Hey guys! So, as you may or may not know, I’m helping judge some books for this year’s SPFBO. I was very, very politely asked by Esme over at The Weatherwax Report if I could join her team of bloggers (which includes @BookWol from the Tome and Tankard, and @CoffeeArchives from the Coffee Archives) to make sure that any book of any subgenre presented in the contest had a fair chance in her team’s hands, as there are some subgenres that just don’t mesh well with everyone. Even Esme, the profoundest reader I know, has fantasy subgenres she doesn’t like.
One of which was paranormal, and the other was romance.
Welp. I love me some paranormal, and romance…. and paranormal romance. Among a lot of other subgenres (in fact, when asked, I couldn’t think of one that I just flat out did not like).
So here I am!
But, really I just wanted to give some information on who I am, how I read, how I review, and what I do and do not love in a book. 🙂
Who Am I?
I’m Kristen. Star. Superstardrifter (all one word – it’s a combination of superstar, and stardrifter – nicknames that I’ve had among friends since the 1990s or so. ^_^). Whichever you’d like. If you hang out in r/Fantasy, you might even know me as eevilkat, which is an even longer ago nickname, lol. When you’ve got a very, very common name that few people ever spell or pronounce right… you tend to gather a lot of nicknames over the years. 🙂
I’ve been a voracious reader my entire life, and a voracious fantasy and sci-fi reader since I was about…. 8 or so? 😀
How I Read
Sometimes very quickly, and sometimes very slowly, depending on the book and what I am doing. I can gobble up a 400 page book in a day, or it can take me a week and a half. It doesn’t mean I’m not enjoying it… but it does mean I’m probably busy at work, playing an immersive video game, or just plain not in the mood to read. But, nonetheless, if I have a deadline, I will do my best to meet it. So, the 7 books I get to read for the preliminary rounds, and then semifinalists, and then finalists are going to be my number one priority for reading for as long as this contest is on. 🙂
How I Review
I review entirely on how much I enjoyed a book. That’s… really pretty much it. Other reviewers have a very specific style of rating based on different sections or categories in the book which all receive a score which is tallied to give a final rating. I think that’s a marvelous way of rating books, for some people. But… I am not one of those people, lol.
I can very much tell just based on enjoyment level – how late I stayed up to read, how much I loved this or that character, or loved to hate this or that character, how many times I laughed, or had tears well up, or got angry – how much, in 1-5 stars, I liked a book, and I often have trouble expanding on that. I don’t think I could score a book as intricately without finding myself less enamored with the book. This isn’t a criticism of the rating system others use, but an admission of my own failing, heh. 😀
Scores in the SPFBO are out of 10, and that I can manage to work with, and not just by doubling up on scores out of 5 either. The criteria that make up my 1-5 are more or less the same, but more spread out. I’m not going to be holding the books to a higher standard than any other book I read, but I will be thinking a little more critically about them than I would on a normal blog post. I think 10 stars is going to be a really high bar to touch, when I not only have to say a book is -this- good, but it is -this much better or worse- than the others, but so too is it going to be more difficult for a book to be a 1. It’d have to be the worst book I’ve ever read to get that low a score… and that’s going to be hilariously difficult with me, because I still found things I liked in the worst book I’ve ever read. But, just saying, numbers are a bit more important here, and I’ll remember that as I decide where between 1 and 10 a book sits for me.
Let me go over my normal scoring system criteria so you can get an idea. Goodreads says that 1 star means I didn’t like it, and 2 means ‘it was okay’.
In the land of my brainspace:
DNF means I just couldn’t get through it. I DNF more books these days than I did in my youth. I would suffer books I hated to the end every time. I have read entire 13 book series that I stopped liking after book 4 (yes, that one ^_^). Nowadays though, if I read a book for 3 hours and still don’t like it, I don’t read any more of it. I’ve DNFed 7 books in my entire life, to put that in perspective. (If one of them was yours, don’t feel bad. We can’t all love everything, and I’ve been judgier than ever these last 2 years or so ^_^).
1 star means I disliked it a lot, but made it to the end nonetheless. My 1 stars (and there have been only 11, ever) don’t necessarily always, but usually have at least one of my 3 things in it. Oh… the 3 things. Let me tell you about them, just so we’re on the same page.
There are 3 things that will straight up ruin a book for me:
- rape or sexual assault that is not condemned as a transgression, or is depicted in a way that makes light of it, or in which rapists (male or female) are not vilified or punished without a very good reason. Fantasy authors sometimes use rape for shock value, to make an antagonist obviously a bad person, or to give someone a sobby backstory. That’s usually okay with me if it’s written well, though it’s becoming tiresome to see. However, when rape is shrugged off, forgiven, or disregarded (by characters innocent of the crime) – my line in the sand is crossed.
- inaccurate basic science used in our own universe. Books where magic exists in our universe is fine. I love that shit. Planets in our solar system being inexplicably missing from a science fiction novel set in our solar system is not fine. Yes, this has happened.
- books in which all or most of the female characters sleep with/pander to a male protagonist. Many Harem LitRPG/GameLit books are good examples of this. Welp… I guess I did find a subgenre I don’t like. But it’s a sub-subgenre of a subgenre I do like. Does that count? >.>
2 stars means I didn’t really like it, but I didn’t hate it. It was boring, or had characters I couldn’t care less about, or it toed the line of my 3 things but didn’t come close enough that I would consider the book ‘ruined’.
3 stars means I liked it, but just sort of… generally. I had a hard time picking out why. Or it is a book that I objectively know is technically very good, but I subjectively didn’t love. Very well written books that I didn’t love the characters or setting of can fall in here pretty easily. It was enjoyable enough, but there wasn’t anything that kicked me in the face and said ‘HEY! I’M AMAZEBALLS!~’
4 stars means that I really, really liked a book, but it didn’t blow my mind. It didn’t keep me reading like a madwoman. It had characters that I liked but didn’t… really stick around after the book was over. It was great. It was well written. It was goddamned entertaining and I enjoyed the hell out of it… but it wasn’t a book that I’m going to run around screaming about for years. Not that I uh… not that I do that. >.>
5 stars means… well it’s pretty obvious. It means I loved the book. It means I laughed and cried and latched onto characters and legitimately had emotions about or towards them. It means that I’ll read it again someday just to see if I can re-live the feeling of reading it for the first time. It means that my husband is going to roll his eyes and sigh after I tell him to read it for the 500th time (the words Kings/Wyld, Senlin, Riyria, Martian, Black Gate, and Heartstrikers are forbidden in his presence) – It means that the book blew my mind. It happens a lot. I do give a lot of 5 star ratings out, because I find great deals of enjoyment in many, many books! 🙂
Things that I have been known to love in books (to balance out the other 3 things):
- Rogues – Pirates, Thieves, Mercenaries, and so on and so forth who are… charmingly lovable, good at heart, or usually break all the laws trying to do the right thing. ❤
- Snark – make me laugh with your witty wit. Extra bonus points if we’re talking about a snarky rogue. Extra points for swearing a lot. 😀
- Sex – when it’s appropriate. If characters I like end up rubbing their bits together in well written scenes of consensual debauchery, I’m on board. So on board. Unabashedly.
So, on a 10 point rating scale, for me this would translate into:
- 0-2 = 1 star
- 2.5-4 = 2 stars
- 4.5-6 = 3 stars
- 6.5-8 = 4 stars
- 8.5-10 = 5 stars
Guys. I’m super excited for this year’s SPFBO! I have found so many fantastic books via this contest in the past, and I doubt that this one will be different! I’m super honored to be part of Team Weatherwax, and I can’t wait to get going!