So I've been doing a TON of reading lately. Researching serials and trolling ebook bestsellers to get a feel for what's out there. If you follow me over at Writers Gone Wild, you might have seen my blog post about being the East German Judge. I'm a harsh book critic. It's the same effect as doctor's make the worst patients. When you do it day in and day out, you get a little jaded, and become much harder to impress and think you always know best.
I started thinking about what makes a book a win for me. A five star, get lost in the story and never want to come up for air win. I figure it's good for me to know that, so I can write those kinds of books, right?
This list is a blanket criteria to cover all genres that I read. Basically anything fiction be it mystery, romance, sci fi or some combination.
1) A main character I can relate with: This is a must and part of the reason I love first person POV. When done properly you get to know the hero/ heroine in so much more depth, flaws, warts and all. Authors that do this well for me: Charlotte Stein, Patricia Briggs, Kristan Higgins, Kresley Cole, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Peter David.
2) Some kind of love story: It doesn't have to be front and center but I want to cheer for love conquering all, even if it's only a secondary concern.Probably the best example of this is Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series. I rooted for Lan and Niniaeve through seven books, more pages than the King James Bible.
3) Emotional connection: If I laugh and cry while reading the same book it's going on the keeper shelf for sure. A book that immediately comes to mind, Kristan Higgins's Catch of the Day, (dying dog gets me every time, I was total waterworks during a certain episode of Revenge last season.) I just finished a book where I thought the secondary character, the heroine's roommate was a goner and prepared myself for it. When it didn't happen, I was actually miffed I'd gone to the trouble. Call me a sick-o but loss is a part of life and as Drue from Redeeming Characters puts it, "There is no threshold for misery." Yes, I just quoted myself. Sometimes I'm pretty smart.
4) Vivid storytelling: I need something more from a read than constant was/were statements. Telling me stuff happens makes me tune out. Show me what's happening and I'm hooked.
5) A believable plot: One surefire way to lose me, make me question if something can really happen. The moment I raise an eyebrow and go "Really?" it's a guarantee the book isn't getting five stars from me.
6) Enough depth to bring me back for another read: When I can't wait to experience a book again, to relive the magic that drew me in the first time.
7) A strong enough hook that makes me eager for the next one: That's mystery me coming out to play. Suzanne Brockman's troubleshooters, Patricia Brigg's Mercy Thompson and Alpha and Omega series, Sherilyn Kenyon's Dark Hunter books and Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum mysteries have all given me that eager anticipation that's like a child on Christmas Eve, mesmerized by the possibilities.
So what about you, what does it take to get a five star review from you, dearest readers?