Tag Archives: ratings

My Top Ten Reads For 2015

I read just shy of thirty books this year, although I laid down and didn’t finish at least that many again. Since I set a goal in January to read fewer badly written books, I’m very proud of myself for laying these down and moving on. And still I only found ten books out of the list that I gave 5 stars to. Am I picky? Yep. I consider characters, dialogue, plot, over-all writing quality, and un-put-downability with every review I write. These were the cream of this year’s crop:

Okay, I admit to getting a bit stuck on Tamara Leigh this year, but this woman is a seriously great historical romance writer. She took five of the ten spots with her Age of Faith series.

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For YA fantasy/sci-fi, you can’t beat Lia London’s Gypsy Pearl series. I read the first two at the end of last year and couldn’t wait for the exciting conclusion. Great characters and a well-written, imaginative storyline put this solidly in my top ten.

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Kathy Clark was a newly discovered author for me, and this book has just the right amount of work-related details, suspense, and romance.

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I’m not sure why it has taken me so long to discover this series by Lois McMaster Bujold since I’m a huge fan of her Vorkosigan series, but I’m certainly glad I tumbled upon it. Rich details of her medieval world and a very complicated and intriguing theology set the backdrop for a character-driven story that will keep you reading.

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And now for a classic. For wit dished up with a dose of historical culture, you just can’t beat Mark Twain.

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The last on my list isn’t fiction, but it was as intriguing and suspenseful as any story I’ve read this year. For any who have wondered if miraculous healings happen today, Robby Dawkins says, “Yes,”

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So that’s my list for 2015. What books did you read this year that you loved?

How to Review a Book

Screenshot from 2015-03-25 22:05:02There is a skill to reviewing a book. The point is not merely to like or dislike.  It is not to compare the writer’s perceived morals to your own. It’s a place for critical analysis. Since most reviews give you a chance to rate them with 1-5 stars, may I suggest 5 points to consider when rating.

Writing Quality. Is the description clear? Do the sentences flow? Are certain words or phrases overused? Does the writing pull you into the story or kick you out with weird words and stilted phrasing?

Dialogue. This is a specific type of writing quality. Does it sound natural? Does it fit each particular character? Is the inner dialogue tedious or goofy?

Characters. Are they interesting? Are at least some of them likeable?  Do they grow and change in some way over the course of the book? Are the bad guys realistic or merely caricatures? Are they consistent? Your job isn’t to judge their morality unless it’s inconsistent with what the writer has established. We expect the villains to behave badly. We hold our heroes to a higher standard. They can fail and fall and be tempted, but in the end, we expect some kind of honor.

Storyline. Is the story entertaining? Does it have a good flow? Do the plot points make sense? Does it drag at any point?

Un-put-down-ability. Does it keep your interest? Is it hard to put down? Did you stay up late reading it? Does it call you back to it, if you do have to put it down.

Sometimes, you might feel the writer deserves not a single star for writing quality, but other books might warrant, say, half a star. Go through each of the 5 points, assigning whole or parts of a star for each, then add them up. If you end up with 3 1/2 stars, then you must decide whether to round up or down based on your overall feeling about the book.

Remember, not every book is written for you. Just because it’s “not your kind of book,” does not mean it deserves 1 star. If it truly isn’t your kind of book, don’t read it, and let those rate and review it who are more in tune with this genre.

I don’t read BDSM books just so I can get grossed out in the first chapter and self-righteously give it 1 star. I’m not the audience for that book. I won’t read it, rate it, or review it.

Not every Christian book is written for the Baptist minister’s wife who has never been in a bar in her life. Sometimes Christian fiction is written for the teen on the edge. The one who wouldn’t read Amish fiction if it were the last reading option on earth. The one that has free ideas about sex even while she sits in the pew on Sundays. The one who needs to know that, yes, both men and women can be tempted in the area of sex. And that, yes, it can be a real struggle. And, yes, it’s a temptation that can be overcome.

If you find yourself judging the book’s storyline and language too harshly, you are probably not that book’s audience. Lay it down and walk away. Resist the urge to inflict your brand of judgement on it. Some messages are not for you.