To get this started I want to admit that I am, and probably will always be an easy grader. I judge a book in the end based on how hooked I was and how much of a book hangover I had. Now, there are a lot of smaller parts that make up that overall judgement like characters, plot, writing style, etc. that go into that score, but it pretty much comes down to ‘did I like it?’, get a yes to that and more likely than not, it will score well.
The Scoring Guide:
- To Score a ‘1’ the book has to be supremely awful, with me editing it as I go, or throwing in how I think the plot or characters should be written. I have yet to hit a book this bad, and really hope I never do. Let’s be real, that book would likely be a DNF (Did not finish).
- I’ve scored a few books with a ‘2’ before, but these had an aspect that I could just not get over, and ruined the experience overall for me. The rest of the book is fine and interesting, but those aspects are hard to get over. Ex: The Corrections by Johnathon Franzen : I had to read this for school, and by the time I was done with that book I was ready to trash it, good thing I managed to sell it instead. The characters in this book were constantly warring, and there wasn’t a single one I loved at all, it was a miserable experience, though well written. Do not recommend to my worst enemy, how it did so well I will never know.
3. Average, your basic ‘C’. It’s good, but amongst a whole batch of other novels with the same synopsis it may not stand out to me.
4. Great read, only a few things kept me from enjoying it entirely, and they were minor at worst.
5. Perfect or almost perfect, inhaled it kind of material.
What I look for:
1. How much I enjoy the book; was it really good? Did it keep me on that couch or did it slow a bit and not in the way that increases tension?
2. Writing; was it smooth/flowing or did I have to adapt in some way? (Sometimes this can turn a book into a DNF if the writing is just too much to decipher).
3. Characters; Do I love the characters or are there qualities that hinder this? Are those on purpose or is this a bad rendering of the character?
4. Plot / Setting: I’m grouping these because they are both deal breakers to the largest degree. Is the plot surprising or is it wholly predictable? Does it bring something new or do I get deja-vu? Is the setting fully explored or is it flat? Are the names of places in the setting easy/attemptable to remember or do I find myself forgetting or struggling to even get a name down? Sometimes this one is bendable if it’s a real name or if the author used latin or another language, but there are some authors who get wrapped up in the names and create some crazy names that no one can even attempt. Add that to crazy character names and it bogs down the story.
5. Summary Misdescription; These don’t happen often, but sometimes that book that sounds really good oversold on its unique qualities. That twist on an old tale begins to feel too much like every other attempt out there, or there are the ones that described the book as one thing (a combination of this and that) and it turns into something even better, or in some cases just awful (Marketing gone wrong).
6. Cliffhangers; Typically if I bring this up in a review the author outdid themselves and made me cry a river (or my weird non-tear version of that). If you wrote a cliffhanger and I notice it or care about it that book is good, and now I need to find some way to cope with the overwhelming emotions. Trust me when I say me mentioning cliffhangers makes it at least a 4 on the scoreboard.
7. Other Books; Is this part of a series? Is this my first book by this author? I, like every other reader out there will likely compare the second book to the first we’ve read by an author, its unavoidable, it’s why J.K. Rowling wrote under a pseudonym; how else would crowds buy a murder mystery by a children’s author, even the most successful one?
8. Romance; This isn’t something I look for when buying a book, but the couples and love triangles can seriously impact a story, especially when done really well or really poorly. Most novels that try for a love triangle just make me hate one of the characters in the process and I hate that I hate in that scenario (who wouldn’t?), though hate might still be a strong word. This is a quality that made me really like The Clockwork Instruments by Cassandra Clare, it brings in a love triangle, but she wrote it so well you didn’t want the loser to be hurt in the end. Other books either make me hate (if it’s a love triangle), or there are some books that I feel like they did everything to push two characters together and in the end it felt way too forced.
To make things easier as I go now, especially during those times where I’m a little behind getting reviews up after I’ve already read a book, I now keep a journal focused on reviews. I feel just a little more in control of my thoughts and process now. It’s literally me jotting down characters, thoughts, and things that startle me. I know that isn’t ground breaking, but if you are starting to work on writing more reviews I highly recommend a system like this, because organization in the middle of reading is somehow a hard thing to do sometimes, especially when you are obsessed with the book.
What are your tips, and tricks when writing reviews? What are things in a book that either make you obsess or completely ruin the novel for you? Let me know in the comments below and don’t forget to like and follow if you liked this post!