Grading the author

This blogpost has been bouncing around in my head for a while.

I’ve not reviewed any books in a long while – in fact, I gave up ‘reviewing’ books not long into my blogging career over at the old blog.  This was mainly because reviews were not really the right medium for what I wanted to say about books. I’ve written various blogposts in my time about that it so I won’t repeat any of that here (though, if you’re interested you could take a look at this, or this, or even this). Instead, I want to talk about how readers’ views of books change the more they read of a particular author.

I’ve noticed that, like any other fangirl, I always feel disgruntled when I see someone giving my favourite authors poor grades.  This is so even when I didn’t much like that particular book or haven’t yet read it myself. Why should that be?  I’m a rational person!  I know the value of reviews!  I don’t actually WANT reviewers to grade the author rather than the book!  But isn’t it interesting that readers do this?

Have you ever read a book by a new-to-you author and you were kind of *meh* about it, but it was good enough that you tried the author again, and then, when you read more, it changed your view both of the author and that original book? 

Let me give you an example: my first ever Mary Balogh was a book that is generally much-loved by Balogh fans: More Than A Mistress. I was intrigued to read this novel, which I’d spent ages picking from Amazon,trying to the find the one I thought was most likely to appeal to me.

I thought it was ok.

Despite this lukewarm response, I went on to pick up Simply Love (which I adored) and then another and another.  Eventually, I re-read More Than A Mistress, and this time, I loved it. I’d tuned into Balogh’s world by then. I’d come to like her deceptively straightforward (actually very graceful) prose and the strangely sacred quality to the relationships that MTAM is a perfect example of.

It’s a bit like when you buy an album and you start off loving the flashy songs that made it into the charts but you’re not awfully keen on tracks 4 or 9. And then, gradually, you get to like all the other stuff, though still not 4 or 9. And then, eventually, 4 becomes your favourite track, and whilst you’re still not that keen on 9, it doesn’t make you switch off anymore.

Another thing I notice is that while some of the individual books by my favourite authors are pretty much routine ‘B’s, as a whole, I think of the author as an ‘A’ grade author because either they very consistently give me what I’m looking for or because there’s just something I particularly like that they do. 

That’s exactly the kind of thing that always made reviewing so hard for me.  And why I gave it up.

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “Grading the author

  1. Exactly what happened to me, with exactly the same book (More Than a Mistress). I was working my way through highly recommended romance books and Balogh is close to the front of the alphabet. MTAM was ok but no more. But as I read more Balogh, I, like you, got into her groove, understood her way of viewing the world — and now MTAM is one of my favourites. I get pretty defensive on behalf of authors too … very immature of me I’m sure.

    Authors like Linda Howard are so fascinating because it’s entirely possible that someone might like her earlier books and not her later. We’ve all evolved, and not surprisingly authors do too. Not quite sure what that means 🙂

  2. I agree with you. I always think if only I could find the “one” book I could get into from a particular author then I could likely “read the rest” as the view like you said changes once you’ve read a book that you liked. I use Roberta Gellis as an example all the time. I couldn’t read her at all. Then I chanced upon a copy of “Fortune’s Bride” and loved it and went back to read her other works and enjoyed them as well.

    and Janet, I’m one who enjoyed Linda Howard’s earlier books and not her latest efforts. Tastes change over the years.

    I find myself a bit affected when readers dislike authors that I enjoy but never do I feel the need to step in and defend anything. I’m always fascinated by different perspectives.

  3. Oh, yes, I’m familiar with the phenomenon of ”growing apart” from a favourite author! It’s like first love though – you still look back fondly.

    Janet- interesting that you talk about ‘getting into her groove’ and understanding the author’s world. This ‘getting it’ moment happens at genre level for new romance readers (you start to understand that genre’s language and tropes and something clicks) but yes, you get it an individual author level too.

    Keishon – what interests me about your example is that you identify a very specific book that ‘unlocked’ the author for you, and again, that’s something that very much chimes with me. For me and Balogh, it was, as I mentioned in the post, Simply Love. It’s finding the book that makes you want to read every word that person has written.

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