Starting 2018

A couple of nice things happened as the New Year began.

Jamie Farquharson, an enthusiastic SF reader in  France, posted his annual Goodreads summary on Twitter. You could check it out if you wanted to scope out all 40 books he read last year. But in case you don’t feel like clicking the link, the summary looked like this:

Allow me to defensively add that the term “Least Popular” used here doesn’t mean least well-liked, it means least well-known, which is fair enough. Disclosure: Jamie read my book because he was my consulting volcanologist, and he’s listed in the acknowledgements. But please note, that outstanding 4.5 star rating for Avians is the average from all the Goodreads reviewers, not just Jamie’s.

A day or two later, Bonnie Ferrante, a book reviewer from Thunder Bay, Ontario, started summarizing her favourite books from 2017, and Avians made her Top Five YA books. From that link, you can connect to her full reviews on any of those five books, or explore her site to see reviews on other age groups. Bonnie specializes in children’s books, and is not especially into science fiction, so I’m pleased that she found my book as enjoyable as some of her more mainstream reading.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some thoughts on reviewing books

The way I read has changed since I started writing. I notice the craft more, for better or worse. A well-foreshadowed turn, a deft descriptive example, or an artful bit of dialogue can delight me, as can a scene that neatly advances plot and illuminates the character. But I’m also quicker to spot a cliché. An editor once talked me out of, “she let out a breath she didn’t know she’d been holding,” and now I see it everywhere.

I am not a patient reader. I used to give a book a hundred pages or so, and if I didn’t care about the characters by then, I’d reluctantly put it down. Now it’s more like forty pages, and it’s not only the characters. If I can get it down to ten pages, can I become an acquisition editor? Seriously, I’m starting to understand them. I have so many books I want to read, and only so much time. Purple Prose? Nope. Repetition? Nope. Info-dumps? Nope. The proportion of books I do not finish is getting dangerously close to half.

At Goodreads, a Did Not Finish is supposed to be grounds for a one-star rating. I did that once, with a sequel I felt had diverged badly from the opening book. I wasn’t interested in the romantic sub-plot and the save the world stuff wasn’t enough to keep me going. So I quit, and gave it a one-star review. I felt guilty about it though.

Recently, I got thinking. Should I be firing off one-star reviews for every book I don’t finish? My Goodreads page would look like a fireworks show that fizzled in the rain. I don’t think that’s what they had in mind. I think when they said did not finish, they really meant could not finish. If I’d read that whole book, I’d have likely given it two or three stars. But I’m not gonna. So I withdrew that review.

From now on, all the books I set down will get the silent treatment. That’s going to bias my reviews towards books I enjoyed and therefore rated highly. I’m happy with that. I want my reviews to be a guide to fun reading, not a platform for me to be dismissive.

So here’s a partial list of things that discourage me from reading a book:  psychotic bad guys, graphic violence, graphic sex, heroes with limitless superpowers, macho men with guns. And, more regretfully, dense literary prose. You won’t find a lot of reviews by me of books with these features.

On the bright side, here’s a short list of things that make me want to read a book: complex characters, strong females, original world-building, underdogs with grit. I have a special fondness for alternative aviation. Check out my reviews if you share these tastes. Or maybe take a look at Avians.