Reading Validation: When Do We Need It?

how_the_marquess_was_wonI’m happy to say my reading slump may be over, but I’m also now a bit puzzled.

The book that got me out of it is Julie Ann Long’s How the Marquess Was Won.  I read it in a delicious fury over one night and several hours of an afternoon.   I loved the story and the characters, and, as an added bonus for me, the author took aim and scored even higher by delivering on some of my romantic hot buttons.  (A hero who risks making himself look foolish by tearing off to rescue a heroine’s cat?  Now, that’s a man!)

A universally great reading experience, right?  That’s what I thought until I took a look at our review here (grade B) and and another even lower graded review on the Web.  Both reviewers, more familiar than I am with books by Julie Ann Long, found flaws in the book that had eluded me.

I read the author a few years ago and found her a bit disappointing – and, it must be admitted, overly hyped.  Then, considering all the buzz that surrounded What I Did for a Duke, I decided to take a chance on it.  It was absolutely my book of the year.

Simply put, despite her lovely prose, I think what makes Julie Ann Long stand out is her ability to make you feel intimacy between characters.   Because, despite what non-romance readers think, we read romance for far more than sex.

So, why am I so surprised at the less enthusiastic response by other reviewers?  Well, despite the criticism I read elsewhere about a “flat” characterization of a woman who makes her only appearance in this book off the page, the chief criticism seems to be that the story didn’t feature the main families who have appeared in other books in the series.  Fair enough.  As I said, I wasn’t really invested, so that didn’t bother me.  But the real reason I’m so surprised?  I wanted validation that my reading experience had been shared by others.

There are certain types of books that qualify as guilty pleasures.  Do I need validation in those cases?  You bet I don’t.  But do I want it when I feel a book is great?  Absolutely.  But then that begs the question:  Why the heck do I care?

Honestly, I’m not sure.  If I feel a book is great, then that should be enough for me.  I’m confident enough in my own taste that I can withstand the strain even when the prevailing wind is blowing in another direction.  Still, it would be nice…

So, what do you think?  Do you need validation by others of your reading experiences?

- Sandy AAR

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22 Responses to Reading Validation: When Do We Need It?

  1. BRose says:

    Julie Anne Long is a no-go for me, because of her lack of historical accuracy, but I have not read this one and cannot comment on it. I did read a poor review of this book on another blog, which coloured my opinion. If I was more invested in her books I wouldn’t have dared read any reviews – good or bad!

    When I love a book, I actually avoid reviews – even on Amazon. Because when I love something and others rip it to shreds I get upset.

    I am far more likely to seek out reviews for a book I thought was so-so or bad.

    I will say though, that guy on the cover is a smooth-chested, twelve year old pansy!

    • msaggie says:

      BRose: Julie Anne Long is a no-go for me, because of her lack of historical accuracy,

      I would agree with this. However, I do like her books despite the fact that the titled characters are addressed wrongly (e.g. What I Did For a Duke, where the duke is called “my lord” for much of the time when it should be “your grace”), and the premise of the story is rather improbable. I usually am very pernickety about historical details like this – but I think I do still like her books because she writes relationships and courtship very well. As someone else said, she can create the intimacy between a couple falling in love much better than other authors. Intimacy and yearning are rarely well-depicted in today’s romances (historical or otherwise) and we readers are supposed to be satisfied with the substitution of these by lots of gratuitous love scenes. Love scenes are OK, but I think we need more from a romance, and for me anyway, Julie Anne Long can deliver the additional intimacy and yearning in her some of her books. The only Pennyroyal book I didn’t like was Since the Surrender, and I haven’t read the latest one yet.

  2. AAR Sandy says:

    BRose, I’ve heard of the anachronism label given to Julie Ann Long, but, honestly, I don’t see it. There is very little historical context, to be sure and the dialogue feels slightly modern, but there is no more or no less than any one of a dozen (or even hundreds) of other writers. At any rate, nothing jumped out at me to pull me out of the story.

    As for the cover, I couldn’t agree more! I read an eBook, but I’d have a hard time reading that in paper in public.

    • Tee says:

      AAR Sandy: There are certain types of books that qualify as guilty pleasures. Do I need validation in those cases? You bet I don’t. But do I want it when I feel a book is great? Absolutely. But then that begs the question: Why the heck do I care?

      Great question and maybe one of the most important ones we can all ask ourselves. Fact—we can enjoy books that others don’t. Fact—we can dislike books others love. Fact—who the hell cares? Well, you said it; apparently, we do care, sometimes. I’m getting better at that though. This site allows us to express our honest thoughts (respectfully) and so many of us do.

      Added note. I’m not a lover of Julie Ann Long, either; but I know she has many followers. But that’s alright; I’ve got a few favorites whom many here would not touch with a stick. And so it goes. Here’s to 2012—a true no-guilt reading year and the ability to express it. LOL

  3. Leigh says:

    The whole reading experience is a puzzlement to me. I think so much has to do with what we read previously (i.e. – your reading slump), what is going on in our lives, our opinion of the author’s work, and previous life situations.

    This year I have only given two DIK ratings. Now the first book, I know has plenty of admirers, but the second one doesn’t even have any ratings on Amazon. Would I love for someone to validate my opinion? Yes and no. Yes, because while reading it I was going through a very stressful time, and so I do wonder if that played a part in my rating. And no, because the book thoroughly charmed me and even today thinking about some of the situations brings a smile to my face (probably the same- when you think of the hero rescuing the cat). So even if the book is not a DIK for anyone else, it is for me – and what it did for me, the laugher it gave me makes it a special book.

    Would Julie Ann Long’s book been as wonderful to you if you hadn’t been in a reading slump and the book you read before it was “The Other Guy’s Bride? Maybe or maybe not? Like I said our reading experiences are enigmas.

  4. Las says:

    I don’t need validation for books I like. I actually get a kick out of well-written negative reviews of books I love, often because I find myself agreeing with the reviewer on a lot of points but I love the book anyway.

    However, it drives me nuts when a book I think is bad–not in a “It’s not for me but I can see why other people love it” way but one that I think is truly awful–gets nothing but praise in every corner. If a new book is getting A+s and 5 stars everywhere, I become hesitant to read it.

  5. Victoria S says:

    I am used to wildly divergent opinions on books , my sister and I both read romance and we share books. There are so many times I will love a book and she hates or she loves it and I hate it, that it’s become something of a joke between us. And we’re sisters with some of the same DNA! So, no, I am not surprised by the huge chasms that seem to divide us between some books, because I know I’m right and everybody else is crazy that they didn’t love/hate that book when it’s perfectly obvious to me that it was great/horrible because…..:-)

    Heck, we can’t even all agree on what makes an attractive book cover and that’s a strictly visual endeavor. Although I do agree with BRose and Sandy. I think the heroine on the cover should be expecting a visit from the morality police any second, cause that dude is way underage and under sexy. This is the kind of cover that makes me love my Kindle even more. Hey, maybe that’s why people think Julie Ann Long is anachronistic, because of her cheesy covers..I’m just sayin’

  6. lauren says:

    Heck NO! I read what I want whether its been given a good or bad review…Opinions are just that…words…and what one likes the other doesn’t and so it goes. The beauty of all this is there is always a new author…a new twist to the same ol same ol…and I will suck it up no matter who says what!

  7. Pamela says:

    I definately get anxious when someone is reading a book I thought was amazing upon my recommendation(not many fit the bill, the litmus test being that I literally can not find anything to read for a few days because every other book is bound to be a disappointment, how’s that for an afterglow:)). It somehow feels very personal when I know someone else is reading a book that affected me so much. Perhaps that anxiety is feeling exposed by sharing a booking the moved me and feeling vulnerable if that opinion is not shared. I feel more comfortable re: books I liked versus loved.

  8. Kristy says:

    I have the opposite experience more often in that I will hear about a book that seems to be universally loved and then I read it and I think it is just okay. A few that come to mind are Private Arrangements, Not Quite a Scoundrel and What I did for a Duke. Why did I not like these books when so many others did? I will even reread books like these and try to see what others like but rarely do I change my opinion. I think reading validation is one of the reasons I read book reviews. I do not know many people who read romance and it is nice to read a review of a book I loved and have the reviewer love it too.

  9. Susan/DC says:

    I do love it when my opinion is validated by other readers, but it’s not necessary and doesn’t mean I’ll change my opinion (whether positive or negative). We do this with lots of things as well as a way of testing our concept of reality — do others think the way I do about movies/political candidates/whether the moon is made of green cheese. Some of these things have an objective reality (such as the composition of the moon) but many of them are personal and subjective. As I’ve grown older I’m more secure in my opinions but hope I remain open to learning something new from others.

    One thing I have learned is that my personal hot buttons may affect how I feel about a romance. I may not enjoy a book others love simply because that issue colors how I feel and serves as a barrier that prevents me from fully entering the romance. This is far more likely to occur in a romance novel precisely because what is “romantic” is so subjective — there’s no question in a mystery whether someone has been killed, but whether a romance novel is transcendent or not is up to the reader. By acknowledging my hot buttons I acknowledge that a book may be great, just not for me (and vice versa for those things that are not hot buttons for me but which make others want to spit).

  10. jcscot says:

    I read (and enjoyed) How the Marquess was Won but the one thing that kept jarring was her insistence that Sir Somebody-or-other d’Andre ought to be addressed as Sir d’Andre. Aaargh!

    If the knighthood was of British origin, then the correct form of address would be Sir John (if closely acquainted) or Sir John Smith (if not) never, ever, ever Sir Smith.

    If the knighthood was of French origin (which might be possible given the d’Andre surname) then the correct form of address would be the Chevalier d’Andre.

    The whole knighthood thing (especially as knighthoods are still awarded in the UK) should be a simple google away. Sloppy.

    However, she does write wonderful relationships and dialogue bewteen her H/H, so I’ll forgive the slip.

  11. kathy says:

    I loved loved loved!! “What I did for a Duke” If I read a book and like it I don’t care if others don’t like it, if on the other hand I hear something bad about a book before I read it then it’s ruined for me.

  12. bungluna says:

    I don’t need validation when I love a book; I may read other’s reviews and agree or disagree but I’m happy loving it in isolation if necessary. However, if I dislike/hate a book, I like finding others who agree with me especially if the book was hyped all over the place. Go figure!

  13. Carrie says:

    The only thing I really worry about when I enjoy a book is recommending it to others. I don’t mind if they don’t like the same books, but I hate to be the one that wasted their time. Because if that, I’m hesitant to give recommendations. When I do, it’s always with caveats that YMMV.

    My mood and my background are going to affect how I experience a book. We all have hot buttons, that can make even a very well-written book a non-starter. For my daughter, it’s historical accuracy. She gets way too distracted by things like title and vocabulary gaffs. I don’t know enough to notice most of the time. I tend to prefer contemporaries, romantic suspense and romantic sci-fi, and am much less thrilled with historicals, especially those with lots of sex between a rake and a innocent miss who suddenly finds her wanton streak. Yawn.

    My daughter, who is my main partner in book reading, strongly disagrees with my ratings of books in at least 25% of the cases, and probably has differences of opinions in another 25%. I find our life experiences play into that quite a bit. For example, she gets really irritated with contemporary books where the heroine ends up quitting her job/career and staying home to raise babies. I, on the other hand, did just that in my life, so I tend to overlook that failing. :-)

  14. Ell says:

    Can’t resist putting my 2 cents in….

    One cent: When I run across a book that says something I feel is important, then I tend to push it, and feel disappointed when my friends/family don’t like it as much as I did

    Second cent: I often read the very worst reviews written about a book before I try it. If the reviewers are complaining about something I don’t care about, then I ignore them, but if they’re mentioning things that I know I have problems getting past, then I will pass on the book. Exceptions are my exceedingly short (and getting shorter, sigh) automatic buy list. I buy those books no matter what ANYBODY says.

  15. MJ says:

    I’m never bothered by a differing opinion and can’t remember feeling angst for a book I loved that others did not. However, I am sometimes disappointed by a book that has lots of good reviews that I find distinctly ‘meh’ or downright “blah!’ than by the reverse. (E.G. Bertrice Small’s A Love for All Time.) I’d rather an unknown or little known book/author get the good press for something out of the ordinary. (Such as Cecelia Grant’s Lady Awakened.)

    PS-Who wrote Not Quite a Scoundrel? I’m not familiar with this book?

  16. Sky says:

    I don’t really need validation from others in order to read a book. Granted, it’s nice to read about the great reviews after I have read the book and liked it. I am generally interested in reading a book because I like the particular setup or plot. If it’s written by an author I have read before and liked, that helps too.

    Interestingly, regarding reading reviews before reading a book, I actually get wary if there are way too many positive or glowing reviews on a particular book. From my experience, I generally ended up finding these books just okay. I do like Julie Anne Long’s writing in general. I have read quite a few of her books. Even though many seem to be wowed by her “What I did for a Duke” book, I simply found it okay. I enjoyed reading it but I simply like some of her other books more.

  17. xina says:

    No…a thousand times no, I don’t need validation. However, I like to shout to the world when I simply love a book, but I don’t expect all to agree with me.
    I will have to read the Julie Ann Long book. I haven’t read her for years.

  18. Teresa says:

    Julie Ann Long is an auto-buy for me. Her books literally make my toes curl in anticipation of that first kiss between characters & few authors write better dialogue. I was amazed to read the mediocre reviews here and elsewhere. And happy that I had pre-ordered & read the book before reading them. I thought it was truly fantastic.

    That said, I do like validation. And came to read the review here fully expecting it to get the A+ I would have given it. :^)

  19. Stacey says:

    Hi Everyone-

    I am definitely invested in this series, yet I was not disappointed that I was only given a few crumbs into Olivia and Lyons…whatever their exciting story is. It only made me even more excited about their book. I was totally smitten with this book from beginning to end, and I have to say it will be one of my top 5 of 2011. Obviously we are smart readers and every book can’t be everything to all people. Since Lyon’s disappearace/reappearance will be the focus of both families when it comes out, we will be caught up on both sides. How would a new reader have felt if the focus of the book had been scattered with the other family members? It stood on it’s own, but kept me invested in the series. If a reader just discovered JAL with this book, I will bet money that they will be looking into her backlist. I think she is batting 1000 when it comes to focus.

  20. Gules says:

    I remember the first time when I read “Perfect” form Judith McNaught that I was disapointed. I liked it, but it had not “swept me away” like “Almost Heaven”. Two years later when I read it again I was! Since then the book is one of my favorites, it was love at second sight. My point is that we do not reply automaticly. It is never just the content in a romance novel we do respond. It is always a combination of current time, reader and book that shapes a review. And because of that I think, because or inner hopes or dreams or needs are part of our reading experince we do look out for reviews like similar to ours. It is the ultimate sharing of our mental total. I believe that’s why we read reviews about books we already know.

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