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I read, and I know things

So, I recently had a reader ask me how I came up with my rating scale for my book reviews. I had to stop and think for a minute. I don't really think about it while I'm reading, often stopping after I've finished and then pondering if it was a good book or not.

Since I was an English major in college, I have been exposed to just about every good, bad, and in between novel there is. I could go into some lengthy analytical explanation of what actually quantifies good literature. Or I could just tell you the 5 things I look for when I judge the "goodness" of a novel: the character, the setting, the plot, the theme, and the style and tone.

1. The Character

The first thing I look for in a good book is the character. Is the character fully developed, or am I filling in large gaps myself? Is there a strong character arc, or are they kind of static? Are they a likable character, or are we supposed to dislike them? Do the supporting characters move the plot forward, or are they there just to fill up space?

I look for fully developed characters with a good arc, strong supporting characters, and well written characterization in a good book.

2. The Setting

The setting is definitely a huge part of a good novel, especially this year, with my New Years Resolution. I look for a fully flushed out setting. Does the author really place you in the story with their description of the setting? Do they access all the sense in their descriptions? The setting needs to help move the story along as well; it can't simply be the place the character lives.

I look for a setting that really places me into the time and place of the story for it to count as a good setting in a good book.

3. The Plot

The plot is a super important part of a novel in my opinion is the plot. I look to see if the plot is original or if it feels like something I've read before? Does it keep me guessing and wondering what will happen next (I'm normally really good at guessing the ends of books, having read so many. If I can't guess the ending of a book, it's normally almost as surprising as the ending!)? Is there plenty of action to keep the plot moving, or does it stall out a little in the middle?

I want a plot that keeps moving, and keeps me on my toes, while I'm reading.

4. The Theme

This one is a little less important to me. I'm past the point where I feel like a novel has to teach a lesson to be considered a good novel. Instead of looking for a real theme in the novel (like, love, or friendship), I look instead to see if I've had an emotional reaction to the novel. Did I feel angry or sad at the end? Did it make me want to call my mother, or move to a new country?

I want a story that leaves me feeling something, as opposed to teaching me something.

5. The Style and Tone

This is my favorite part of a novel: the way the author writes. I love reading a beautifully written sentence (#bookworm probs)! I love getting lost in evocative language. The style of the novel is the author's individual voice, how they form sentences, and use words. I look to see if the author is writing differently from others I've read. Do they use a word I haven't seen, or turn a phrase in a new and exciting way? Do they keep me entranced by their words?

This ties in with the tone as well. Does the author use happy words and descriptors, or do their words invoke a somber feeling as you read? Does the tone add to the overall feel of the novel?

This part of a novel is so important to me. When you've read as many books as I have, you start looking for new authors who are doing new and exciting things with words.

So, there you have it! The 5 things I look for in a novel to decide if it's "good" or "bad." Be sure to tune in Monday for my weekly book review!

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