Fluff reads – opinions?

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.

8 comments on “Fluff reads – opinions?

  1. Ria, my policy is to review every fiction book I read, regardless of genre. That includes full-on fantasy (my preferred genre), book group reads (literary), random this-looks-different books and my comfort reads (cosy murder mysteries, the odd Regency romance, an occasional familiar classic). Mind you, the formulaic murders don’t get the in-depth treatment, just a paragraph or two. But then I’m not interested in blogging reputation or popularity or professionalism. I review because it helps me get more out of my reading, the reviews get posted to Goodreads and then dumped on the blog so I can easily keep track of them.

    If you want to keep the focus on your primary genres, why not start a second blog for the fluff, or keep them under a different heading, or post a periodic roundup of ‘other books I’ve enjoyed’. I think most readers step outside their genres quite a bit, so your feel-good fluff might be just the thing for others to enjoy as well. No need to keep quiet about it!

  2. I think I have a varied blog as well, though I try to keep mainly to speculative fiction, historical fiction and crime, be it adult or YA. I don’t think that actually harms my readership. Similarly I don’t avoid fluff reads per se, heck I’d consider Mercedes Lackey the closest to what you define as fluff reads and I adore her stuff. But I know her books tend to be ‘of a type’ if not exactly formulaic and I don’t hesitate to say so, even when it’s not as succesful. I always write my reviews on both an emotional level and a critical level, because unless you’re doing textual analysis, a review will always have a component of emotion behind it. So while I don’t really read that much fluff these days (I did go through a chick lit – the pink cover with shoes on it kind – phase about eight years ago) I don’t think I’d approach it any differently for review.

    And I think you should read and review what you like. I think a lot of connection to your readership is based on trust and their getting to know your taste. As such they should see all of your reading, whether it be fluff or not!

  3. My two-cents’ worth, if you’re subjecting every single thing you read to a critical review, you’re going to get burned out. It’s good to toss in the fluff you’re just going to enjoy with no grand expectations. A review saying that something’s a nice, enjoyable read that made you feel good is just as good a review as one that compliments the writer’s believable world-building (for example :-) )

  4. I generally make decisions about what I review (and read) based on what would be useful for my readers. Readers like to read fluff to, so reviewing fluff and telling them which fluff you found enjoyable and why sounds useful to me. I don’t know why your blog (or mine, or that other one down the street) isn’t bigger than it is, but it seems likely that it’s more that we don’t devote 20 hours a day to blogging than that we review a varied number of books :)

  5. I review fluff because a) I need something lighter to read after dark or epic fantasy and b) because I think many readers might be interested in a YA series or steampunk series, but aren’t sure if it’s worth their time. Some of the YA I review I don’t see reviewed anywhere else except Amazon, so hopefully my blog has a little uniqueness. I actually prefer that uniqueness instead of reviewing the same books everyone else is reviewing.

    Fluff is one reason I don’t use scores to rate reviews…a good YA novel shouldn’t be equal to lesser epic fantasy, as the latter requires much more effort. Whether such reviews inhibit the growth of your blog – hard to say, although some of the most successful fantasy review blogs also cover music, covers, and audiobooks, which have little to do with actual reading.

  6. Interesting question. I’m only a guest reviewer, so I only ever review what I really want to read–which I guess makes everything “fluff” but I agree with Anya — if it’s something you enjoy reading, I’m sure some of your readers would too.

    Tough decisions– but sometimes, it’s nice to read without the pressure of “how am I going to review this…”

    Good luck — and ENJOY!

  7. First, this is your blog and you can do what ever you want. Share what you want. I read everything novella’s, fluff, YA, fantasy, and UF. I enjoy it all. And I noticed the same thing, but truth is, I like what I read and I don’t want to change that for anyone else. Yes, there are tons of other books I would enjoy, but I read what I do because I want to. I don’t want to steer to far from what I love or I’ll get lost and not like any of it.

    So from me, read what you want. Share what you like, it’ll all come out there. You start reading other stuff you may not be as happy. I enjoy reading your reviews, even if you consider them fluff reads. But I’m with you with what ever you want. :)


  8. Pingback: October recap | Bibliotropic

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