Read and Release Book Reviews: An Introduction

One of my goals for 2015 is to get rid of things I don’t want/need. Another goal is to start a new series on my blog for book reviews. As luck would have it Jim (husband of 20+ years) bought me a Paperwhite Kindle for Christmas and I promptly read four books in less than 36 hours. We won’t talk about how much sleep happened over those 36 hours.

Sufficed to say I’ve always been a keen reader, and now I have a happy little gizmo friend to make reading even easier without adding to the clutter of our living space. It’s a win-win. However, some of the books I will be reading in 2015 are on the shelves in my basement, and many of those will be given away to readers who comment on my reviews (US only since I’m paying shipping on give-aways). Should I get any Advanced Reader Copies (ARCs) or books sent to me for review, I will give those away too. If you want to send me a book to review Contact Me Here.

This first blog post is an introduction, not a review. The following explains my ratings system for a book and what it translates to in Amazon stars. I will also be pasting these reviews into my Amazon account and may occasionally republish an existing Amazon review here, especially if another reader has marked it as helpful. My reviews are almost entirely subjective, but I’ve read thousands of books and written five (though only one was published) and also this is my blog so my rules. So my personal ratings system, each category will score between zero and ten points:

Technical Execution and Style: Writing style matters to me in how the author executes a story and includes things like continuity, connectedness, metaphor, language and use of narrative threads. If an author surprises me in a good way that will up the style points. If I’m disappointed because the storytelling falters or the writing is too fussy or distracting to stay engaged the points will be lower. Also a huge no-no for me is when the facts change in a book because the reader should be rewarded for attention to detail, not have her suspension of disbelieve collapse in inconsistencies (and I’m not talking about a craftily unreliable narrator, but little things like timelines that don’t make rational sense in an otherwise rational story).

Voice (Authenticity): For me the difference between voice and style is technique. With careful plotting and study the artifice of style can be executed, but voice is authentic. I have read books without much flair but such and authentic voice that the book could take me in all kinds of misdirections but I still enjoyed the ride. So, a voice that rings true and consistent will rate higher than one that feels stilted or manufactured. Voice is what makes me care.

Story (Plot/Characters/Pacing): A story has a beginning, middle, and an end.  A great story is one with such great characters and plot that I don’t want it to end. Good storytelling is all about pacing and engagement and I own that it’s not my greatest strength as a writer, personally.  I’m likely to be less judgmental on story than other elements. However, the plot and the people (whether fictitious or real) will really have to WOW me for me to give a very high score, but absolutely horrible for a lowball. Story is likely to be the fulcrum of my reviews.

The highest possible score I could give a book is 30 points, the lowest is zero. This is how my ratings system translates to Amazon’s five stars:

  • I want my time back, 0-6 points = 1 Amazon star
  • Approach with caution, 7-13 points = 2 Amazon stars
  • Use the library,  14-19 = 3 stars Amazon stars
  • Buy but share with friends, 20-25: 4 Amazon stars
  • Worth your shelf space: 25-30: 5 Amazon stars*

*I won’t give away five star books unless I have duplicate copies.

The first book I’m going to review is the first book I read on my new Kindle. It’s called “Coming Clean, A Memoir,” by Kimberly Rae Miller. I can’t give it away because – Kindle, but the second book I review will be from my private collection and eligible for “read and release,” for blog readers who comment.

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