So then. Let’s have a few thoughts about a few things. I mean, why not start with my evaluation principles. 🤔
I’ve been thinking that, maybe, I should publish this post before the Skybound review, but I eventually decided not to. It was for a rather simple reason, namely that Skybound has a very special place even among my favorites. It’s the book that I’ve read so many times that, to be honest, I kind of lost count, and the times I’ve listened to the audiobook are also about innumerable. All I can say for sure is that I more or less already know it by heart. This bias would make it incredibly unfair to let Skybound to compete against the other wonderful books I have encountered, or against my other favorites.
After getting this out of the way, let’s check how I rate and evaluate the books I read. This is, mind you, a completly subjective review system, that is equally influenced by my own (subjective) instincts and sentiments, and by certain methodological (objective) veiwpoints.
Now about sentiments. It is the first and foremost important trait for me, to examine what emotions a book triggers in me when I’m reading it, meaning ‘how much I like it‘. This can manifest itself on a relatively wide spectrum, ranging from ‘compelety unable to put it down’ to ‘utterly no clue why I’m still reading this’ with more steps in between like:
‘I want to know how this unfolds and what is behind the events’
‘Fine and interesting’
‘It’s not explicitly bad, but not really what I call good either’
‘Okay, this tends more toward bad’/ ‘Just let this be the end’
‘A horrid, eldritch abomination’
And then there are some prominent feelings like ‘I can’t take this tension any longer’, or ‘this is so full of beauty but why also PAIN’, etc. And any other possible feelings and emotions I bet you all also experience.
Based on the above, I usually rate the books I read on a 5-grade basis, where 1 is the worst and 5 is the best.
A book gets this label in the extremly rare case when it’s so intolerable to me that I’m unable to finish it. And I’m also not willing to. This review rating is, in my opinoin, well deserved if the author could not encourage the reader to somehow hold onto their story, until the end. As I for one sincerly hate to give up anything, I start doing, this us very rare occasion for me. I usually hate these books with a searing passion, and whatever they tortured me with inevitably comes back to haunt my thoughts for longer periods of time.
I usually give this rating, if I read the book, but there isn’t really any other feat it has accomplished beside allowing me to reach the end credits. There are a few of these, not too many though as I usually stop and drop them instead. So when/how does a book merits 2? For example if I deeply respect the writer, or a previous good experience (e.g. an excellent prequel) keeps me semi-motivated through the ordeal.
To me, this is the realm of a genuine ‘meh’ experience. Not bad, but not that good either, not really exquisite in any sense or way. These are the books I can’t even recall the protagonists of agter a few weeks have passed. But something in it did make me read trough it, and there was something captivating in it. All in all, still better than a 2. 🙂
These are enjoyable books, ones that were worth reading, and are usually also worth for me to re-read someday. Then again, even if they were entertaining and memorable, they were not especially exquisite for my taste, excluding them from my all-time favorites even is I did like them a lot. I think, most of the books I’ve read belong the this category.
This probably needs no further explanation. The absolute favorites, the non-plus-ultras. I can happily re-read them whenever. Great characters, great plotline, excellent wording, and even is there are some minor faults or flaws, it falls flat before the immense experience the book has given me.
Now if you ask, and rightfully so, what the meaning of having negative categories is, and I would literally push myself through certain books that I consider so terrible for my taste. Well, as I said above, I just hate to to leave books unfinished. Except for the rare occasions when I really am unable to.
For example Deliverance from Marquesate was just like this for me. As promising as this book kicks off, it becomes completely unenjoyable halfway through. It is as if the author suddenly realized this is not what he wanted to achieve and tried to leave the initial excellence for something… unique. In a very different sense.
But I could also mention The Fallen Snow from John J Kelly (I still plan on finishing this one though, I must admit it). I did not really drop this book, more like suspended reading it. This is an incredibly enticing read, but it is so emotionally overwhelming that I am not ready to complete it just yet.
To add a few more layers and further flash out these concepts, as soon as I have a solid grasp on my initial sentiments, I move on to the more objective viewpoints. It is important for me to see how well the book is written. I usually judge this based on two principles, structure and lexical composition. I presume I am not the only one with a strong distaste for illogical plotline development. Of course, there are minor mistakes, and those can be easily disregarded when in a reading flow. But then there are the ones that completely obliterate the entire experience for the reader.
As I am also a linguist by profession, I fancy elaborate but streamlined lexical composition. The undefeated etalon for me is of course Tolkien, his way with words at times leaves me breathless. Gonz Arpad translating him into Hungarian, my mothertongue, was a skill match made in Heaven and was meant to be.
I am, however equally repulsed by clumsy and flimsy writing and grammatical mistakes and repetition where the given language does not tolerate it make me cringe. Although a badly written book can still be redeemed in my eyes with an extremely well-constructed storyline. An excellent example for this would be The Only Thing I Need, the fourth part of the Unlikely Heroes series from Jenny Wood. The book itself is a thrill, both protagonists are loveable and the plot – although not really eventful – rolls on seamlessly while being read, the dynamics of the characters and their emotions are excellent.
All those typos and grammar mistakes. It’s nothing less than true horror even through the lens of maximum good intent. English is an L2 language for me, but this make me scream inside.
Even so I gave it the highest possible rating as every other aspect was so enjoyable. Then again, I can’t help but wonder what the editor and lector were up to…
Most of the times I do not evaluate the cover art. If I skipped every book I think, had a terrible cover, there would be hardly any books for me to read. 😀
Well, these are my principles. What are yours? I’d like to hear about it.