Sunday, January 11, 2009

My laboratory-proven book ranking process & 2008 faves

I was working on a post on how I didn’t expect Dark Desires After Dusk to be one of my top five favorite books released in or around 2008, and then I realized I never listed my top five here on my blog, and then I realized I never say how I even judge a book.

Needless to say, Cade will be waiting another day for his post.

So, my top 5, alphabetical, not faves order:
  • Dark Desires after Dusk by Kresley Cole
  • Death of a Pirate King by Josh Lanyon
  • Demon Moon by Meljean Brook
  • The Spymaster’s Lady by Joanna Bourne
  • Sugar Daddy by Lisa Kleypas
**Little CJ and I discussed most of these at Book Smugglers last week, so I won't do it here.

How did I determine these? Pure readerly experience.
By my system, a poorly written book can fare better than a well written one, just if I take a fancy to it. And if a book has something I personally hate, it can be the best book in the world and it will nevertheless get multiple vicious stab wounds which, as anybody who watches real crime TV knows, is not at all random, but a sign of strong feelings. I don't often assign the "ranks" below as grades when I discuss a book, but it's how I arrange them in my mind.

Book experience ranking levels:

Love affair: I crave it, it takes hold of my mind, it has me in its thrall. Very rare. The Spymaster’s Lady is the only one above that was a full Love Affair, even though it didn’t have the character interplay that makes a book perfect for me, described below in my last post. I didn't care. I loved it.

Passionate crave read: Almost a love affair, but not quite. A passionate crave read is full of excitement and magic, and when I’m not reading it I wish I was. Paradoxically, though, I often try to read slow to make the goodness last. I totally did this with Dark Desires.

Damn fine read: This is a rollicking good read that I look forward to. This might be a B+ for me. Most books I talk about here fall into the damn fine read range.

Serviceable: The book generally works, nothing special. Good enough to finish. Some serviceable books take me forever to finish, others are page turners but still, merely serviceable.

Hostage situation: I want to leave but it won’t let me go because I have to find out what happens goddammit! Extreme measures during a hostage situation may include skipping chunks, reading only dialogue or the first sentence of every paragraph.

ROI situation: (return on investment) This is where I force myself to finish a book because I invested a lot of time in the reading of it before I realized I wish I wasn’t reading it. Typically, a serviceable book will convert to an ROI situation when I'm pretty far along.

The cautionary tale: A DNF (did not finish) I still read a bunch of and get a lot out of, because it’s like a warning or lesson for me as a writer: don’t let this happen to your hero. Pay attention to the build up or you'll have this problem. This sex scene leaves me cold because of that problem. I read such a book with the sort of attention I give to scenes of car crashes or fires. A primal instinct forces me to look for a while, and then it’s like, enough.

The mercy kill DNF: This is a DNF due to boredom. Set gently on floor with a sigh.

The multiple vicious stab wound DNF: This is a DNF due to an intense negative reaction. If it’s a book I actually own, it usually involves some physical abuse, like hurling it across the room.

Speaking of top books of 2008, I still have my running list going here. Let me know if you have a list for me to post. I just added an interesting one last night: the best selling fantasy, which includes a lot of urban fantasy, from Best Fantasy Stories.

The two lower images from Wikipedia commons.


Renee said...

I love your ranking system! Especially about the ROI and DNF categories.

You are so right about the different DNF categories. Lately, I've been struggling with the different reasons I put a book down. It's not always "hate" (though there are some that I do want to take a sharp pointy object to.) "Mercy kill" is along those lines for me.

Another reason I put down a book is "not now." I know a book is good, and I'd like it very much, but it's just not suiting my mood at the moment. They go back in my TBR shelf to be (hopefully) picked up at a later time.

Renee said...

Oh! and I must get Spymaster's Lady! It's been on my list forever. My library even has it. I have no excuses!

KT Grant said...

I like your definition of the mercy kill DNF :D

Great top 5!

Nicola O. said...

Best ranking system ever. It's actually a really good expression of how I judge books as well, although I don't think my DNF category is as fine-tuned.

Joanna Chambers said...

My ROI-tolerance gets shorter every year. Now I'll give up even quite near the end if it's a real chore to pick it up.

No Dirty by Megan Hart? I am almost finished....

Carolyn Crane said...

Renee: Yes, I've totally had those "not nows!" In fact, everybody's fave Duke of Shadows was a not now that later converted to a damn fine read. Hey, oooh, Spymaster's Lady! I hope I'm not talking it up too much now.

KB: Thanks!

Nicola: My DNF stuff sounds a bit harsh, doesn't it?

T: I wanted to put Dirty on there instead of Sugar Daddy, but Dirty came out in early 2007, so I felt I couldn't justify sticking it with 2008s.

samantha.1020 said...

That is a great way to rate books and I love the different categories :)

Anonymous said...

Sugar Daddy was my love affair this year. Spymaster's Lady a close second.

Good list.

I give up on books so quickly these days! Sometimes I sabotage a perfectly good story by reading all the sex scenes first. I'm a terrible skimmer, too. I think I might have ADD.

This blog is bananas. Little CJ :)

M. said...

'hostage situation' - hee!

and wowsers, three types of DNF - I don't think I differentiation with such nuance

I think I rely a lot on memory for grading. As in, how vividly do books stay in my memory after some time has passed, and is that for reasons of delight or aggravation. It's been a couple of decades since I first read 'Whitney, My Love', for example, but the mere title is enough to make my blood still boil. Not in a good way.

M. said...

Forgot to say:
Also adore St Vincent and 'Spymaster's Lady'(here's a revealing Freudian slip for you: I called it 'My Lady Spymaster' in a recent post. Just like that, took precedence away from the [masculine] Spymaster, and handed it to the [feminine]Lady! made me laugh when I realized)

Bridget Locke said...

Okay, so are these books you hated or not? You say they're not faves, so I had to ask. LOL!

I loved, loved, loved Dark Desires After Dusk, which is why Cade was on my list of heroes for DIK. Mmmm...Cade. LOL

Brie said...

I've read three of your top five, And loved each of them. Your ranking system is a thing of beauty!

Jace said...

I haven't read any of your top 5, but I do have 2 in the TBR. :-D Just dropping by to say hello. :-)

Anonymous said...

I love your ranking system, especially your three DNF categories. You're right about different reason for DNFs. I have only a few "real" DNFs because I have to buy the books - no novels in English that really interest me from the library - and so I still can't shake the feeling that I should finish the book. But I'm working on that. I also have Renne's "not now" category.

Anonymous said...

OMG, I LOVE YOUR RANKING SYSTEM!!! LOL!!! Good stuff! I'm a Lisa Kleypas Fanatic so of course I love all her books. Yeah, I'm fairly certain I'm going to pass out at RWA this year if I meet her, lol! Sigh...I'm such a cornball :P

Carolyn Crane said...

Sam: Thanks!

Jill: I'm so glad you like those two. Now what's this about skimming to SEX SCENES?

M: I think that is a huge mark of quality (or awfulness) in a book when they really stay with you. My Lady Spymaster *snort*

Bridget: You got Cade? Uh! Lucky!!

Brie: Thanks

Jace: Hey! Somehow, they're just not as attractive when in the TBR, huh?

Barbara: I hope you get to meet her. I bet she's nice.

Kwana said...

I love your system and how kind of you to give everyone's list. You are making my TBR pile way too deep.

mslizalou said...

I love your ranking system! It so perfectly describes those books I've wanted to throw across the room(only a couple have every been thrown).

Sarai said...

Nice rating system. I find I have a hard time giving number scores or even letter scores to books. So I am working on explaining why I do and don't like a book a lot more now. Sometimes I like a book but would give it a low score b/c something didn't work for me.

Tracy said...

Your rating system is so great! The Mercy Kill DNF. I LOVE IT! lol

Ladytink_534 said...

Lol. Love your ranking system and I can definitely apply it to some of my recent reads.

Katie Reus said...

I LOVE your ranking system. Hilarious :) Spymasters' Lady is on my tbb list. It was on it last year, but I vow to get it in 09'!

Serena said...

I love your ranking system!

The Bookworm said...

I need to add some of your top 5 to my wish list!
lol...I love your rating system, especially the 'Hostage situation'.