venever read them? Do you avoid them entirely for the sake of books that might look better on your blog? Where’s your balance, and how did you come to it? I’m really curious to know how others handle this issue.