Friday, December 1, 2017

Book Reviews and Ratings #OurAuthorGang

Book Reviews and Ratings:

How Many Stars Should I Give A Book Review?
Joe Bonadonna

(Toyota Escondido Information Center)

Someone once commented on the number of 5-star reviews people post on Amazon and Goodreads. “How could a book by an indie writer (such as Joe Bonadonna, for example) earn 5 stars for one of his books when such literary masterpieces as To Kill a Mockingbird, Lonesome Dove, and A Confederacy of Dunces, and when such authors as Stephen King, JK Rowling, and Anne Rice receive 5-star reviews? Does that mean your books are as good as theirs?” My answer: “Oh, God — no way!” Then I was asked how I justify giving a 5-star review to some indie author, some relatively unknown author? The answer to that is simple.

I don’t compare apples to oranges.

I like to differentiate between a western and a horror novel, a spy thriller and a heroic fantasy, science fiction and romance. I know: a book is a book, some might say; genre doesn’t matter. True: a good story is a good story. Period. But every genre has its own unique tropes, and while good grammar, proper punctuation, clarity of writing, and all the other stuff we learned in school and over time are integral to every novel, I review books in a totally different way than many others do. When I read a novel of heroic fantasy, for instance, I reflect on how it affected me, and if there is a comparison to be made, then I compare it to other books in the same genre. I mean, really . . . reading Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, for instance, is not the same experience as reading Raymond Chandler’s Farewell, My Lovely. I love both equally. Reading Ross Thomas’ The Fools in Town are on Our Side is not the same experience as reading Ken Follett’s The Pillars of the Earth. Again, I love both books. I don’t even think about which one is better than the other. As I said, it’s all apples and oranges.

First off, let me say that I am not a literary critic nor have I ever played one on the internet. So I don’t criticize any novel I review. That’s not my job. Remember, I write books, too. When I review a book it’s because that book worked on me in some way, affected me mentally or emotionally or spiritually. It made me laugh or cry, made me think, but above all, it entertained me. I review only those books I enjoyed. A story has to hit me in a certain way. If a novel is not worthy of at least 3 stars, in my opinion, I won’t review it. I don’t point out flaws in an author’s writing or plotting, not in a public forum, at least; I’m not qualified to do that, and as an author, I will not make any negative comments about someone else’s book. 

That’s a job for the Grammar Nazis, the college professors, the literati.

To me, 3 stars is a book worth reading, worth spending time with. 4 stars means it was very good, had many layers and themes to it. 5 stars means I thought it was exceptional, unique, and fired on all cylinders. My criterion for rating books is this: memorable characters, story line and plotting, setting, dialogue, themes, and originality of concept. If a book entertains and hits me with all seven of the above, then I give it 5 stars. And if any book I read has memorable characters, great dialogue and has touched my heart, even if it fails to deliver on plot and originality, I think it’s worthy of 4 stars. If a book is simply a fun, enjoyable read that entertained me with its story, I give it 3 stars. And there are certainly novels by Anne Rice and Stephen King that I’ve read and didn’t think were worthy of anything more than 2 stars.

What it really boils down to is a matter of taste. Many novels are simply plot-drive: action oriented adventures that are not concerned with character arcs, character interaction and introspection. If that’s what the writers set out to do, then they’ve succeeded. Other writers strive to make you think; they write for the brain and not the heart. But I want to have my emotions manipulated. I want to feel what I read. I always tell people that I have two main goals to what I write: first, to entertain; second, to make the reader feel something. I write for the heart, not for the head. If certain themes and concepts creep into my work, rest assured that most of the time it was not a conscious decision. It just happened. If I thrilled you, frightened you, made you laugh, and made you cry, then I succeeded. If I made you think, then I succeeded beyond my intentions and expectations.

I don’t know what criteria others use when reviewing books. Some of the praises I’ve read, as well as the harsh criticisms, are very interesting. I’m often very surprised by what readers like or dislike about a book, especially when it’s one that I’ve read.

But when you read one of my many 5-star book reviews, know that the book scored a TKO with me. Its author nailed down everything that is important to me: great dialogue, interesting setting, a well-plotted story, an original concept, a grand adventure that totally entertained me, and most important of all, memorable characters that touched my emotions.

Well, that’s my two cents worth.

#heroicfantasy  #swordandsorcery  #horror  #spaceopera  #swordandplanet  #amazonreviews 

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