Posts Tagged ‘Genres’

Don’t judge a book by its genre

March 22, 2015

Don’t judge a book by its genre

I think of myself as an eclectic reader.

I’ll admit, it’s something I’ve cultivated to some degree.

I used to read a lot of science fiction and fantasy, and certain types of non-fiction…and I still do.

However, I also read other things…lots of other things.

When I managed a brick-and-mortar bookstore, I think one of the best things I did was encourage (not require) my employees to read at least one book from every section in the store (I did that myself).

I had them ask a regular for a recommendation.

When it came to romance, I read a Jude Deveraux and a monthly Harlequin (I don’t remember which one).

Since then, I’ve read quite a few romances, although I wouldn’t say that’s my first choice.

Certainly, since getting a Kindle, my reading has become even more varied. Part of that is because of all the free and low cost books, and now because of

Kindle Unlimited (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

That also seems true of my readers. When I polled them back in 2010 in this post:

Are genres irrelevant?

I got these responses:

  • Since I’ve gotten my Kindle (or other EBR**) I…
    * Read the same genres I always have 12.87%
    * Read a wider variety of books than I used to read 87.13%
    * Read a narrower variety of books than I used to read 0%

I mention all this because, well, just as there are people who won’t read science fiction, I’m guessing that some of you don’t read romances. 😉

I’ve just finished reading a book which I think could change your mind.

Spinster’s Gambit (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

Full disclosure first: this book was written by a friend of my now adult kid’s. I don’t believe I’ve met the author socially, and have no other connection to the book except as a reader. I purchased mine from Amazon, in the same way that you would.

That said…

I think it would stand for me with most books labeled as “literary fiction”. I’d go so far as to say that it has some of the best character writing that I’ve seen in a recently-written novel.

The plot was good. As regular readers know, my favorite thing in entertainment is to be surprised, and this book did that…something you might not expect if you think of a romance as formulaic.

The characters were relatable, and I felt like it approached a particular topic in a great way.

If you want to read my review of the book, you can do so here:

I’ve posted the same review on Amazon, but we’ll see if they reject it because of my (peripheral) connection. They do that at times. Amazon, of course, is under no obligation to post any review, so they tend to err on the side of caution.

On the other hand, they don’t want to annoy customers by not posting their reviews…I think you can “appeal” if they do reject your review. I suspect that, sometimes, a third party tells them that someone is connected (for a variety of reasons), and that might not always be true…at least, not to the level of disqualification.

I bring this up here because I had one particular problem with the book (even though my experience was overwhelmingly positive).

It had a “love scene”.

Now that, in and of itself, doesn’t make me not like a book. I get accused of being prudish, and I  understand how people get that impression. I do think readers should be informed of sexual content, language, violence, and prejudicial portrayals…but then it is up to the readers to read that or not.

I don’t advocate censorship..but I think being informed is reasonable.

I also want to be clear: in this case, the scene also had good characterization…and it was organic to the plot.

It was just that…I had really enjoyed the book up to location 3179 in Chapter Thirteen. I thought it could have ended well there, and again, stood as literary fiction.

Then came the scene which felt like it was perhaps obligatory to the genre.

Now, I now people feel the same way about some science fiction and fantasy…that it would have been a great novel, if it didn’t have those pesky robots or vampires. 😉

Maybe an NSFW (Not Safe For Work) scene like this is necessary for the genre. It may fit the expectations, even be a defining factor. We used to joke about that with the Bill Bixby TV series of The Incredible Hulk…that they were contractually obligated to have at least one “Hulk out” in every episode. 😉

I guess my question is, should I judge the book by something which makes it true to its genre? The book was labeled as a “Regency romance”: it wasn’t like they were hiding its nature.

I like 19th Century literature, so I was familiar with quite a few of the other elements of the book…I didn’t have to look up what a “phaeton” was, for example, or understand why someone might get cold in the roofless carriage. I’ll admit that I didn’t recognize the term “the ton” right away, meaning the high society people who might judge your behavior. You might still know the term “tony” for something which is luxurious.

Up until the “love scene”, I could largely have believed it was 19th Century literature, so I found that somewhat jarring.

Many of you (I’m guessing most of you) won’t have that feeling, though…and if you are afraid you will, you can stop at the break (the book uses this ~~//~~) at about 93%. 🙂

What do you think? Is even mentioning sexual content/language/ violence in a book a form of censorship? Do you like to know ahead of time? What books have you read which for you transcended genre? Are there genres you feel like you just won’t like…even before you’ve read the book in question? Feel free to let me and my readers know by commenting on this post.

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* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

**EBR is a term (E-Book Reader) I use for a purpose built e-book reading device, as opposed to a broadly multi-purpose device, like a tablet. There is some flexibility (earlier models of Kindles could play music unrelated to books, for example), but generally, for Kindles, it’s the ones which are not Fires). Other examples which include the Kobo and the non-tablet NOOKs

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

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