Romance novels and its readers get so much of grief!

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I am a reader of many genres. The only genre I dislike is Young Adult, and that is more of an umbrella genre so I don't think it quite counts. (Why do I dislike the genre? Read this.)

It's interesting that when I people find out that I read romance, they will inevitably say: "Don't they all have the same plots? Aren't they unrealistic? Aren't the books shallow and silly?" I rarely get that with other genres.

The reason why this gets romance readers defensive is because it's almost implied that if you read such "shallow, unrealistic and formulaic" books, that means you're shallow, silly and unimaginative too. Of course nothing can be further from the truth as the readers of romance novels are one of the most diverse around.

The criticisms commonly levied against romance novels can be hurled at books of other genres too. Crime and thriller novels are unrealistic (the killer is caught every time? Sure.), fantasy novels can be silly (dragons exist? Hah!) and many genres are written to a formula of sorts. For example, a crime novel usually starts with a crime and ends with the bad guy being nabbed. This is "genre expectations", after all. Yet these books are not as mocked or vilified as romance novels. 

It's not the whys I am concerned about (personally I think it is misogyny). What I am concerned about is all that is said about this genre will keep curious readers away so that they won't look "shallow and silly" when seen reading it.

I was like that too - turning my nose up at the genre despite many years of entertainment from it in my teen years. Then I grew up and it saved my bacon. Let's just say romance novels lifted my spirits at a sad time in my life. (Tl;dr) 

What changed my mind? Brushing aside preconceived notions and being grateful that this genre instills hope, positivity and happiness in me. This genre does it very, very well! On top of that, I find it fun to hang out with it's readers as they are mostly positive and fun. 

Approach romance novels with an open mind. Know that there's a lot of variety within the genre itself and not all will please you. But when you find it - it will be utterly awesome.

#TBR Challenge 2016: Paranormal romance

I'm currently trying to shave the 99 books in my TBR into an acceptable 20 or so, especially after the wild buying spree in August and September thanks to a series of RM5 book sales. It's time to get serious about reading my own damn books!

Super Librarian's TBR Challenge 2016 was perfect, but October is "Paranormal romance or romantic Suspense" month, two genres that, try as I might, I can't seem to get into.

I read almost anything but these two genres are my most DNFed besides YA.

Perhaps I just couldn't get on with the idea that shapeshifters and vampires are sexy. (I once spotted a Gargoyle-themed romance, and I thought: Hmm. Making love to a demon statue. Sexay. Not.)

Still, this month, I valiantly tried reading two paranormal romances and a romantic suspense romance in my TBR.  

The Reunited by Shiloh Walker had a promising premise: Two lovers, separated by death, are reincarnated and meet again. Joss is an FBI agent, determined to bring down an illegal human trafficking ring while Dru is deep undercover working to bring said ring down. They meet, but Josh is suspicious of her as she's literally the kingpin's fiance.

The dash of suspense makes it even more yummy, but I couldn't get into the novel on account of the numerous disruptive flashbacks. And since I have a strict policy where I'd DNF a book if I couldn't get into it after 50 pages, I have put it into the "to sell/donate" pile - after reading 100 pages and having my eyes glaze over.

Nalini Singh is a great writer, but I find my interest straying each time when the shapeshifters and psychics come in despite how hard I try. 

This is a tad odd for me as I love paranormal-themed books. I'm a huge Preston & Child fan, and their books skirt the edge of paranormal, sci-fi and thriller. These romance books should do it for me.

I'm also a huge lover of Thriller novels, so Captive by Brighton Walsh should also be a good fit, but I found it not ... thriller-ish enough.

I'm sure it's not because I hate these genres.

After all, I adored the Acro series by Sydney Croft (an X-Men-ish outfit that has the randiest operatives ever). Though Three the Hard Way (Book 7) was a marked step down in quality for me, and I DNFed it to my chagrin. I used to race through all the Acro books. That's how much I loved them.

Or ... have I fallen out of love with paranormal romance? (GASP)

But I'm hanging on to hope that perhaps I've not found a writer that sings to my soul. Especially with Romantic Suspense. Because JD Robb's "In Death" series sounds terribly delicious. Maybe she'll be it.

 

Why I DNF books

I'm the girl who finished every book. No matter how sucky it was. Maybe it was the kiasu side of me: I've sunk some cold, hard cash into it, so I better make the money count somehow. It's also the reason why my TBR (To Be Read) shelf is so massive - I find it really difficult to give up on books.

You also always hope that a book gets better, that somehow it'll snap out of its stupor and be exciting, and mostly because I'm a writer of books and could almost feel the book sobbing when you abandon it.

Even when I heard that people were DNFing (Did Not Finish) books, I was still reluctant. Until I thought of the books that were sitting in my library, unread, unappreciated - wouldn't it be better if someone else enjoyed it?

That thought that I was wasting the potential of the books to enlighten or entertain someone else because I was holding on to them for selfish reasons really freed me. And then, having recently become a fan of KonMari, it made no sense to hang on to books that did not give me joy.

So, during the last few months I've been selling or giving away books to places like the Subang Jaya Book Exchange, KL Book Exchange Club and the newly-opened reading corner at Subang Parade.

If I don't enjoy a book after reading 25% of it, I will DNF it. The time I would've spent reading a book I didn't enjoy I could now invest in a book that will give me joy.

No more regrets.

So, do you DNF your books?

Reading and Writing Young Adult

One of my biggest dreams was to earn a Masters in Creative Writing. I know getting one doesn't necessarily mean I'll be a better writer but I've always wanted to rub shoulders with fellow writers and soak in a learning environment where people are encouraged to create and explore. So, when I discovered Tabor College's Creative Writing course, I was psyched. I scanned the curriculum and deemed it a very practical (they teach you to write, hey!) and non-hoity-toity. (I avoid snobbish Creative Writing courses that poo-poo genre fiction and demand that you write book-length exegesis about literary works that put you to sleep.)

However, when I discovered that the first course available was "Writing Young Adult fiction", I thought, maybe I should wait for another subject to come by.

Young Adult is my least favourite genre. Years of Twilight exposure did not endear me to it, self-absorbed teens irritate the frak out of me and I did not have the tiniest desire to write in the genre. I have always found it puzzling that some adults read YA; I felt that it's for kids and felt that I've outgrown the genre.

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The trouble with our libraries

Interesting article in The Star's Kuala Lumpur Metro today. Reading at book stores the rage now (strangely, the online version said "book sores") basically says that Malaysians prefer to read at book stores than libraries. Honestly, this is old news to me. I used to spend every Sunday curled up in the MPH Reader's Lounge reading a book. I'd try to ignore the snoring dude that always seemed to be there whenever I'm there, and read a book on interior decorating or the latest bestseller. The ambience in MPH's Subang Jaya store is the best - way better than the one in Mid Valley where there is barely a place to sit, but I digress.

The state of Malaysian libraries - at least the ones in Klang Valley - is pitiful. Why do people not go to the libraries? Here are the reasons:

  1. It's inconviniently situated - the National Library for one, is located on the busy and difficult-to-access Jln Tun Razak.
  2. The books there are old, old, old. Bestsellers, new books etc are just plain hard to find. I didn't even realise that libraries buy best selling books (until I read book blogs from overseas). I used to think libraries just buy books that you don't see in bookstores!
  3. Dress codes. No wearing singlets, slippers, short sleeves, short skirts in a library. Didn't know libraries became the moral centres of the universe suddenly.
  4. There are just too few of them!

Malaysians don't read much. I think below 10% of us read regularly. The first reason is probably the most obvious one: books are damn expensive-lah! Sometimes, if I go berserk, I could spend 1/4 of my pay on books! Honestly, if they want a reading nation, they'd have to give libraries a budget for books, and not shelve the expenses for buying books under 'misc'!

Our only saving grace is from Pay Less Books (a place for 2nd hand books) or rent-a-book stores.

I'll be in dreamland if libraries:

  1. Are found within the residential area instead of out there in the city somewhere. The more accessible, the more readers you'll get! Walking to the library! What a dream!
  2. Have new, current, best-sellers on their shelves so that I can save my money.
  3. Don't have all the nice books under reference section.
  4. Don't have those silly dress code rules anymore.

I live in Subang Jaya, and I think it's just absolutely appalling that we don't have a library. (We do have a Multimedia library, but I don't like reading books on computer screens!) If only the powers that be would spend $ on a well-stocked library instead of building useless gardens with giant bird sculptures.

The best-est library I've ever been to was the library in Johor Baru. That was like, more than 10 years ago (oh no, I really feel my age suddenly). They had Asterix & Obelix comics, for goodness sakes! I used to count the days where I'll get to visit the super-secret adults' section. Too bad we moved to KL - where libraries are so few and far in between - before I could.

Any bigwigs listening to this rant? If so, please do something about our libraries!

Comments from the old blog.