Blogger Black-out at MBRR

Miss Bates is going post-less until October 28th to support fellow bloggers’ protest against The Guardian‘s choice to publish an account of an author’s self-admitted stalking of a reviewer-blogger. Miss Bates Reads Romance is tiny potatoes; her stance will not influence, or effect the situation, nor will she link to it. It’s been talked to death and she’s mighty tired of giving the piece more space than it’s already taken. She links, however, to some fellow-bloggers in comradeship: Vacuous Minx, Romance Around the Corner, Love In the Margins, Book Thingo, Sonomalass’s Blog, Wendy the Superlibrarian, Immersed In Books, Badass Romance, Something More, Mean Fat Old Bat, and Kaetrin’s Musings.

In light of this distasteful mess and the less recent news that romance blog Dear Author is being sued by a publisher, Miss Bates soul-searched her blogging. She takes her blog-title as a renewing point, returns to her modest roots: primarily, Miss Bates reads romance, she doesn’t review romance. She hopes to inspire fellow-readers to share in her thoughts about romance fiction, or fiction with strong romantic elements (a clunky designation, but a hybrid Miss Bates loves). She wants her blog to be an account of what she’s reading and how she responded to it and less about whether you, her reader, should, or shouldn’t read a book. She wants to, once again, engage with her reading emotionally and intellectually without worrying about spoilers and ratings and release dates. As a matter of fact, because analysing her reading is a great pleasure to Miss B., you can anticipate spoilers. You can also expect fewer ARC reviews (though she’s got a backlog she feels obligated to fulfill) and a lot MORE thoughts and rants and close readings (her favourites). She wants her reading choices to be dictated by whim rather than schedule. Join Miss B. when she returns to MBRR on the 28th with her thoughts and feelings about Georgette Heyer’s The Convenient Marriage. She’s been reading it for weeks … and can’t seem to get through it. What’s that about? What’s the last book you read that you knew was “good,” but you slogged through it? Let’s talk about books we love, or don’t, because all that white noise beyond … “sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.”

33 thoughts on “Blogger Black-out at MBRR

  1. Well, I know that Heyer’s Frederica is good and is many people’s favorite, but it felt like it took me forever to finish it. And I like Heyer.

    I applaud you for joining the hiatus and for keeping this blog. My limited experience with online reviewing sent me running for the hills, and I had nothing like the traumatic ordeal of the blogger who was stalked.

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    • Miss B. is sorry to hear that you found online reviewing an unpleasant experience. She hopes that she offers a safe and fun place to comment about books: she loves reading your thoughtful, knowledgeable perspective and is in awe of your wide reading. She’s awfully glad you’re here. ๐Ÿ™‚

      She isn’t sure what’s making her so sluggish about reading the Heyer … maybe this and the EC/DA situation had her re-evaluating what she does here and that preoccupation distracted her from her usual intense reading.

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  2. It’s been a disheartening few weeks, hasn’t it? I thought about shutting down all social media after this last debacle because I’ve reached a saturation point. But I’ve connected with some really great people on Twitter, etc. and I refuse to give that up. Besides, I’m a big girl now and just because there’s a linkety-link there doesn’t mean I have to click on it, now do I? ๐Ÿ™‚

    In reference to spoilers, I’ve never been particularly allergic to them. There are times when it’s next to impossible to talk about a book coherently without referencing one or three spoilerish thingies. Trying to figure out how to adequately couch/hide what I need to say usually just ends up with a garbled written mess and a massive headache.

    I’ve read only three Georgette Heyer books despite having most of her backlist on Mt. TBR. I really liked/loved those three and promise myself that my ‘next’ book will be Georgette Heyer. But I keep delaying. Now, what’s up with that?

    As always, I look forward to your return to discussing all books, Miss B.

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    • Yes, it has been quite disheartening and we’ve all toyed, Miss B. thinks, with various strategies trying to find our comfort level without losing what is most important and enjoyable to us. Miss B. is so very glad that you’ve stayed on social media. She’d really miss you if you shut down. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ ๐Ÿ™‚

      If there’s a blessing to be found amongst The Nasty is that it’s led to many bloggers reconsidering, rethinking, and redefining what they do and how they want to continue doing it. Miss B.’s personal favourite is Sunita at Vacuous Minx: her take is so succinct and thought through. Miss B. took many of her signals and it helped her better articulate the morass she’d fallen into and how to climb out and retain the joy she’s found in her blog. She’s just so very glad there are people who’ll come along for the ride.

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  3. I also have a very limited audience and, more to the point, review little and very rarely new releases, but I’m joining the blackout as well.

    I love Miss Bates’ voice, even though I rarely comment.

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  4. High five, MissB! And Yes! THIS!!

    When I started my blog, I didn’t want to write reviews and named my blog accordingly. I don’t necessarily recommend reading my early posts because I said a lot of phenomenally stupid things about myself, about books, and about romance fiction in general (I keep the posts to show an arc of character growth, perhaps), but, mixed in with all the stupid stuff, there’s a pretty strong argument for talking about books, even — or perhaps especially — books my blog’s readers would never pick up. Strangely (to me), the vast majority of my readers are not at all fans of romance fiction.

    When I started accepting ARCs, I fell into the habit, for a time, of titling my ARC posts “reviews,” (because I thought that’s how it was done) but, eventually I stopped. I don’t feel comfortable writing reviews, and I suspect that I’ve never really written one (even those “review” posts). Who am I to bloviate on the universal merits of some book (or to condemn it, universally)? I just don’t feel that authority, and, further, I don’t want to be a gatekeeper. (Note: I’m self aware enough to realize that my even having this argument with myself is pretty damn ridiculous: If you’re small potatoes, I’m not even a germinated seed.)

    ANYWAY, I am so happy to read this post, because your thoughts are a much more articulate version of mine. Let’s talk about books; let’s read closely and broadly; let’s disagree amicably; and let’s collectively not give two hoots or a holler about spoilers. You know… in a week. ๐Ÿ™‚ Maybe I’ll even pick up the Heyer…

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    • *fist bump*! The story of how your blog developed really heartens Miss B.: she cringes every time she looks at her early reviews … awful really. But the posts she’s loved writing the most and the ensuing commentary were really response-analyses rather than a review and her “rating system” is just an opportunity to channel JaneA., and who wouldn’t want to do that.

      The entire ARC enterprise has been a blogging-circle-of-hell and, like you, it’s been of Miss B.’s own making because she thought that’s the way the game had to be played … it’s like that image in Dante’s Inferno of the lovers Paulo and Francesca, interminably spinning in badness for their lust. It’s Northrop Frye’s definition of romance as the “wandering of desire;” it’s Coleridge’s “Water, water, everywhere and not a drop to drink.” It’s been constricting and Miss B.’s got no one to blame but herself for being sucked into the vortex … twice. After swearing off, like Michael Corleone, “I was out … and they pulled me back in.” But it’s also a bit like Seinfeld’s “the first break-up never takes.” Now that Miss B. has run out of cultural references because she’s having trouble … obviously … articulating what she wants to say, she’s looking forward to the sheer freedom of what you describe and glad she’s stepped off the carrousel. Maybe … one of these days … we’ll do a dueling post … like when we both have all this TIME on our hands.

      Miss B. howled w/ laughter … you’re the funniest blogger she’s ever read. ๐Ÿ™‚

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      • Why, thank you! I’m always inclined to approve of those who find me humorous (rather than tedious, because — honestly — it could go either way). I mean, it was always a done deal that I would love Miss B and everything she’s doing around here (particularly how she discusses books in such detail and yet manages to be comprehensive about it, something I have never managed), but I feel so much better about it knowing the respect is mutual, you know?

        I don’t mind accepting ARCs “for consideration” and reading them with the knowledge that I will provide feedback, whether public or private. It makes me feel better about the whole endeavor to be free to decide for myself what form that feedback will take, whether absolute silence (which is a form of feedback, to be honest), a general note to the publisher via the NetGalley feedback system, a reader review on Goodreads (often copied in the NetGalley feedback system), or, much more rarely, an actual review post on my blog. And, although it’s less traceable, I do tend to mention books on Twitter and engage with other readers (sometimes readers who write). It’s taken me a long time to come to terms with the notion that every one of those responses to a book is valid and that no one, even an entity providing me an advance e-galley of a book, is entitled to my opinion. Certainly no one is entitled to consider me a piece of some marketing mechanism.

        I write about books because I am naturally wired to interpret the question, “How are you?” as “What are you reading? Tell me about it. Tell me all the things. I know I look like I asked that question without expecting an answer, but the truth is that I will die unless you tell me all about that book you’re reading (that I will never read).” I am a marvel at cocktail receptions.

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        • Miss B. *beams*

          In mutual admiration and linking to your last paragraph, Miss B. spent the best (and worst, but that’s another story) of her life at a humble liberal arts college of about 100 students (within a HUGE university). It was three years of constant talk of books (well, not much money for food … Miss B. was beautifully svelte at the time; there were certain early 20s shenanigans too), constant, we only greeted each other with “Whatcha reading?” It bred in Miss B. a burning need to know what everyone is reading; she’s craned and lurched her way through metro rides just to glance the title a stranger is reading, gotten into conversations with strangers (including someone who offered to teach her how to play the cello, just because she was reading King Lear at the time). Her most recent and favourite story is a conversation with a quite elderly lady at one of two local stores that carry romance novels (which subsequently shut down). The lady told Miss B. that she started to read romance when her husband put two of them under the Christmas tree for her years and years ago. Sadly, he died last year and romance novels have been her comfort. “Aww,” thought, said Miss B. and thought surely she’ll go for that Debbie Macomber. Nope, lady picked up Howard’s Mackenzie’s Mountain; she told Miss B. she likes her heroes strictly “alpha.” Cutest thing ever.

          “Certainly no one is entitled to consider me a piece of some marketing mechanism.” This and Sunita’s post said it for Miss B. She raises a glass to you!

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  5. I respect your decision, but wonder how I will procrastiwrite effectively with so many of my favorite blogs silent.

    As a side note, this is the second time this week I have thought that we’re ill served by the clunkiness of “fiction with strong romantic elements.”

    For one thing, it’s no help finding titles in the book store and for another it’s often a definition by exclusion: this book breaks with current mass market trends therefore it is not a romance. Yet most of the books that receive this designation share a set of characteristics, and the same readers who love du Maurier usually also love Mary Stewart and probably Dorothy Dunnett and will urge you to try Susanna Kearlsey and Lauren Willig. If nothing else the amount of reader overlap indicates that there’s a subgenre here going nameless.

    All of these writers create smart heroines and either set their books in the past or write stories in which the past plays a role in the present, sometimes with an element of the supernatural, always with a flair for witty dialogue and a generous sprinkling of literary allusions. Even writers whose books are nominally about a hero (the Dorothys, Dunnett and Sayers) crafted stories that would fall apart if the romance were removed. If this were the 18th century, I think we’d call these “bluestocking romances” and until someone coins a better term, that’s the name on my mental file folder.

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    • Chuckle … we’re awfully glad to contribute to the procrastiwriting if it is so! A pleasure!

      Miss Bates is so happy to read of this designation “bluestocking romance” … also, what an absolutely delightful term. Love it! She hopes you realize that it will now be used as a “tag” on Miss B., with full credit, of course. Also, she loves your definition: “smart heroine + the weight of the past + supernatural touch (but not too much woo-woo) + witty dialogue + literary allusion” (Miss B.’s favourite in the Stewart she wrote about, Madam, Will You Talk?) + an intelligent, adult, compelling romance, she would add. It is so very true that the best of the romance genre is more than … like the authors you’ve mentioned above: because it allows these writers to play with these various threads and interweave them in original ways. Really, the best books kinda defy a clear-cut genre, or their “awareness” of it self-consciously subverts, or transforms it in some way. Miss Bates would be curious to know what you, or anyone who cares to weigh in, would say were the themes of these blue-stocking romances are? We, actually you, with Miss B. doing a lot of head-nodding and stating the obvious, have identified literary components, but what of over-riding themes? Miss B. has Kearsley’s The Shadowy Horses and The Firebird making their way up the TBR and she just might tackle a post about them.

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      • I am honored to have inspired a “tag” and excited for your posts about The Shadowy Horses and The Firebird! Ooh, themes! Self determination for the heroine, definitely. I shall procrastiwrite on this topic and return…

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  6. I feel your pain re: The Convenient Marriage. It has never been one of my favorites–the heroine is too young (17!), the ‘hero’ too old (35!!), the action is a bit too madcap for my taste.
    There have been any number of books that I’ve felt bogged down in–I usually just set them aside and try again later. Second time around is often successful. But I never want to spoil the possibility by ‘forcing’ myself to continue–that reeks too much of school required reading!

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    • It has been a less-than-stellar reading journey of Miss B. and The Convenient Marriage. Maybe it’s because she expected more of a romance … maybe because the hero and heroine interact so infrequently and maybe, like you, because she can’t rid herself of a certain distaste for the age difference between hero and heroine.

      YES! A second reading often works better, goes more smoothly for Miss B. Very true!

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  10. Fantastic post, MissB, so thoughtful and empathetic.

    I will happily join in a discussion of A Convenient Marriage! It’s one of my favorite Heyers, although I can’t disagree with the flaws others have pointed out, and I listened to the Armitage version relatively recently. Despite the cuts I enjoyed it.

    DonnaT’s post made me realize that my favorite romances cluster at two poles. At one end are the category romances and at the other are the romantic-elements novels. Since joining romland I’ve read a lot more of the work in between: European-set historicals, westerns, and contemporary romance (including romantic suspense). But when I come across a really great category on the one hand, or a Kearsley or Thorland on the other, I have a sense of satisfaction that reminds me why I read romance. Maybe because that’s what I started with, romance-wise, but I think it’s also because categories are distillations and romantic-elements books are romance in a larger context. Everything else is kind of splitting the difference, if that makes sense.

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    • Thank you, that means a lot to Miss Bates ๐Ÿ™‚

      She’s still making her way through Heyer’s The Convenient Marriage … it’s still slow-going, but she’s really enjoying it and having many thoughts and feelings about it. They’re flying as she nears the end and yet she still finds herself impatient with it in places. She’s not sure whether that’s due to a certain over-stimulation thanks to recent events in her country and the mess of #Haleno that it’s been difficult to immerse herself in it. And yet, it’s also been a lodestone in her week. Maybe that’s what reading and beloved books are all about?

      Ah, Miss Bates so feels exactly the same way about your two poles … she’s wanted to figure this out for ages and ages. It’s really been plaguing. The categories and, thanks to DonnaT, the “blue-stocking” novels, like Miss B.’s recent and most beloved reading of Mary Stewart’s Madam, Will You Talk? The categories as distillation and the “blue-stockings” with their wider context and interests. The stuff that falls in between is rarely as great as the others: maybe the romance arc means that length does not make for depth or complexity? Ooh, what a question to think about?

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