Occasionally I am asked to read and review books for other authors and publishers, so I think it’s about time I started putting them here instead of just hurling them off into cyberspace. I won’t put any reviews of books I have decided to read of my own volition here, that’s what Goodreads (for me) is for.

In the past I have fallen into the trap of haloing reviews – and a few are still out there – because (as I like to believe or fool myself, take your pick), I’m just a really, really nice guy. I’m putting Mr Nice into a freezer and I am adopting a position of positive honesty (if that makes any sense); I’ll look for the good in the book, rather than hunt for faults, and go from there.

It’s always good to understand that when someone is asked to review a book, they usually get to keep the book (in ePub or paperback form) as part of the process. That’s how it happens for me, and the only concession I make to the publisher or author is that I will show them my review first and, if they are not happy with it, I won’t put it up here or anywhere else. In addition, until further notice, no money will change hands; getting paid to write a review puts an expectation of a good review on the reviewer – and I don’t want that.

Like most I’ve got a five point rating system, but these do change from reviewer to reviewer. So, to be clear, this is my system.

1 out of 5. A waste of paper or electrons. The novel is poorly written, does not engage the reader, and has no value to it as either entertainment or literature. It is, literally, one I cannot finish and would rather dispose of than have it use up valuable space in my bookshelf or cloud.

2 out of 5. A novel that has serious, but not fatal, flaws. The writing could be substandard; the plot derivative and banal; the characters flat, unbelievable or simply ‘photocopies’ from other works. In the majority of cases the novel does not engage the reader.

3 out of 5. A novel that is engaging, that perhaps says nothing new, or uses old tropes in an interesting or different way. Although one that will not stay in my mind for years, or that I’d re-read later on, is entertaining. It does what a mainline novel should do; it takes the reader away for a few hours.

4 out of 5. The novel pushes through to a fresh treatment or take on a genre in places; it could be highly engaging in the majority but falls short in some aspects; or the plot and characters, while well developed and believable, are underdone. It’s one that stays in my mind after I’ve finished, and I’ll make a point to re-read later on.

5 out of 5. A novel that grabs me continually and immediately, one that stands out from the genre by a combination of all factors (plot, characterization, prose). It is a novel that, if I didn’t have it, I would hunt down immediately and buy, that I would revisit regularly, and would mark as an absolute must read.