Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Intro and Manifesto

The title of this blog says it all. There are probably book review sites on the web numbering in the six and seven digits, easily. This is yet another. It may be nothing more than a public way for me to keep track of my thoughts about the books that I read. And that’s okay.

But I have 184 books on my To Be Read bookshelf. I’m making it my mission to work my way through them. Might as well share.

A couple of promises:

I promise I won’t be snarky.

Sure, I can laugh when I read those razor-sharp barbs aimed at the silly and trite things we all come across if we are voracious readers, and I can even throw down a few. But that’s not what I want to do when I’m seriously discussing what I think about a book and why. If I don’t like something, I’ll say why without the sarcasm.

Besides, I don’t blame lousy books on lousy writers. I blame lousy books on poor decisions on the parts of publishers. I know how many manuscripts get rejected every day by the publishing houses, so when a clunker actually makes it through the gauntlet to find its way on bookstore shelves, I have to wonder who fell down on the job. These professionals have no problem turning down stuff they see as dribble, so it couldn’t be a sudden decision to be nice guys.

Plus, it’s no great exercise of genius to know that not all books will appeal to all people. I have tastes, and there are stories out there that will not appeal to them. Doesn’t mean the book is bad. It means the book is bad for me.

I promise that I’ll be as unbiased as my personal tastes will allow.

I’m a normal person. I don’t get ARCs from writers or publishers. I get everything I read the way 99% of all readers do: via purchase with my own, hard cash or through my local public library. I buy books anywhere it’s possible to do so. Brick and mortar bookstores, WalMart, Costco, via Amazon and on-line booksellers. The used book store. The remainder bins at the grocery store. Even, when desperate, at the airport.

So I owe allegiance to no one but myself. I’ll be honest. Sure, what I write here is only my opinion, but I can hold my head high and say that I told it true.

I promise not to give away major plot points or surprise twists or endings.

This one comes with a caveat. I will discuss the story, and it might include spoilers. But Sometimes a review can’t be offered if certain facts aren’t divulged, especially if those facts or the way those facts are presented lend to problems I’ve had with the book. However, I will do everything in my power to keep the big stuff under wraps. Nothing worse than reading a review that gives the best parts away.

I’ve given some thoughts on the ranking systems so many review sights use to assign final, one-stop summaries of their reviews. I have some problems with those most commonly used.

With the grading system – A, B, C, etc. – and even the star ranking system, you have the problem of the gap between levels. What, exactly, moves something from a B+ to an A-, or from four stars to four and a half stars? What happens if your grades don’t fall into a neat little bell curve? Does it mean you are awarding too many As, or not enough?

I could go with the keeper/wallbanger descriptives. They certainly apply, as the books I absolutely adore do become keepers and ones I hate do warrant tossing against the nearest wall. But others use this, and at the very least, I could try to be original.

Instead, I think I will go with my own system. Since I’m a normal person with limited amount of reading time, I judge the success of a book by how obsessed I become with finishing it. Books seem to fall into the following categories for me:

All-nighter: This is a book that kept me up all night reading. One I adored enough to sacrifice sleep. It’s one I know I’ll reread again and again. It’s my version of an A book, a five star ranking, a Desert Isle Keeper.

Couldn’t Put It Down: I slept, but I rearranged my life so that every free waking second could be devoted to reading. I finished the book within a day or two of starting it. Will most likely reread it again. Perhaps one or two flaws, but otherwise nearly perfect.

Held My Attention: Read it when I could. I liked the characters and story overall. May or may not reread it. Think a solid B, four star, highly recommended read.

Take It Or Leave It: I put it down a lot. I wanted to finish it because something in it appealed to me. But I wasn’t inspired to take it with me everywhere. Maybe I even cheated a bit and read other things at the same time. I’d call this a C.

Struggled to Finish: Perhaps weeks would go by between reading sessions. Perhaps it went back on the shelf for months. Perhaps I nearly gave up on it…definitely won’t ever reread it. A D.

Didn’t Finish: Enough said.

So, this is my manifesto.


Marg said...

Welcome to blogging! I love your ranking system!

One M One Reader said...

Thanks, Marg! It works for me. Seems I'm an up-all-night reader or something else. And I can never decide between a "C+" or a "B-".

Thanks for stopping in. :)