Well, people, I hope you’ve shielded your eyes and hidden your babies as forewarned. Below 4.0, or very poor, is our final RITA rating, and one which should take no time at all in describing.
Simply put, this is a book that has nothing to recommend it, not even the occasional awkward laugh for its sheer ridiculousness, as in the previous rating. There is no entertainment to be found in a book that earns a rating of below 4.0. It is stunningly bad.
And that’s all I have. I’ve never come across such an awful book, not in all my years of voracious reading. And let’s hope I never will!
That wraps up my blog’s RITA ratings breakdown! The contest judging starts this month; best of luck to all the entrants!
The RITA judging guidelines describe a 4.0 book as “poor.” I hope no one entering the RITA contest earns such a pitiable rating, since one has to wonder how such an inferior book got published in the first place. Was it self-published on a whim without a fleeting thought toward copy-editing? Was it an unscrupulous vanity publisher taking advantage of someone with a dream but little actual talent? I can honestly say I’ve never read such a horror of a book, but I imagine someone out there has, and I can also imagine how such a book would unfold.
Many years ago, a friend of mine rented a dvd for us to watch titled “Angel”—the description looked interesting as it took place in the 19th century and the heroine was a scrappy little authoress trying to put her stamp on the world. Anyway, I was stunned by how truly awful the movie was! What proceeded to unfold was a nearly unwatchable atrocity that was part Lifetime movie and part soap opera, with some added sprinklings of gothic novel and pretentious art film thrown in for a few good eye-rolls. People went mad and killed themselves for no particular reason. Fortunes were won and lost in ludicrous scenarios. Spouses pined and were tormented by unrequited love and driven mad (the very delectable Michael Fassbender, in what I can only assume was his first role). Worst of all, the woman that we, as the audience, was supposedly rooting for was the snottiest little thing imaginable!
She turned up her nose at the most well-intentioned advice. She wasn’t scrappy but out-and-out aggressive, even when people were being nice to her. In fact, her character can be perfectly summed up by the bizarre conversation she had with her potential publisher very early on in the movie. He asked who her favorite authors were, and she rudely intoned something like, “I don’t read other authors. I don’t want my mind muddied with words that aren’t my own.” Ha! That’s like a doctor saying, “I didn’t study human anatomy. I didn’t want my mind muddied with pesky facts and learning.”
Now, I can only imagine if that godawful movie heroine was a real person and she wrote a book and I was forced to read it, that I would quickly find myself reading a shockingly poor 4.0 book. Such a book would contain undeveloped writing skills. It would be riddled with misspelled words and incorrect grammar usage, and not simply as a style choice, but because she arrogantly assumes her way is correct, and the rest of the world is wrong. The plot would be silly, the characters wholly unappealing. I might finish the thing, but only to determine if such a literary anomaly would collapse upon itself after reading the last page, like a blackhole miserably consuming itself.
The only virtue such a book can offer? It can be valued for its sheer ridiculousness, if nothing else. My friend and I laughed uproariously while watching that stupid movie that clocked in at a whopping 134 minutes! Excruciating. Sometimes truly awful attempts at art can be unintentional sources of entertainment.
Next week we'll touch on our final RITA rating: Below 4.0, or very poor. Egads, people! Shield your eyes and hide your babies!
The winners of the December ebook giveaway are Carmen Leath and Lori McGill! Congratulations, Carmen and Lori!
The monthly book giveaways will resume mid-2017, but I’m going to go in a different direction for the first few months of 2017. Intrigued? Further information can be found on my website’s FAQs page!
A 5.0 book is, according to the RITA guidelines, a marginal book. It’s borderline unpublishable. Remember those one or two potentially interesting scenes we had to skim vast portions of our 6.0 book in order to find? Those fleeting sparks of potential don’t even exist in a 5.0 book.
Marginally-rated books are difficult to read, either because the plot is confusing, or the main characters are unsympathetic, or the author’s writing itself is substandard. Perhaps the author doesn’t even have a distinct voice or writing style, and you start feeling as if their book is no more interesting than reading a wearisome grocery list.
A 5.0 book comes across as a slapdash affair that suffers from a lack of editing and occasionally, even copy-editing. A few misspelled words crop up in a 5.0 book. The dialogue is painfully boring, or just plain silly. The main characters don’t feel like real people. Or maybe they do come across as real people, but they’re off-putting because they’re immature, obnoxious, and generally unlikeable. A 5.0 book has very little to recommend it. You might read a few paragraphs that vaguely stirs your interest, but such paragraphs are the exception, not the rule.
I haven’t come across too many 5.0 books, simply because something so substandard rarely sees the publishing light of day. In fact, I can’t remember if I’ve even come across a 5.0 book. If I have, I can guarantee I never finished reading the thing, and it probably quickly joined its 6.0 sibling in the recycling bin.
Next week, we’ll explore the flaws and virtues of a 4.0-4.9 book. Fun times!
What makes a 6.0 book? According to the RITA guidelines, this is a below average book. We’re getting into questionable territory here. If you actually power through reading a below average book from cover to cover, you’re bemused as to how it got published in the first place. It isn’t awful, but it isn’t interesting, either. It’s a bunch of words thrown on pages and that’s about all it has recommending it. These are the books that I don’t mind if my dog gets to and rips up before I’m finished, because she ends up getting more entertainment out of them than I did!
In all honesty, if I’m reading what I suspect to be a 6.0 book, I won’t finish reading it (at least if I’m doing so solely for my own entertainment, and not for the RITA judging). It probably initially reeled me in with a lovely front cover, or an intriguing synopsis just like an average 7.0 book, but unlike that average 7.0 book, I quickly realize I’ve wasted my money after reading only a couple of chapters.
The hero and heroine are little more than paper dolls without any depth. There’s pages upon pages of boring narration or lackluster dialogue. There’s no conflict. Or, if there is, it’s resolved far too easily. While reading a 6.0 book, you often wish the author would have invested in a thesaurus. Or, if nothing else, at least utilized the thesaurus in Word to avoid using the same adjectives over and over. There might be one or two scenes throughout the entire book that capture your interest, but that’s all. You’re tempted to skim vast portions of a 6.0 book just to find those potential scenes, but you’re not overly surprised when you don’t find more than one or two.
Overall, a 6.0 book bores you to tears, and you chuck the thing into the recycling bin without even wincing.
Next week, we tour marginal territory, or a 5.0-5.9 book.
What makes a 7.0 book? This is an average book, a “meh” book. The descriptive of average isn’t unfavorable in daily life, such as “I drive an average car” or “I earn an average income.” In those examples, average simply means typical or standard. In terms of a book, I think the label of average pretty much translates to “meh.”
You know the ones. The plot is repetitive, or the dialogue is mind-numbing with its lack of originality. You read “diamond of the first water” and “snowy cravat” one too many times. Sadly, you bought the thing in the first place because you were tricked by a gorgeous cover or an intriguing back cover synopsis; instead, those dangling carrots only steered you to run-of-the-mill vill and nowhere else.
Average in a romance novel equates to boring, at least in my opinion. It’s just an okay read. You might get halfway through it before you want to start skipping over chapters just to get to the end. The heroine and hero might have a few interesting qualities to them, but they’re not fleshed out very well, and you’re not particularly invested in their romance. Sometimes you suspect the author was just going through the motions with an average book, like maybe this was the last one remaining on her contract before she could switch publishing houses. Maybe it would have been more exciting after a few more rewrites, or some sharper dialogue, or a more involved plot than just boy meets girl at a dance and falls in love.
Average in a romance novel doesn’t inspire, and the title fades from your mind the instant you finish it, if indeed you even finish it at all. On a few occasions, I’ve chosen to watch reruns of "The Big Bang Theory" over finishing a boring book. Life is too short. Why waste our time on reading “meh?”
Next week I’ll explore a 6.0-6.9 book, which is below average, or zzzzzz…
What makes an 8.0 book? This is a solid B, a perfectly nice book to read while curled up on the couch on a cold weekend. In terms of romance novels, these are the impulse item books that I snap up while whisking through Walmart to buy groceries. The plot is intriguing and the characters a bit more unusual or three-dimensional. A solid 8.0 book is an enjoyable read, but it’s not a keeper. It won’t join those prestigious 9.0 and 10.0 books on my keeper bookshelf. When I’m finished with it, I’ll pass it along to my mom or a friend or drop it in a book donation bin, because as pleasant a read as it was, I know I’ll never feel the compulsion to read it again.
Solid 8.0 books are thoroughly entertaining books, but they’re not without their glitches. The hero and heroine have interesting banter and palpable chemistry, and the author spins a tale that the reader is invested in, but the characters don’t ever visit the reader’s mind after the last page has been read. There are some amusing parts, and maybe the dialogue has some witty zings here and there, but a solid B book never has you sitting on the edge of your seat. You don’t necessarily read it from cover to cover in one weekend. Perhaps it takes you a few extra days because the pacing tends to slow down two-thirds of the way through, or you get slightly frustrated with the heroine because she does something silly or out-of-character. The conflict, be it external or internal or both, might seem a bit too contrived.
A solid B book draws the reader’s attention from the first chapter, and is a perfectly respectable rating with worthy characters and plot. Somewhere along the way, the reader’s attention wanders, however, and what might have been a fascinating premise tends to peter out. By the time the reader finishes, there might even be a rushed feeling to simply finish the story for the sake of finishing the story, and not because the reader is truly invested in the characters any longer.
And so what books do I own that are a solid 8.0 rating? I don’t own any, actually. As I stated in the beginning, these are the books that get permanently loaned out or donated, and so I can’t remember any particular titles. Let’s just say they tend to be the mass market paperbacks available in grocery stores. You don’t feel bad about the initial $6 or $7 spent acquiring it, but you would’ve felt slightly cheated had you bought it at full price and in hardcover format.
Stay tuned next week as we explore an average 7.0 book, or the kiss of mediocrity.
The winners of the November ebook giveaway are Leah Breymeyer and Micha Ichmenn! Congratulations, Leah and Micha! This month’s contest is for a free ebook copy of Clingstone (provided as an Amazon gift). Two winners will be selected, each to receive 1 ebook copy. The contest runs throughout the entire month of December and is open to all participants. Simply submit the Giveaway form on this website. The winners will be announced in my blog post on January 1. Good luck!
Names and emails are for contest purposes only. All contact information will be deleted after the contest ends. The winners’ contact information will be deleted once Amazon confirms the ebook was claimed.
What makes a 9.0 book? This is an A- in comparison to an A+, and so we’re still dealing with an exemplary book here. It might not be perfect, but it very nearly is. It’s still a keeper. It has a place of prestige among its 10.0 counterparts, and it’s the sort of book that you regularly read every few years. You might not obsess over the characters that live inside its pages, but you gladly revisit them on those idle nights when you’re searching for something to read among your shelves of books, and you happily exclaim, “Oh, I loved that book! I haven’t read it in ages!” It’s an amazing book that transports you. It makes you laugh and cry and cheer your protagonists onward. The plot is nearly flawless. The characters are almost real. The writing is luminous, and you sigh wistfully after reading the last page.
And so what makes up all of those tiny decimal points that separate a solid 9.0 from being a 10.0? It’s subjective, of course, and differs from reader to reader. A book of this high quality isn’t lacking in anything too substantial. Maybe the author uses a turn of phrase too often? Perhaps the entire book is phenomenal save for a slow part in the middle? Or maybe 99 % of the book is a masterpiece, but the last chapter ends on a bit of a dud? Maybe it’s just this feeling of incompletion, like maybe an epilogue should’ve been added, or there was a note of dissatisfaction at the end? Maybe the ending itself felt rushed or was consumed by clichés?
Again, a 9.0 is a near-perfect book, and each little decimal point separating it from a 10.0 is subjective, but I think, for the sake of the upcoming RITA judging, a demotion in decimal points needs to reflect a small disappointment in the story, or a loose end that the writer didn’t tie up, or a minor continuity issue. Or perhaps a deviation in the plot that didn’t really make sense.
And so which books do I own that merit a solid 9.0 rating, in my opinion?
Kristan Higgins’ Fools Rush In and Just One of the Guys. I loved, loved, loved these early books of Kristan Higgins’. I adored the first-person narration she used. I giggled at her frequent use of exclamations, and I adored the awkward date stories. Her heroes and heroines were three-dimensional and sympathetic. My only complaint? I didn’t feel like I got enough of their story. I love me some good ol’ angst in a romance, but if it wraps up too quickly, I feel cheated. Kristan’s heroes and heroines always manage to get together, and that’s fantastic, but not until the end of the books. I always wanted more of their time together. And so if the only complaint about a book is that the reader wants more, well, I guess that’s nothing to feel too bad about!
Stay tuned for next week’s exploration into 8.0, or “good” territory. That’s a solid B rating, folks!
Lately, I’ve been thinking about the preliminary judging that I’ll be participating in for the RITA contest that beings in mid-January. Usually, when we rate a book—be it on Amazon or Goodreads—the scoring is on a scale of 1 to 5. It’s a rating system that I’m familiar with and can easily define. However, the scoring used to judge the RITA contest is much more comprehensive and consists of a scale ranging from 1 to 10. The following is taken directly from the Romance Writers of America website:
Each preliminary-round entry will be scored individually on a scale of 1.0 to 10.0, with 1.0 being the lowest (poor) and 10.0 being the highest (excellent). Decimals (from .1 to .9) are STRONGLY encouraged to help avoid the possibility of a tie. Judges are encouraged to think of the points system as equivalent to a classroom grading scale:
6.0-6.9: Below average
Below 4.0: Very poor
Now, with that being said, I’ve been thinking about how to define each level, particularly since decimal points are encouraged. I don’t want to randomly assign a decimal point or even a whole number without having a clear formula in place beforehand. After all, the ratings judges assign can potentially impact someone’s career. There should be nothing arbitrary about it, and so I’m devoting this blog post to what I believe fits the criteria of a solid 10.0 rating, the highest rating that can be assigned to a book in the RITA contest.
I don’t know about anyone else, but I’ve read only a handful of 10.0 books in my life. These are the books that keep you up all night reading, or even up all weekend reading. You cry and laugh dozens of times while reading a 10.0 book. Sometimes you’ll stop and reread a phrase because the writing is so extraordinary. You remember where you were when you read a 10.0 book. Afterwards, you wax poetic about it to everyone you know. This is a perfect book; perfect in its plot, characters, pacing, and structure. The characters feel like living people, and they pop into your mind on occasion, like when you’re taking a walk and your mind is bright and clear and reflective. You wonder how they’re faring in their imaginary world.
10.0 books are the books that you keep forever. Even if you have an ebook copy, you need the physical copy as well, or something just doesn’t feel right. You keep them prominently on a shelf, the covers cracked and smudged from so many readings. These are the books you’ll continue reading until your eyesight goes, and then you’ll faithfully listen to the audio version until your hearing goes. And when all else fails, you’ll relive their adventures in your mind, until that too goes.
And so what are two of my favorite 10.0 books? Firstly, Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander, which I originally read in 2002 and have since reread too many times to remember. I picked it up at Barnes and Noble because it looked interesting. I proceeded to spend all weekend curled up on my couch devouring this 850-page clunker. I barely stopped to eat and sleep. Everything about Outlander dazzled me. Jamie and Claire are like real people in my mind after reading about their lives for over fourteen years, and that, to me, is the makings of a perfect book. Outlander, the first in Gabaldon’s long series, is one of my most treasured 10.0 books.
Another example is A Dog’s Purpose, by W. Bruce Cameron. I read this book in the summer of 2011 while on vacation down in Florida. I sobbed ugly sobs while reading this book. I laughed great belly laughs while reading this book. The story of Bailey the dog and his many incarnations as he struggles to find his purpose confirms what all of us dog-lovers already know: the bonds we have with our animals stay with us long after they’re gone. I still simultaneously smile and get a lump in my throat whenever I look at the cover of A Dog’s Purpose.
That’s it for this week! Next week’s post will break down scores 9.0 to 9.9 in what is quickly proving to be a much more detailed overview of book scoring than I would have thought possible!
This monstrosity was published in 1992, the year I graduated from high school, and clocks in at a whopping 977 pages, measures 10 x 7 inches, and is mostly comprised of a font that looks likes Times New Roman at an eye-squinting 9 or 10 points. Nary a photograph or drawing can be found in this reference book that cares more about jamming in as much information as possible than it does about aesthetics. This clunker can be used to prop open doors or fend off home invaders, your choice. Or, as per its original intention, be used to refer to every obscure fact or hierarchy or vocabulary usage known to man, and then some.
I adore this book. Want to ponder on the various styles of mustaches throughout the ages? Hankering to know how many breeds of chickens there are? Can’t remember the difference between igneous, metamorphic, or sedimentary rocks? Then refer to Mr. Glazier’s book and you’ll have an unlimited guide to the internal combustion engine, meteorology, and various cuts of meat. Can’t remember the name for a hinged window above a door? The Word Menu knows. Military ranks, property law, and support garments abound in Mr. Glazier’s book. The section on language usage fairly boggles the mind. For example, intent on reviewing some terms of endearment and respect? There’s a section that breaks down such terms into the following categories: Pet Names; Friendly and Familiar Address; Titles and Honorifics; Affectionate Reference, and Respectful or Admiring Reference. And that, my sweet poppets, is a wonderful example of the Word Menu’s very thorough, very prolific lists of well, lists.
The only downside is that some of the information is dated. The sections on populations and space exploration are frozen in time, and the section on computers exist in a parallel universe where social media didn’t exist and the internet was still in its infancy. That being said, the bulk of information found between the covers of the Word Menu is a treasure trove for the historical writer. After all, the section on popular music that woefully ends with the 1980s never factors in to our books on 19th century dukes and the wallflowers who love them! The remaining drawback about this book is that it can only be used as that first stepping stone on the way to acquiring information. Terms only receive an one-line definition before moving on to the next snippet of knowledge. For instance, if your heart is set on discovering how many types of worms are listed in the section dedicated to such critters, you’ll be happy to know it’s 62, but you’ll have to look elsewhere if you’re dying to know what a tubifex worm looks like, or whether or not it lives in fresh or salt water. And hey, who isn't dying to know what a tubifex worm looks like? I know I am. The Word Menu certainly has its limitations, but overall it’s an irreplaceable tome in my library of reference books.
Want to go over this marvelous book with a fine-tooth comb for yourself? It’s still available for sale on Amazon by clicking here.
Wahoo, it’s done! I entered Clingstone in the 2017 Rita contest when it opened to entries at 11 am on Tuesday, November 1st. I entered it into the Historical: Long category, and I also marked it for the category Best First Book. I know the competition will be stiff, but I think this is going to be a lot of fun, regardless of whether I place or not. I couldn’t believe how quickly RWA received the maximum 2000 entries; the contest was closed in less than 48 hours, so I’m glad my procrastinating tendencies didn’t make me miss out on this exciting opportunity. I sent off my five paperback copies of Clingstone on Wednesday, so I’ve done all I can do for now.
Oh, and I didn’t realize this until right before I entered the contest, but all entrants are required to be a judge in the preliminary round. I’m really excited about that! Obviously, I don’t judge books in my own category, but I’m to read a few books in some of the other romance subcategories—for example, paranormal, contemporary, or suspense—and rate them on a scale of one to ten. Due to contest confidentiality rules, I can’t say which books I receive, but I’m supposed to get a packet of four to nine books sometime in January.
Free books, how great is that? I can’t wait to share some of the behind-the-scenes tidbits with you on my blog…without hedging on confidentiality issues, of course!
The winners of the October e-book giveaway are Jenny Grieder and Angela Parnell! Congratulations, Jenny and Angela! This month’s contest is for a free e-book copy of Clingstone (provided as an Amazon gift). Two winners will be selected, each to receive 1 e-book copy. The contest runs throughout the entire month of November and is open to all participants. Simply submit the Giveaway form on this website. The winners will be announced in my blog post on December 1. Good luck!
Names and emails are for contest purposes only. All contact information will be deleted after the contest ends. The winners’ contact information will be deleted once Amazon confirms the e-book was claimed.
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