Yesterday I gave a 5-star rating to a book (Breathe, Annie, Breathe, by Miranda Kenneally – so that you don’t think I’m going to keep it a secret) and if you are interested in what that means in terms of how good that is, you can check out my post, Five Stars, that partially addresses this.
I don’t give just any book that I enjoyed a full 5 stars even though I truly enjoy most books that I read. As I wrote the review, I thought about one aspect that I didn’t like very much, but refrained from actually including it in the review. I realized it just wasn’t important enough to worry about telling the whole world, you know? I’m not afraid to give honest critiques and when reading other reviews on Goodreads or Amazon or wherever, I like to look at 3-star reviews because I feel like I’ll get the best balance of whether or not a book will appeal to me (unless the 5-star or 1-star comes from a reader that I know well and understand his/her reading interests). But in this case, I paused and decided to respect that pause.
What got me pausing in the first place was listening to myself talk books with a group of great readers a few days ago. I LOVE talking books (obviously) and it was all great until I realized that for each book I talked about, I had criticisms. “Oh yeah, I read that and I liked it, but….”
Really? That’s who I had become?
To be sort of fair, in some of those cases, books came up where I do have very mixed feelings, but I also felt that I was being judgy rather than simply analytical.
A couple of people recently asked if I read differently now that I have written novels (even if they aren’t published yet… keep up those good thoughts!) – do I read with a more critical eye?
It would be disingenuous to say I don’t. I absolutely do notice things differently now as I read a book. Are the characters realistic? Does the plot make sense? Does everything flow? How does it compare to what I think a good novel should be? And, sometimes, admittedly but not proudly: how does it compare to what I’ve written or how I would have written it?
I don’t think this is a bad thing (except for the last bit, especially if I compare negatively – that’s a bit pompous) except for when I confuse book talk with others who are primarily readers rather than writers. Sure, there are genuine criticisms that apply to our reading. I always think it’s fair to discuss when a story or character elicits a strong emotional response (ie: one book we discussed I said I just couldn’t read past a certain scene, which was based upon my own personal issues) or if something really takes me out of a story.
However, is it really necessary for me to focus too much on style? On structure? On smaller details in general in a general book conversation?
Does it ruin it for others?
These were the questions I considered before writing my latest book review. I realized that the small bits that I didn’t like were details that most readers might notice or be bothered by (and really, there was very little, so it wasn’t a hard omission – haha), so there was no need to include those parts.
What do you think? Would I annoy you with all my over-analyses? When you talk books with someone, do you prefer to stick with those who felt the same way about the book, or do you welcome the differing opinions?
The song I first thought about was the “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover” simply because of the nitpicky idea behind this post and the list of reasons. Even better, then, is Train’s version, “50 Ways to Say Goodbye” because I think the lyrics are such a funny variation of this song. I love it for that and for the brass: