My name is Jay. I live in Maryland with my wife and two kids. I read a ton of fantasy when I was younger, lost touch a bit in grad school, and have returned with a vengeance in the last couple years. My reading list pales in comparison with many others that I know, but it was still getting extensive enough that I wanted some place to organize my thoughts a bit. If my reviews help other people figure out what books might work for them, all the better!
What Will I Be Reviewing Here
Science fiction and fantasy (broadly construed) occupies most of my reading time, and that’s what I plan to review here. My three major near-term reading goals are:
- Get current on the conversation by reading new releases.
- Find and signal-boost quality indie titles.
- Fill the gaps in my reading history, especially with authors who might’ve flown under my radar in the past due to their race or gender.
I don’t know if I’ll be able to read quickly enough to make significant progress on all three, but I hope to read a book every one or two weeks. And as I read them, I’ll review them.
How I Write Reviews
I want to communicate my thoughts on a book in a way that helps other people decide whether they want to read it. It’s impossible to cover everything, but I’ll do my best to cover strengths and weaknesses, as well as important information. Is it a strong-starter or a slow burn? Does it tell a complete story or demand you acquire a sequel? You can get plot summaries anywhere, so I’ll try to make that as minimal as I can while still giving enough context for the review.
Every review has an element of subjectivity, so it’s always helpful to know the reviewer’s taste. For me, the best books are those where I connect to the characters, but where there’s enough plot that it feels like the characters have done something meaningful by the end. Additionally, I value writing that keeps me invested in the world more than beautiful prose for its own sake—it has to be good enough not to break immersion, but I’m no connoisseur of prose stylings. Of course, there are exceptions to every rule, and excellence in one area can make up for deficiencies in another. I’d rather a book be extraordinary in some ways and mediocre in others than be all-around solid-but-unexceptional.
How I Rate
Still trying to break my academia-fueled association of “6” with “utterly abysmal” instead of “around average,” so let’s roll with a scale that isn’t a power of ten. Introducing Tar Vol’s 20:
20: As close to perfect as I’d expect to find. Would recommend to anyone who doesn’t have an active aversion to a major element of the book.
17-19: Excellent, among my favorite of the year. Very interested in reading more by the author, and would highly recommend to anyone with interest in that type of story.
14-16: Good, worthwhile read. Likely willing to read more by the author, and would recommend to those with interest in that type of story.
11-13: Decent, reasonably enjoyable but either with significant flaws or lacking any standout element. Would recommend only if it seems tailor-made to a person’s interests.
1-10: Fatally flawed or drastically out-of-step with my preferences. Hopefully most of these will be DNF’d—if I’m going to be reading enough to blog about, I can’t spend weeks slogging through material that isn’t working for me.
Where Else Can You Find Me?
I’m on Reddit and Twitter under the same name. Speaking of which. . .
What’s up with the Name?
I’ve spent most of my life in the Tar Heel and Volunteer states, even though I’m in neither now. And the pun on one of the principal cities of The Wheel of Time was just too much to resist.