Anyway, you aren't here for my opinions on music.
While I have no official discussion feature on my blog at this point, I'd like to start up some conversations or collections of opinions every once in a while on various topics about books, publishing, blogging, reviewing, or whatever other book-related stuff I can come up with.
Something that's been going through my mind for a while is what other people read for in books. And quite often the answer to that seems to be romance. I see many reviews where the plot and pace and all that is mentioned, but the bulk of the review focuses on the love interest and how hot and amazing he is, while the actual heroine seems to recede into the background.
Now, I don't think there's anything wrong with focusing on the romance. Everyone gets what they need out of a book, and there are no wrong or right ways to read. But sometimes it does worry me a bit that the heroine, whom the story is supposedly about, seems to become more of a ploy to introduce the dude? And it's actually more his story than hers, even if it's told from her POV? Personally, I think it's unhealthy when the only/most important thing in a girl/woman's life is her love interest/boyfriend (same for guys being obsessed with a girl). Or think about all those heroines whose life would basically end if he broke up with her because she defines herself over him. Thankfully, I haven't read all that many books like that because I tend to avoid them in advance by reading reviews/descriptions (I can usually tell).
So what my question to you guys eventually comes down to is: do you read for the romance? Would a lack of romance diminish your interest in a book? Is it what you focus on, or are other aspects of a book more/equally important to you? If so, which ones?
As you've probably guessed by now, I'm critical of too much romance. Part of that is, admittedly, because I don't think I've ever really been in love. I just can't imagine having such strong feelings about another person. Maybe I'm a little bitter :P
But more importantly, I tend to find books whose storyline / plot is mostly or only romance boring. Also, repetitive. The names and character properties may vary a little, but very often it all comes down to a relatively small number of possible plots. Sometimes the romance and that super amazing hot dude just seem like a marketing device to sell more books.
I like romance! I like steamy scenes! But please give me a little more. Give me friendship, or family, or a paranormal element or some other kind of conflict that is not focused on the romance! I like the romance in the backdrop, I don't want it to hijack the actual story. It's just often so sappy. Or the guys are too good to be true. Also, a lot of the love interests in YA / NA are starting to sound rather similar to me. And I don't like HEA endings, I want a realistic ending. I want the ending that is best for the story, even if it's bittersweet or hurts me.
What I do read for is often the world building (you might have noticed if you've been following me for a while ^^'). That's why I love fantasy / paranormal books so much. Contemporaries also have world building, but it's less developed because it basically imitates a reality we all know. I just love figuring out the rules and system of a new world, and how it is different from ours, and all the imaginative wonderful details authors put into those world and how they make them seem real to us readers!
But what really makes or breaks a book for me apart from that is characters. I have to be interested and invested in the characters. I actually like them to be different from me - I have to understand them, not necessarily like them or find them 'universally relatable' (whatever that means). I want to feel with them, root for them, ache for them. If I care for the characters, I also like what romance there is a lot better, though I still hope there is more to the story. For instance, Rachel Vincent's books all have romance, and I love them! I also love the romance - because it's done very well, because her characters are wonderful, and because her books abound in elements and plots that are not directly related to the romantic storyline.
I could go on about this for a while longer, but I have to stop my rambling now. Bottom line: I have conflicted feelings about romance, and it's not the main element I read for in books. But what about you guys? Any reactions to my remarks? I think I might have been a little harsh at times, but I just needed to get this out there.
I really want to here about what you think! (Why) do you read for romance? Why not? Would you read a book without a romantic element? What ultimately makes/breaks a book for you?