I like to at least leave an honest star marking on the books I read. Mostly because I like to be a good reading citizen. Authors and other readers depend on those ratings. I also like to be able to reference my list when discussing books with friends. (“I read this great/terrible book. Wait, let me look it up. It was the best/worst because _________.” I also like to provide reasons. Sometimes the very thing that drove me up a wall is exactly what the other person is looking for.)
Occasionally, I will write a short review on Goodreads. (The books I post on my blog are exceptional.) Those reviews are generally for extreme books. One review that I posted for a Walking Dead book still gets a lot of amused attention. It was terrible. Singularly terrible.
So this is what I look for when I review a book.
- Does the action make sense?
According to Chekov, the gun on the mantle in the first act must be fired in the third. By the same token, if a gun is fired in the third act, it must be on the mantle in the first. If there’s suddenly a gun or a person or a magical item or the main character displays a brand new skill set they have never had before that solves the problem, I’m going to be ticked and I’m probably going to be leaving a scathing review. On the other hand, if something is introduced so subtly in the first act that I register it but don’t really think about it and that becomes the solution in act 3, I’ll be leaving a stellar review.
- Do the characters behave in any way that is illogical, irrational, or annoying?
In that Walking Dead book I hated so much, the characters had put up a large tent to serve as a community center in a zombie apocalypse. Something large that will block sightlines while offering no protection from the ravening hordes. Brilliant. Later this same group decided not to camp in a Walmart because it was too dangerous. A large building, filled with supplies, with two easily guarded entrances. Ugh. I also recently ditched a book because the narrating character was so arrogant that I couldn’t bear to listen to him. I didn’t leave a review for that one. Didn’t seem fair to down rate something because the narrator annoyed me on a purely personal level.
- What is the writing like?
If the writing is sublimely wonderful, I feel obligated to share that knowledge with the world. Connie Willis, Ursula K. LeGuin, Louise Penny, absolutely amazing wordsmiths. A writer capable of taking a trope and turning it inside out or even making it greater than the sum of it’s parts? Sharing. C. J. Cherryh, Connie Willis (hey, I really like Connie Willis). Sharing. On the other hand, if the writing is terrible, I’m sharing that too. Life is too short for truly terrible writing. I know the writer is likely reading these reviews, so I do try to be kind (unless, as in the case of the Walking Dead book, it’s so awful I feel the public should be warned.)
So, you have been warned.