“Subjectivity is the only possible approach to reviewing. What is a review but an opinion? Those who call for you to be objective are revealing that they have not given the matter a moment’s serious thought. Most times, those calling for objectivity are essentially saying they wish you had written a review that reflected their subjective opinion.”
Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times
The three quotes located on this page sum up the AAR philosophy. We believe that reviews are informed opinions, that by definition a review is subjective rather than objective, the best reviews are written not only to inform but to entertain, and that a book should stand on its own regardless of whether or not it is part of a series. Our reviews are written only with the reader in mind, and in a more mainstream style than most romance novel reviews. Our model, frankly, is Entertainment Weekly.
Our only agenda is to provide well-written, detailed reviews. We have no axe to grind, we simply offer up the considered opinion of a given book as expressed by one of our well-read reader-reviewers. Even amongst ourselves, we may have very differing opinions about a particular book, and for this reason, our Managing Editor, Blythe Barnhill, makes review assignments in a way that insures no one reviewer is assigned all of the books of one author, and no reviewer is assigned a book by an author they historically have not enjoyed reading. We have a number of such policies and practices in place to provide the greatest possible objectivity to what is fundamentally a subjective process.
We receive many books and ARCs (Advanced Reading Copies) from publishers and authors. However, we do not necessarily receive every book that is coming out, and since we are not a print publication, we don’t always receive a book in sufficient time to post a review prior to its official release. At times, especially for those books that generate the greatest publicity, we may be asked to hold off on posting the review until the book’s actual release date. AAR honors such requests, provided they are made at the time the book is accepted for review, and always with the understanding that holding the review till the release date will have no bearing on the eventual grade it will receive.
“I look at a sequel as an entity that ought to be intelligible to someone who didn’t see the original – but must reward anyone who did. In other words, I certainly do relate it to what has come before – who wouldn’t?”
Lisa Schwarzbaum, EW
Our official policy on sequels is that each should stand independently as its own book. Because time tends to be short and the pile of books to review is deep, we do not require our reviewers to read every preceding book in order to review the latest installment. We believe that it is more effective and useful to have a variety of reviewers address an author’s work than it would be to have one person review an entire series; indeed, in most cases we try not to have the same reviewer review two of an author’s books in a row. There are some exceptions to this policy for books by widely read authors that are sequels in the traditional sense – ie, a series of books that follows the same person or persons over time – rather than the norm where romance novels are concerned (wherein a series of books often features different lead characters).
Our review staff are a mixed group, but they have a few things in common: They’re volunteers with Real Time jobs, they have families, fall prey to the flu or temporary, but longer-lasting health problems, and take vacations, etc., just like real people. While every effort is made to get reviews out there as early as possible (and to post as many reviews as we can without sacrificing quality – usually 50 to 60 a month), sometimes life simply intervenes; the crisis may be occurring with the reviewer, with the editor, or with the site owner (who codes and finalizes the reviews for posting). We appreciate your understanding and patience when such cosmic events prevent us from meeting the timelines you have come to expect.
We make every effort to keep the Reviews in the Works page updated, so please check here this page if you wonder whether we plan to review a particular book. For books that have already been released, please use the site’s “search” feature or check our reviews archive to determine whether we might already have posted a review – this is often the case when a hardcover release is released in paperback. If following these steps does not answer your Reviews questions, contact our Managing Editor.
Getting the Most from our Reviews:
Our voluntary review staff are, first and foremost, readers, although many of them write and/or edit in their non-cyber lives. Our reviews are opinions built on years of reading and often, special expertise. We think ours are particularly useful as they are written not only to inform, but to entertain as well.
All readers bring a unique perspective to the reading experience. Each of us has plot lines, character types, themes and so on that we love, as well as those that are “pet peeves” or “push hot buttons”. At AAR, we utilize a three-tiered review/edit process (reviewer to first line editor to site owner) to insure not only that the reviewer’s unique opinion is presented, but that they provide sufficient detail within the text of the review to support whatever grade they’ve assigned to the book. Reading this detail allows you to decide whether the stated pros and cons are sufficient, given your own personal pet peeves and hot buttons, to sway you toward or away from seeking out the book.
Use our reviews as you use any other media review resource. Chances are that, if you tend to disagree regularly with Roger Ebert, you’ve already found another movie reviewer to watch who is more in tune with what you enjoy at the movies. Likewise, by taking the time to note those AAR reviewers whose likes and dislikes most match your own, you are more likely to make good use of the recommendations (and warnings) provided here.
A note on sensuality ratings: our sensuality ratings chart lists the general guidelines we use to determine the “blush” factor of a reviewed book. However, rating sensuality remains a subjective process, so please don’t hold us to any promise that we will call it exactly like you would. For best use of this rating, be sure to read the review itself; most likely, it will provide enough additional information that any shock and disappointment will be minimized.
“The best defense I can muster for what we critics do is really quite simple. Ideally, the thrust and urgency of any one of our opinions hinges less on the judgment than on the depth and passion with which it’s expressed. My opinion, in short, has no more ‘value’ than yours. I can only hope that I give voice to it in a way that enriches the experience of the art form we both love.”
Owen Gleiberman, EW
AAR hosts six forums and two discussion lists which allow feedback to AAR and interaction between users. We do not control the messages or information delivered to our forums or discussion lists. It is a condition of your use of these boards and lists and this web site that you do not:
Restrict or inhibit any other user from using and enjoying these boards and/or lists.
Post or transmit any information that is, upon investigation, considered fraudulent.
In order to guard against fraudulent postings, we have the ability to check ip’s, which means that we may need, from time to time, from an administrative standpoint, to trace ip addresses back to a poster. If we discover a fraudulent post, it will be deleted as soon as possible and the poster notified and/or banned from further posting.
Talk about the forums on the forums. This is a site about the discussion of books and those who read them. Once the discussion stops being about something, and starts being about the site and each other, it’s very easy for the forums to slide into irrelevance. If you have a question or suggestion about forum and/or site policies, you may fill out our online contact form.
Use our forums to troll on behalf of other web sites or discussion lists, or use AAR to “grow”/boost traffic to your site. We certainly believe in Internet openness, so readers, feel free to link to pertinent articles elsewhere, but web owners and bloggers, unless you are an author or part of a writer’s group – in which case we encourage you to take advantage of ourWriter’s News forum – we think it’s bad form to grow your site at the expense of ours.
Post or transmit any unlawful, threatening, abusive, libelous, defamatory, obscene, vulgar, pornographic, profane, or indecent information of any kind, including without limitation any transmissions constituting or encouraging conduct that would constitute a criminal offense, give rise to civil liability or otherwise violate any local, state, national or international law.
Post or transmit any information, software or other material which violates or infringes upon the rights of others, including material which is an invasion of privacy.
Post or transmit any information, software or other material which contains a virus or other harmful component.
Post, transmit, or in any way exploit any information, software or other material for commercial purposes, or which contains advertising.
Limitation of Liability:
You understand that AAR has no obligation to monitor these forums and lists but provides moderating services in order to facilitate legitimate discussion. AAR does reserve the right at all times to disclose any information as necessary to satisfy the law, regulation, or government request, or to edit, refuse to post, or to remove any information or materials, in whole or in part, that in AAR's sole discretion are objectionable or in violation of these terms and conditions.
Under no circumstances, including, but not limited to, negligence, shall AAR be liable for any direct, indirect, incidental, special or consequential damages that result from the use of, or the inability to use, AAR materials. You specifically acknowledge and agree that AAR is not liable for any defamatory, offensive or illegal conduct of any user. If you are dissatisfied with any AAR material, or with any of AAR's terms and conditions, your sole and exclusive remedy is to discontinue using AAR.
Getting the Most from our Forums:
First, be sure to post to the correct forum! If you post a comment to the Romance Potpourri Forum about a book that has been reviewed here, it’s likely to be missed by other visitors seeking discussion on that book (the Let’s Talk Romance Novels Forum would be the proper place for such a post).
Second, standard netiquette applies here. Please do not flame or spam or bring up hot button topics not directly related to the discussion of romances and the romance genre. Please also realize that the Internet is a global community representing many cultures and political and religious ideologies; posts which touch on these subjects in the context of a discussion about a particular book should be respectful of these differences even when you are expressing disagreement. Should you feel your blood pressure rising, along with the urge to say something inflammatory or personally insulting in response to another poster, it might be wise to take a breather; after a couple days away from the “fray,” you’ll probably have a calmer perspective, reduced stress levels and the eternal gratitude of the other site visitors (nobody likes a flame war).
We welcome your feedback. Just as we like to hear from you what doesn’t work at this site, we love to hear when we’ve done something right; like you, we love the occasional pat on the back. We take your comments very seriously, even when we may not be able to make changes or additions that you recommend. Like most interactive sites, we review the feedback we receive, both positive and negative, closely; when we see related recommendations from a representative number of site visitors, we use that information to make changes to the site, or simply to transfer our focus to an area needing greater substance or more frequent updates.
But, please do not reward our earnest, hard work with forum posts which impugn the integrity of the site owners or the reviewers. We feel that we provide a valuable service, one that is not readily available elsewhere. If you have grave enough doubts about our motives and underlying philosophy despite all that you have read and seen here, then it is unlikely you will be satisfied by what AAR offers, regardless of anything that we may say or do to try and convince you otherwise.
Any posts made on our message boards or on AARList may be used in future articles at AAR. When such posts are used, only first names are used and no email addresses are ever divulged, so that privacy issues should not be a concern. The only variance to this policy are stand-alone pages of reader comments that are simply snapshots of message boards saved in perpetuity. Discussions on canwetalk will not be used without permission for future articles here at AAR so as to preserve its free and unfettered nature.