Hello and welcome to Obscure Gems!
I, Aeysh, am the Gemmologist. I find these gems—the books, for the most part, overlooked by the wider world—and attempt to rate and review them comprehensively so that you, the Reader, will want to read them.
I am 13 years old and have, by most calculations, read well over 2,000 books in my lifetime. This is largely factoring in the books I’ve taken out of the library and ignoring for the most part books I’ve borrowed, bought, or received. (However, it is my policy to buy only books I have read that warrant a rereading.) I learned how to read at the age of 3 years and I have loved, worshipped, been infatuated with WORDS ever since. People used to ask me, “Why do you read?” and I would answer—because it was the only answer I knew—“To escape to other worlds.” However, I recently read (yes) a different explanation: “We don’t read to escape. We read to test ourselves in ways that aren’t possible where we are, to have new experiences we couldn’t have otherwise.” Reading puts us into situations we couldn’t be in, in the worlds we aren’t in when we’re not reading. We can grow in so many different ways when we’re faced with places and people we could never encounter.
I am sort of strange. I’m full of contradictions, sentences that may need a few rereadings to make sense, and obsessions you may find strange. I make puns that it’s quite possible you need my thought process to decipher. I hope you have fun trying anyway
One day, I hope to be an author with bookshelves upon bookshelves of books with awards. Recently I read a book that claimed that over one million Americans aspire to be authors. I’m not sure if this is depressing because it narrows my chances or uplifting because…I’m not really…alone…. Anyway, in the meantime I’ll review books and hope to glimpse some insight into the Why: Why are they so good; Why are they so popular; Why are they so loved (or not; but mostly it’s because they haven’t been spread enough); or, Why are they so bad, unpopular, hated, etc.
You can find me on Goodreads at the account name spottedfire. You can view many of the books I’ve read here, as well as quotes I like (that you will probably enjoy) here (all Goodreads links). You can also find me (and my art) on DeviantArt at ~dragonfly-spirit. You can probably find me in lots of other places as well—just ask!
Again, this is a review blog: a blog where I find and rate books.
If this world was my perfect world, I’d just make a list of books and say “READ THESE.” But if I did in today’s world, you wouldn’t read the books, because you wouldn’t know if you’d like them or not. Here is evidence of why I don’t make much sense: I write reviews, but I really don’t think people should read reviews. The problem about reviews is that I have to give you a plot. Have you ever read a book without having any idea what happens in it? Try it sometime; it’s much more satisfying. Ask someone to give you a book they think you’d like, and don’t read a summary. I also end up, when I review, whether I want to or not, influencing your opinions. If I say “THIS IS THE BEST BOOK IN THE WORLD,” you’ll probably be slightly more inclined to think that it’s amazing, and vice versa. Actually, if you read something I rate badly you’ll probably notice it twice as much, because I’ve pointed it out. So, take everything I say with a grain of salt (or however the expression goes), and try the books for yourself to truly see if you’d like them. There’s not really another foolproof way, because unfortunately, I am not you.
Books will have one of three tags: Obscure Gems; Gravel; and Bling. These should be pretty self-explanatory. Obscure Gems are those books you may never have heard of, but will blow you away. Gravel is comprised of books that aren’t so good. Gravel may glitter, so the books filed under “Gravel” might actually be worth reading, but if you’re looking for a book to love don’t look there. However, some of these books did raise strong emotions in me—even if they were negative ones—so perhaps you’d find something in them. If nothing else, books under Gravel might be worth reading to snort at because of implausibilities or just plots that fall apart. Bling is beautiful books that everybody’s heard of. (“Bling” literally means “expensive and flashy jewelry, clothing, or other possessions”; so I’m taking that as gems that aren’t so obscure.) BLING DOES NOT MEAN BAD
The point of this is so that I can review anything I read, not just the amazing books, because can you really appreciate a jewel if you’ve never seen gravel?
Note: Some books, like Twilight (no offense, anyone) I dislike so much I only managed to read it because I needed comparison. These books I’m not going to rate. I’m sorry. I just can’t. Also, I dislike romance. I can tolerate it and see how it would ameliorate the story (isn’t that a pretty word? It means “enhance”), but if there’s some YA novel where the point is romance I will be prejudiced from the beginning. There are some books like this that have been good—take Matched (Ally Condie) or Delirium (Lauren Oliver)—but overall I won’t pick them up without being firmly encouraged.
Since I read so much, I’ve been pressured for a while to review books, but recently my friend Sophie (http://sophiesophieblog.wordpress.com/) created a blog (that you must also read) and this finally convinced me. If nothing else, we’ll have some sort of…link (see? pun. That was a pun), so that you can get two different opinions on a book, which is generally a good idea. Warning, however: Sophie and I share a brain, so the opinions might not be too different after all. (In fact, we’re writing The Next Young Adult Bestseller right now, together.)
The point of this blog is to find books you, the Reader, will love. Or at least, new options for you. It’s also to spread the word about those amazing books nobody pays attention to. I’m not necessarily the best judge of popularity and I’m mostly basing off of how much advertising I’ve seen for these books and loosely judging based on the number of Goodreads/Amazon ratings. Also, popularity is subjective, so you might think everybody loves one of my “Obscure” Gems, yet I think it’s an uncracked geode (the crystals are still hidden from most people). And maybe it is the next Harry Potter where you live and not where I do. What I mean is, maybe it doesn’t fit the category, because I won’t put much in the Bling category, as this isn’t the point, and if I think lots of people have read a book but I haven’t seen that in real life it’ll probably go in Obscure Gems. But if it’s called a Gem, it IS, and that’s what matters.
If you’d like a book to go up here, tell me! It’ll probably take a week or two to filter in from the library (and up to five months if it’s really new; I rarely buy books, as I’ve said) and then a couple of days for me to read it (a few hours if I don’t have school). I’ll try my hardest to then review the book within the next few days. I’d love to do this!
And now for the review system; here’s where I “borrow” from Sophie.
Like Sophie—so we’re, excuse the metaphor, on the same page—I’m going to rate books on her four categories: Writing, Character Depth/Development, Plot, and Je Ne C’est Quois.
Writing will be an evaluation of the author’s word choice, etc. If there are frequent punctuation/grammatical errors, or the writing’s choppy in an unwarranted way (it’s warranted if it’s obvious that’s how the character thinks), or the writing’s distracting in any way, minus points.
Character Depth/Development will be how real I feel the characters are. Lots of books have characters say things that they’re thinking, but that nobody would really say in real life. Good authors manage to imply that the characters are thinking this without having them spit out something so implausible it distracts from the point. Also, this category will focus on how well you understand/sympathize with characters, and whether they change over the course of new events, which they should, at least a little.
Plot will try to find the plotholes, implausibilities, etc., or it’ll judge the surprises, plot twists, etc.—how predictable the book was. Good authors might have implausibilities, but you won’t notice theirs until long after you’ve finished. Bad authors will have huge implausibilities staring you in the face until you want to sigh in exasperation and say, “It is soooo obvious that that is not possible, please explain!!”
Je ne c’est quois is a phrase that attempts to defy definition until it occurs to you to go to Wikipedia, which for me it didn’t. I asked 2 adults various times and never got a satisfactory answer. This is because je ne c’est quois is sort of the opposite of definition. It means “I don’t know what.” According to Sophie, who found a definition on Wikipedia that has evaded my grasp, je ne c’est (or sais) quois is “an intangible and indescribably quality that makes something stand out from other things that are superficially similar.” Basically, when you finish these books you’re left with a deep, warm ache. You might not actually wish to be in these worlds—think Hunger Games—but something about them left you with a wishing and a longing and a yearning. These books might not have perfect scores in the other categories, but something about them makes them shine and sparkle.
I’ll also summarize the books, but the thoroughness of the summary will depend on how surprising the book’s end is and how many spoilers a summary would contain. I’ll try my absolute hardest to give nothing away, which means my summaries might feel unsatisfying, so read the book. That is the most important thing I can tell you here. No matter who you want to be in life, it can’t hurt you to read. It can’t. It can’t. READ.
WARNING: even though I do rate on a 5-star system, don’t be surprised if there are a few extra stars (like 6/5). Some books just deserve that, especially as I can’t change my 5-star standards 50 books into my blog.
P.P.S. If you haven’t noticed…I have condensing issues ;P