CLG's Book Review Rating System

From time to time, CLG reads and reviews books. I work on a 5-latte system, and what follows is a description of each rating in the system. Reviewing isn't an exact science, and like with everything we do, how we come to a page has the possibility to change. How I read and thought about books before 2001 when I pursued my MFA degree is different from how I read and thought about books during my time in the MFA... and those thoughts have morphed a bit since then, too. So these descriptions represent my current thoughts about how I come to the page and read.

5 out of 5 Lattes

This book... wow. That's about how I feel after I read it, too: wowed. I'm left with an imprint of something: in my mind, my heart, and/or my spirit. It's a book that moves me in some big way. That fully immerses me in the world(s) of the story, in the spirit of the story, in the words used to tell the story, in the way the words make me feel when I experience them. And that's what that book does, the words do; I don't just read them. I experience them. It's a book that I can go back to, and often do, and reread just for the pleasure of it, just to feel those wonderful ways again. Two books off the top of my head that do this for me: Sugar by Bernice McFadden, and The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón. I became a stalker fan of McFadden's the minute I read that first incredible line, first page, and first chapter of Sugar. I cried, I grew angry, I mmmed and aahed throughout the entire book, and in the end, my self felt like it went on a journey. With Zafón, I fell in love with words. This novel is a decadent treat, lush, thick, and so beautiful. Not only did I feel like I was immersed into the story, but I felt like I was receiving some important life lessons and even writing lessons as I read the novel. These books, whenever I talk about the craft of writing, whenever I want to gush and fawn over an author, I connect back to these books.

Do you love the author? I become a bit obsessive, buying every new book the author writes after reading that spellbinding novel.

May I borrow your book? What do you you think?

What do you tell your friend? When I tell a friend about this book, it usually starts with a sigh, a dreamy look in my eyes, and a whispered, "No words. Really. Just read."

4 out of 5 Lattes

The difference between a 4 and and 5 seems easy to define, but putting that difference into words is NOT easy. I liken a "4" book to a lot of the things I watch on TV: my favorite shows and movies on ID, ESPN, Syfy, Lifetime, etc. Whenever I turn to one of these channels, I know first and foremost that I'm going to be entertained. And that's what I want, to be entertained. There are very solid characters and nice pacing of the plot, and drama (sometimes to the nth degree), and overall, everything that makes the story WORK (more for the shows on Syfy than the badtastic movies I love so much!). When I finish the "4" book, there is a smile on my face because I had a fulfilling escape from the real world with the story. It engaged me. It entertained me.

Do you love the author? I dig the author and think I will check out the author's next book, just like a new episode of one of my go-to shows or movies, hoping s/he can entertain me again.

May I borrow your book? Maybe. Like my top five fave people could.

What do you tell your friend? When I tell a friend about this book, I'm usually smirking or smiling before I say, "This book here. Off the chain. The drama. The crazy characters. Cop it. Now."

3 out of 5 Lattes

The "3" book is good; it can be engaging, it can entertain, it can have really good highlights that I will probably tell a friend about. At the same time, a "3" will have one or more elements that do not feel developed for me whether that's characters that do not feel fully developed, or a plot with holes, or dialogue that does more explaining than enhancing the story... the list goes on.

Do you love the author? I like the author, and I keep my eyes and ears open to see and hear what others think about the book and future books about the author. The goal is to get better with each new book, right? I could easily become Team Author in time.

May I borrow your book? Yes. Because I want to see what you think.

What do you tell your friend? When I tell a friend about this book, I usually say, "I'd be interested in seeing your thoughts. There were some things that were iffy to me, but I'd appreciate your unbiased thoughts. Let's coffee talk this book."

2 out of 5 Lattes

The "2" book... I'm grateful. This is a rare book for me. I think part of that is because I have "good reading" friends who recommend good books to me, and the Book God hasn't allowed me to pick up a "2" book too often. This book has problems. There is no denying it. It's almost the flip version of the "3" book. A "3" is good, can be engaging and entertaining, but there are issues that mar it. In the "2" book, issues are the highlight, not the possibility of there being goodness in the book. Because with reviews, you tend to want to spotlight the good before (or for some reviewers "instead of") the bad, you do make note of anything that works well, but if there were a scale to measure these things, the issues would far outweigh what might be working in the story. Sometimes, I continue reading these books mostly because if I do find something that is good or is trying to be good, I continue on and pray that perhaps the writing, the story gets better.

Do you love the author? I tend not to go back to this author. I would have to hear some major buzz from people I respected in my reading circles, and even then, reluctantly, I would buy the book and test drive it.

May I borrow your book? Yep, you sure can. Mostly because I want to make sure that I'm not being too harsh on the book, so I need others' opinions.

What do you tell your friend? When I tell a friend about this book, I usually say, "I wanted this book to be good."

1 out of 5 Lattes

The "1" book. That should be all I write here. I'm really not sure what to say about this book. In recent years, only one book has hit this level for me, but I never wrote a review for it. Not sure I could do a "1 book" review. At least a "2," for me, has some redeeming quality. There is a hope factor there. With this book, nothing drives me to continue reading it. This book is usually put aside after the first couple of pages or the first chapter.

Do you love the author? Don't know if love or like or dislike is needed here. The book turns me off to a point where I would safely pack it (and depending how bad the story is, the author) into a tightly-sealed box to never see light again. If I hear buzz about the author (as there was and still is MAJOR buzz about the "1 book" I just could not get down with at all), I tend to run the other way, too. Sometimes, buzz doesn't mean GOOD; it just means BUZZ. Like a bee. Stinging your ear. And you watching that ear turn into a cauliflower.

May I borrow your book? Nope. Because it mysteriously disappeared. No forwarding address.

What do you tell your friend? When I tell a friend about this book, I usually say, "I am mad I paid money for this. Time from my life? Absolutely gone. You should read it, too, so we can be mad together. Or not, and I'll be mad all by myself."

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