About this thread: - I just finished something big, and suddenly don't know what to do with myself - I've been debating with myself for a long time whether to write reviews seriously. On one hand, it's a fun way to collect my own thoughts and force myself to actually think about the stories I read from a 'craft' perspective. On the other hand, I know how it feels to know that someone does not enjoy your book, and I feel bad knowing that I will eventually be responsible for those feelings at some point. That said, speaking from personal experience, I know how much authors crave feedback, and while I feel uncomfortable about Amazon and Goodreads review systems, I think ultimately if there's something positive or negative that someone has to say about my work, I'd prefer it to be out there somewhere on the internet. I'd rather know than not know, because ultimately silence is worse than words. Over the past few years, a small number of readers have done that for me, out of their own volition, simply by talking about their impression about the book, in passing, in jokes, in anything, and those snippets are extremely rewarding and meaningful, so I've finally decided to be brave and try my best to do it for someone else, as a way to pay it forward. - I feel like most reviews don't actually tell me anything. There's a reason why I prefer subjective reviews, where the reviewer isn't trying to be a professional voice, but just a person raving/ranting about their impressions. I feel like those reviews give me insight into what the book feels like. I get a feel of who the reviewer is, and if they're someone I would like to be friends with in real life, I trust their judgment. - Most LitRPG blurbs/advertisements lack... a 'unique selling point'. And most of the time the authors are blind to what their own unique selling points are. This is totally not their fault. We all need a mirror. Someone sold me on The City and the Dungeon simply by saying that it "did religion discussions right". Has nothing to do with the story, but that point got me. So, if I have something to say about a story that is unique about that story, I figured I should say it. Disclosure: - I've written LitRPG myself. It's published, but I will never tell anyone here on anywhere in public what that story is, so I can never be accused of having a hidden agenda of bashing other authors or belonging to a clique. I wish to speak as a reader here. - My personal taste leans towards: non-power-fantasy, mature, good prose, well-written emotions, character tension, good action scenes, lots of nuances, and a solid theme. Basically, entertainment with something extra to chew on. - I'll give star ratings, because despite how much I think it's flawed, I personally like reading reviews that actually give stars. It's courageous to give stars. But I'll tell you right now mine, like all star ratings, are probably going to be unreliable and ultimately unfair, and I apologize. I'm still working on a system, and I hope to be able to come up with a good, valid system one day, but right now I'm just working with the best I've got. Other points: - My current personal project is to read a lot of Book Ones from different authors, to get a real feel for the genre. - I'll most likely post on reddit, too, because maybe reviews are a bit more visible there, and I hope it will help readers who share my taste find what they like. - If you're an author, please, please, please don't ask me to read your book and post a review. I have problems saying no, and it makes me feel guilty, after which I will probably hide away and disappear offline. Please accord me absolute freedom to choose what I read. - However, if you know for sure I've read your book and I haven't posted a review here or on reddit, please feel free to ask for one. I'm always happy to talk about books I have read. - I welcome discussions and disagreements. I also especially like hearing from people who enjoy books I don't like. - If, for some reason, you happen to be able to figure out what book I've written, please don't post publicly about it. I'm happy to discuss in private. And I would also want to know how the heck you figured it out. About my reviews: - I'm bad at synopsis, so I'm not going to do that. I'm also bad at details. I don't remember what exactly happens. I only remember my own impression of the book. - There will always be possible mild spoilers. Reviews that have absolutely no spoilers tend to be vague and not very informative. For example, something like "I thought the MC's issue with his family members are not very realistically portrayed" doesn't really tell me anything, but "I know the author's trying to show how MC craves approval from his distant father, but..." -- now that tells me something. There's interpretation and meaning to the sentence, and it gives me more of a baseline. So that's what I'm going to do in my reviews. - I'm going to pick just one main thing to talk about for each book -- the most salient bit that comes to mind when I think about the particular story. - My opinion and star ratings are going to be extremely subjective, but I'll try my best to be as fair as possible. - My star rating system goes like this (I've already used it in some of my other reviews not posted here): Vision - unique ideas, well-thought-out systems. In short: what the author is trying to do. Execution - writing quality, pacing, coherence. In short: how well the author pulls it off. Personal preference - all things combined, how much I like it and what rough number I think captures my overall feelings toward the book. And some baseline numbers and criteria: For vision: + originality (something I've never seen before) + interesting concept (something cool and fun) + solid (something with real thought behind it) + difficulty score (something that shouldn't work but does work, tricky issues that are hard to write about) + that flair of wild courage (difficult to explain, but a gutsy move the author makes, a leap of faith, a pouring of oneself into one's work) For execution: + good writing (smooth, consistent prose -- elegant is a huge plus) + appropriate use of medium (stories should read like literature, not screenplay, but especially for LitRPG I also love how the authors format and present their status screens -- if any) + good pacing and the resulting impact (build-up and pay-off) + craft (from neat slight-of-hand tricks the author uses that make me go 'that's clever!' to how the story is packaged and delivered) For personal preference: + a clear moral compass (I'm quite tolerant of different moral systems, as long as they are 'systems' and not something that only favors the MC and co.) + a glimpse into humanity: emotions, ponderings, beliefs, moral decisions that are really felt + likeable, relatable characters (and authors who treat them with respect and understanding, as people, not tools to tell a story or shock readers -- so, yes, I loathe Game of Thrones) + game (as in game-i-ness of all kinds -- a story set in a game world doesn't automatically give a game feel. That's a fantasy in a video game setting. Only when the characters strategize and really play the game, does it feel like a game) So, somewhere around 3 is satisfactory. A 3-3-3 rating is "It was okay for me". Somewhere 4-ish is positive. But unless it's mind-blowing in some way or gets me teary-eyed, it's probably not going to get a 5. My scores for popular titles so you can get a taste for my personal preferences: Spoiler The Lord of the Rings: that's a full 5-5-5. Tolkien had a vision. It was a great vision, and he did it with confidence and much love. And I love sad, flowery language. The Lies of Locke Lamorra: also a 5-5-5. Very different, but knows exactly what it's doing and delivers scenes with impact, while being at the core...well, soft. Ready Player One: 4.2-3.5-4. Rather a wild, crazy, unabashedly-nerdy idea. The writing is a bit dodgy at times, but ultimately there's a heart and real meaning to the conclusion. Game of Thrones (Book 1 of ASoIaF): 4.7-4.2-1. Hated it. With a passion. Nice concepts, okay-writing, absolute heartless cheap tricks. Awaken Online (Books 1-2): 5-3.8-3.5. Awesome concept, great ideas... not sure if it's going anywhere meaningful and satisfying, and has a hint of being a teenage power fantasy. Scores might change if it actually goes somewhere. Way of the Shaman (Book 1). 4-4.7-5. Solid, detailed world building, messy rambly prose (which I actually don't mind), but build-up to moral decisions feels real important, and very cleverly presented. The double-interpretation thing at the end is brilliant and also very cleverly presented. Love the slow pacing and the overall moodiness (and the ambivalent-oppressed-safe-stuck communist feel, really). The Land (Book 1): 3.5-4-2. Just wasn't for me. It isn't nearly as bad as haters make it out to be, and I'm sure great ideas develop later on. But as for Book 1 the ideas aren't that new or interesting. The prose and presentation are actually okay and consistent, despite the jarring pop culture references. But, I didn't manage to find anything to bond with.