Special thanks to Leontine from Leontine's Book Realm for the super header.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Are you getting harsher?

Well, not counting Kris of course, because we know that's true. :-P But I noticed in general that I seem to give out fewer 5 stars over at Goodreads and not many A's at Brief Encounters Reviews. So I'm not sure it's that there aren't as many books out there blowing my socks off, or if I'm just getting harsher as I read more and more m/m.

This is me when I first discovered m/m.


When I first discovered the genre I LURVED everything, well, almost. There was some right off the bat that didn't work for me and I continue to avoid, but in general it was all new and shiny and interesting and I loved it all.

This is me now?
That's not really fair, it's not that I'm "meh" about it all, I still keep reading and have been on a total binge the last week or so. It certainly hasn't stopped me spending my money on it and I'm enjoying it, I'm just not twirling with glee most of the time.

So is this a bad thing? Or am I only refining my taste? Or do I just think I'm not finding GREAT books. I only marked 14 books in 2010 a 5 star reads. That's slightly more than one per month. Really? But I must have read 400+, so am I just imagining that I'm not reading as many? Maybe. Or maybe I'm just more discerning. I really wish GR had a half star (I know, I know, whine whine), but for me 5 stars is WOOOOOWWWWWWW! Many I like a lot, more than a lot but I'm not sure it's a WOOOOOOOWWWWWW, so I give it 4 and may say 4.5. Eh. Maybe I should be marking up? I don't know. Sigh. 

So do you find yourself less forgiving than you were when you first discovered m/m (or started noting your ratings)? Or are you as generous as ever and have lots of 5 star reads? I'm always a bit surprised when people have 400+ books and a rating average of over 4.5. Really? Wow. :-)


Cryselle said...

I'm pretty sure it's evolving tastes. I know my criteria have changed over time. And yeah, I wish for half stars at GR too, 5 divisions just don't seem like enough.

Kris said...

"Well, not counting Kris of course, because we know that's true. :-P"

How fucking rude! I'm the goddamned bell curve! You hear me, Tam?! BELL. CURVE.

Tam said...

I suppose GR don't want to change it now Cryselle, but I'm tempted to start a petition on change.org. LOL

Yeah yeah Kris, you're perfect honey, I know. *eyeroll*

Average Reader said...

This is what's happened: In 2007 and probably before, the handful of authors pioneering mm were sort of hit-and-miss in terms of writing quality. Some could write and some couldn't.

Then more authors flooded the field through 2008 and 2009, and soon 99.9% could write competently, and even more could write really well. But the plots were still fairly basic -- simple romance stuff, the big misunderstanding, etc.

Then, in 2010 and 2011, the mm field continued to evolve exponentially, and soon we had all kinds of exciting, unusual, intriguing plots and locations.

Now, there is such an over-saturation of mm fiction that we readers can always find stuff that's written well with vivid characters and amazing plots. There is still a lot of crap out there, but there is even more good stuff.

So I think we've become jaded. I was talking to Cryselle about it a while back, and compared it to readers staggering drunkenly through a peach orchard, with each peach representing an mm book in the overabundance that we have now.

And the readers are taking a bite out of one peach and throwing it over their shoulders, and trampling on other peaches, and reeling onward, unable to sample more than a fraction of the peaches out there.

Well, in short, it's a good time to be a reader right now. :)

Average Reader said...

soon 99.9% could write competently, and even more could write really well.

Uhhh...you know what I mean. Say 99.9% could write competently and of that sample, 40% could write really well. That makes more statistical sense, ha, ha!

Tam said...

LOL Yeah, makes more sense. :-)

That's true, there are just so many books, but it's hard to find the gems sometimes, you miss them. I've noticed lately on the GR feed I have, obviously for not everyone I'm friends with, but some and so rarely have I read or do I own (or plan on owning) the books that show up there. Oh well, I'd rather have too many choices than not enough. Call me greedy.

Average Reader said...

Ha, ha! I thought you might appreciate me clarifying that statistical example. :D

You're right about how hard it is to find the gems. I had to think about that for a while. Maybe with the overall standard of mm fiction raised, "good" has become merely "average" and it takes an amazing combination of things to truly touch a reader emotionally now.

Also, we authors are getting crucified these days for stuff that wouldn't have been a problem in the early days when supply was so outweighed by all that hungry demand. Common complaints? Too much sex! Not enough sex! The HEA isn't Happy enough! But it's unbelivable that it would be too Happy too fast!

It can be frustrating, but it's also good for the genre. Because there's so little tolerance for mistakes, all of us authors are trying to write at the top of our game, and it's resulting in an amazing outpouring of quality fiction.

But that in turn makes the "gems" harder to create/find in the midst of all the "average" good stuff, if you know what I mean. It's a very interesting phenomenon!

Tam said...

Yes, I don't think that there are more crappy books, but the bar has been raised as there are more and more books out there. What was a 4 star a couple of years ago is now 3. Not a bad thing and as you said, some of that pressure does push author's to excel and not just slack off because no one cares or knows any better.

It can get overwhelming though. You can't please all of the people all of the time. You do your best as an author and I am always picking up little tidbits of do's and don'ts along the way.

Juni said...

I feel the same as you really, Tam. Not sure if it's becoming more jaded or just expecting more now that I've read more in the genre & have more to compare it to.

I was really good at adding books initially to my goodreads account but the past year--oops. Not sure if my overeall average ratings would improve any, though, if I did (currently 3.43)

Tam said...

It's hard to say Juni, I'm sure part of it is expectations. I'm not so easily dazzled as I was in the beginning. Not that looking at my early 5-star reads means they wouldn't merit the same now, most were outstanding, but I'm also reading more, so that probably contributes.

I used to be hit and miss but now I make a point of every Friday or Saturday going through both blogs and adding the reviews to GR and I also send the links to publishers as required. Once I've made it a weekly thing I'm more likely to keep it up-to-date. I think my average is about 3.4 as well.

Josephine Myles said...

I'm fairly sure I'm becoming more exacting as a reader, and that's down to me gaining experience in drafting and editing my own work. It can be hard to turn that critical eye off and just lose myself in the story now.

However, when a story does sweep me away so that I forget all about being critical, I give it a five star rating. It doesn't have to be perfect, but if it delights me it will get one. I still find a fair few five star reads out there, but I'm getting very choosy and I pay more attention to the reviewers I know are also choosy.

I just don't post the lower ratings anymore. Some authors get too offended. I'm thinking I won't post four stars anymore either. I'll end up looking like I adore everything I read...

It's either that or just abandon the stars altogether.

K. Z. Snow said...

I'm just tired, tired, tired of genre cliches, regardless of how well they're handled: BDSM themes, canine and feline shifters, men in glamorous or macho professions (one of whom in every couple is invariably in the closet). Heavy-handed angst is starting to get on my nerves too. So I've generally been steering clear of stories like those. (Plus, I don't want to feel pressured into pandering to prevailing tastes...which is actually pretty stupid of me.)

Instead, I've been reading more YA fiction, gay fic that isn't traditional romance, and horror/psychological thrillers. It's been a refreshing change. And, yeah, I agree: the genre's so glutted now that it's hard to sift and winnow through the gazillion titles published every month.

Tam said...

I think as an author yourself Jo there is that little bit of awkwardness about judging your peers, although if you only have a few books and they are all 5 stars I think that's okay. Many people say they will only talk about books they loved vs every book they read. As long as people are aware that's what's happening vs appearing to love every book you read I think that's fine.

I suppose experience does make us more exacting. I know when I read mysteries for years I used to read anything and everything and then when I left I was finding nothing to my taste and I got picky.

Tam said...

I have found there are certain themes I know longer go for KZ. Not sure they are overdone or just not my thing like anything else. I'm also finding repetitive reads more frustrating than comforting these days. There can be a certain comfort in knowing exactly what you'll get, but at the end you feel a bit dissatisfied.

It's probably good to branch out into other genres again, maybe distance is good for a while. There are so many books now, so many publishers, it's hard to keep up, I've kind of given up trying.

I do see so many titles I've never heard of when I read my GR feed, and many receive high marks, but I just can't keep up so I admit I tend to be sticking with a few publishers that I know and the odd thing I find on sale elsewhere. I may be missing some gems, but I can't read them all.

Cryselle said...

Thanks for the historical perspective, Val. I hadn't considered that the genre went from zero to 60mph in just 5 years.

Tam, how do you read 400 books in a year? Are they all short? It seems like there's so many more longer choices. Val's peach orchard, for sure, except I feel like I have to eat the whole peach if I take one bite.

K.Z. I agree, some things are just done to death.

This group would know, are there any furry shifter stories out there that *don't* have some kind of "fated mate" thing going on? Or does every shifter in print have this psychic *boing* of recognition of matehood? (I did recently read a very good one with a reptilian shifter that didn't have that loathsome trope ;D)

Tam said...

I read a LOT Cryselle. LOL Too much my daughter would tell you. I read a minimum of 5 shorts a week for BER and then I probably read 10 or more a week that are over the 20K word mark. I think my last stats thing at GR said I'd read 250 books so far this year (that was to sometime in July) and that's about 18,000 pages. I rarely read long books. 300 pages would be HUGE for me. I do, but I don't seek them out. As you can see by the graphic TONS of sips and daydreams, so a lot of shorts. If I read only books of 200 pages, that would be 72 books. That makes it seem not so bad. LOL 10 books a month, 2 a week. Wow, this is great. I can buy and read more. LOL

Tam said...

Okay, furry shifters without mates. Hmmmmm. Have you read my free short Caged? No mates thing, just lust. LOL

Blaque/Bleu by Belinda McBride has a werewolve and vamp with no mates thing.

Martin and the Wolf by Anne Brooke is an established couple without the mates.

I'm not sure any of these I posted in my post about unusual shifters were fated mates. That seems to be something that comes up more with wolves and some big cats than with other creatures.

Maybe some others can come up with some.

Cryselle said...

Yes, I did read Caged and thought it was adorable. Runs to check the other post, because one more werewolf doing the immediate psychic bond fated mates thing may make my head explode. Werewolves in general are fine but not that aspect.

I need to win the lottery so I have time to catch up with your reading stats, I'm jealous!

Chris said...

It's probably a little of a lot of things - being more savvy about the genre, being a bit more jaded, writing yourself. :)

I guess I'm a meanie - my average rating is 3.29.

Tam said...

Probably a combo Chris. The difference between 3.4 (I think mine) and 3.3 is not that much. So you're only a smidge meaner than me. :-)

Jenre said...

I think it's partly to do with becoming a little more circumspect with top grades, but also there's been a very definite drop in quality in m/m books. The market is flooded with mediocrity and it's hard to find the gems in all the mud. Having said that, I generally give out more 4 stars than 3 stars, but fewer 5 stars.

I don't give out many A's at BER because I don't come across many short stories which make me think 'wow, what a fabulous story' and really that's what an A grade is for me.

I give out more 'Excellent' grades on my blog because it's a fluid grade. A book or story can get an 'Excellent'from me but still only count as 4 stars. That's why I love my vague rating system :).

Tam said...

I think there is a glut Jen, but I want to give new authors and publishers the chance so I do give them a whirl. Vague can be good. I don't even recommend here one way or the other. You'll have to go to GR to see how I rated it. :-)

K. Z. Snow said...

Crys, J.L. Merrow's Tortoise Interruptus is supposed to be good (I have it on my TBR list). Was that Val's excellent 'gator shifter you were referring to? Call and Answer was SO worth reading!