Thursday, August 18, 2011

Why I'd make a lousy book reviewer

...aside from the whole Being An Author Myself thing, of course, which adds a certain awkwardness all its own. Give a poor ranking to someone who outsells you and it looks like sour grapes. Do the same once you're an established big name and if you're not careful you could come across as an arrogant jerk. Some authors are reviewers and manage the two hats well, of course, but I don't see myself becoming one.

You see, my internal grading system is something like A-B-Did Not Finish. But with nuance:

I love this book/series so much I immediately buy the author's entire backlist, no matter the cost, no matter the effort in tracking it down. I haunt the web for details about the author's next release. I babble about the author and book(s) incessantly to anyone who'll listen. F'rex, I haven't actually accosted strangers on the street to ask them if they've made Miles Vorkosigan their personal Vor-lord and savior, but the temptation is there.

I fell in love with this book, but in a less intense way than with an A+. I'll seek out the author's backlist, but at a leisurely pace, maybe a book every month or two, and I'll preorder his/her future work.

I like this book a lot, but it doesn't quite have that certain something that's going to make me remember it forever and go to it when I need a comfort book to re-read. I plan to read the author's backlist/future releases, but there's not the same sense of urgency for more as with an A+ or A book--I'll just remember the author as someone who gave me a good experience once and can probably be counted on to do so again.

This book charmed me but didn't wow me, and I noticed a few flaws--little plot holes, occasional awkward word choices, etc. I'll probably give the author another chance. Or maybe it's an author who's delivered higher-grade books for me before, but this entry feels just a little off her game somehow.

I enjoyed this book while I was reading it, but a month from now I'll have nearly forgotten it.

This book had noticeable flaws, but I cared enough about the characters to keep going till the end. But I probably won't read anything else by the author unless a future book gets rave reviews from a friend or reviewer I trust.

So. Those are the books I finish. Here's how I rank the ones I don't.

C (AKA Bored Now)
This book isn't terrible, and it's probably capably written and edited. But for whatever reason, a chapter or two in I don't care enough to keep reading. Maybe I've seen the plot trope driving the story a kajillion times, and nothing in the writing or characters gives it spark enough to make an old story seem new. Maybe the voice just doesn't work for me. So I set it aside because life is too short to read books I'm not excited about.

D (AKA Annoyed Now)
The writing is not just flat, but nails-on-a-chalkboard grating. Or the historical details are off enough to throw a history geek like me out of the story. (Or the sports details are off in a baseball or football story, or whatever. Basically, "I care enough about this topic to have made myself something of an expert on it. Why would I read a book about it by someone who evidently cares less than I do?") Or the characters feel like stereotypes.

F (AKA Offended Now)
Any or all of the following: Writer commits multiple and glaring grammatical errors. Historical details so off that anyone awake during high school history class would be thrown out of the story. Abusive "heroes" in romance. Characters aren't just stereotypes; they're racist, sexist, or otherwise bigoted stereotypes. (I'll make occasional allowances in older works, but that's too complicated a topic for this post.) Author clearly has political, cultural, or religious views in direct opposition to my own, and they're here to preach!

Obviously my grading scale wouldn't work if I were on the review team at, say, Dear Author or All About Romance. And now that I have books out there getting reviewed, I've had to learn that not everyone (really, not even most people) uses grades/stars like I do. Four stars can be keepers for some readers. Three stars don't necessarily mean I bored that reader, nor one that I offended her.

Incidentally, I'm probably going to keep blogging what I read each week--which is not quite the same as a review. Any book that makes my blog is a book I finished--which means I'd give it an A or a B. :-)

1 comment:

  1. I usually don't finish a book if it's not working for me, so my system would be similar to yours. Something like, "OMG this is the best book I've read in forever, I must force it on all my friends." or "This is a really goo book! I have to tell this friend and that friend about it." and "I enjoyed this, but not enough to stop and rave to anyone, so on to the next one." And then "did not finish" and the DNFs aren't necessarily bad, it's just that my print TBR takes up a 6 foot tall 4 foot long bookshelf. Actually, it's overflowing and that obviously doesn't include my digital TBR. So I can't take the time to read books that might have worked for me when I bo't them several years ago but aren't working now.

    Which is why a perfectly fine book might get DNF. If it's not working for me in the first 3-5 chapters, I make myself set it aside.