To Review or to not Review – Part Deux

Stephen King says “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”

So I made my New Year’s resolution a pledge to read 52 books. I currently have finished 2, and have 100 sitting in my “to read for blog” stack, and that’s not counting the books that I want to read to actually enjoy, books by authors I stalk adore… or the dozens that I tack on there every week from book-giveaways or friends who finally have crossed that threshold that I hope to make it across sometime soon.

That’s reading… but why review? Well, when I started the whole “reviewing” thing, it was for two reasons – to support independent/small published authors and their works, and to hold a gun to my back and make me try new authors and keep my pledge.

With most self-published books, one a week is very reasonable. The ones I was attracted to (books by friends; first books with something quirky in their blurb and cover-art that wasn’t too horrible) tended to be on the short side. And yet still during the holidays I stumbled and fell. Not only because I didn’t have time to blink much less read (stay-at-home-moms, I remove my chapeau to you!), but because I encountered a book I WANTED to love unconditionally, but was frustrating me. Much of that irritation probably originated in my editing-obsessed brain, but it and the lack of time kept preventing me from really getting into the story. But I had committed to read it and publically set at date to have it read by… and missed that deadline.

And then the next one.

Pretty soon a two weeks went by I hadn’t finished any books, much less the one I was supposed to be reviewing. Then I saw the author post that he was revising his book again. Yaaay, I was off the hook! At that point I made a decision and put it aside and devoured two other books – “Misfortune Cookies” (the review I just put up), and “Agatha H. and the Voice of the Castle”, (review pending publication on the 15th), both of which I’d also promised to review prior to actually reading them.

And that was when I ran into the second spot of trouble – the first review where I panned a book instead of recommended it (Misfortune Cookies). I vowed honesty and I can only give my own opinion about books, but it’s still not a great feeling. I’m the “don’t say anything if you can’t say anything nice” type… at least publically. At least when I’m sober, and I always blog sober.*

But thanks to those experiences, I’m making a change in exactly HOW I promise to review books.

  • I have received some requests to review books. I will still happily accept these requests and slot them into my reading schedule in preference to books I’ve grabbed myself from other sources. I will publish the review to coordinate with publishing dates/promotions if possible. I read pretty much any genre, so no matter what you write, it doesn’t hurt to ask. HOWEVER, if you do ask me, then I will want an ARC. I promise to become a paying customer if like it, but I’m married to an accountant and the “unexpected expenditure” forms are a nightmare.
  • I reserve the right to give your book a shot and if it is NOT something I can endorse at a three-star** or higher rating, then I’m not going to blog a review for it. I will give you feedback in private, do an Amazon/Goodreads review, delete the ARC and drop the full book review. I think that’s in both of our best interests.
  • And so to avoid schedule holes or explaining missed deadlines, I will not be able to announce reviews more than a week in advance, and ONLY books that I’ve at least started will be announced.
  • On days other than Thursdays, I might post about the books that I won’t officially review for one reason or another – books by true pros, books that had fundamental flaws (and I probably won’t mention those by name, just by “try not to do x in your books!”), decades old books, etc. Those won’t be full reviews; they will be either recommendations or lessons learned posts.
  • And yes, I still might miss a review deadline. Sorry, but I currently have more irons in the fire than one person should have. I’m an idiot.

I will still not review books that I was unable to bring myself to finish. I will still be as clear as I can about both the bad and the good. I will still be honest both about my own biases and the book’s issues, even from people I am personal friends with. And I am adding a “recommended for” line to my review, so that if the book isn’t to MY taste, then it might still encourage other people who fit it’s target audience to give it a shot. No book is a complete waste of time*** – every one presents a learning opportunity and broadens our horizons.

In the meantime –I read and I learn. And I hope you will get something too.


*My place of employment frowns on drinking on company grounds.

**My star system:

5-stars: A book that I LOVE. That I am guaranteed to read again and again, and that I MAY have thrown  across the room when it ended because leaving me like that broke my heart. I daily have to fight the urge to profess my love to the author and vow to not send them inappropriate gifts, because the restraining order might make it harder to get their autographs on my hard-covers. And yes, I’ve just made it awkward for those of you who have earned a 5-star rating from me. (ex: Terry Pratchett’s “Night Watch”)

4-stars: A milder sort of love – the book got to me, amused me, made me cry, maybe traumatized me a little. It will stay in my thoughts but I will probably not be re-reading it the second I put it down. I’ll wait a year or so. (ex. Mercedes Lackey’s “Magic’s Price”)

3-stars: A book I liked, but triggered not even the slightest obsessive feelings. I will read more books by this author, but might not read this particular book again unless I do get hooked by another book in the series or by the same author. (ex. Lois McMaster Bujold’s “The Sharing Knife”)

2-stars: A book that I didn’t care for – didn’t hold me with the plot, had shallow characters or a writing style that kept throwing me out of the story. Maybe had a single plot point that just ruined the entire story for me, or a main character who was never the same person from paragraph to paragraph. But mostly I reserve this rating for books that forget they have a plot at all and try to cobble together something at the last minute just to wind the book up. These are going to be the books that I will mention only by their flaws from this point on, not probably not by name. (ex. pretty much everything Stephanie Laurens has ever written)

1-star: A book that I would burn, but that would damage my Kindle, so I delete it instead. These are the books that try to justify rape, child pornography or genocide. The ones that make me regret my oaths to be a pacifist because sometimes it takes a monster to deal with a monster. Yah…I’m not mentioning them in my blog, even by example.

***Yah… ok, maybe my 1-star books are something I regret exposing my brain to (in fact one of those is what stopped me from reading anything but books I’d already read for nearly a decade), but still… I learned things. But I learned more things from excellent books like Tom Clancy’s “Without Remorse”, so… *chant* I’m a pacifist… Vash would be so disappointed if I actually hunted anyone down and….*/chant*


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