Judgment standards; Or, one yardstick to rule them all?

“You can’t evaluate a work outside the context of its time.”
“You can if it’s good.”

Daria, Is it Fall Yet?

As I was reading The Amber Keeper and The Barefoot Queen, I wondered if I was being too harsh—even before I finished them and wrote my reviews. Every time one of the eighteenth century gypsies asked someone if they were “OK” in The Barefoot Queen or yet another pair of characters would have a meet-cute in The Amber Keeper, I had a hard time controlling my eye rolls. And yet, these books are rated fairly highly on GoodReads.

I probably shouldn’t review books when I’m feeling sarcastic.

In the last few years, I have a read a lot of very good books. Plus, I re-read A Constellation of Vital Phenomena for my book group. I’ve been spoiled lately. It’s hard not to hold everything I read to the same standard. It’s not fair. I have no problem judging a book based on the merits of its genre. I have different standards for plot and characterization when it comes to speculative fiction and mysteries and literary fiction and historical fiction.

I suppose I do have one yardstick when it comes to basic writing competency. A story can be bad when the basic premise is flawed or the writer doesn’t have a big enough vocabulary or the structure is so poorly constructed that it ruins whatever effect the author was going for. Besides, I would hate to think that I was actually lowering my standards to give a book a good review when it was just so-so and I know that others will like it just fine. It’s just that reading really good books spoils me until I can recalibrate.

I’m probably overthinking this.


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