Book Recommendations and Ratings

A couple of things have been happening to me since Boundary Crossed had the big release. First, I’ve been making an effort to “get out there” more, which means meeting more people and making some connections with other UF writers. This especially applies to independent authors. My books aren’t actually self-published, but I’ve recently met a lot of self-published authors who are kind of phenomenal. They know how to promote themselves, they help each other out, and they let me tag along. These are not the “A Velociraptor Boned my Billionaire Boyfriend” self-published crowd; these are serious professionals whose sales generally leave mine in the dust. These are the same people who encouraged me to get on Pinterest, where I have now lost many happy hours.

Second, I’ve started to pay a little more attention to the topic of a book’s “spiciness.” I’ve been talking about sexual content in urban fantasy in some form or another for awhile now —I’ve long felt that a lot of people automatically dismiss female authors of urban fantasy who have sex in their books, as if having sex/romance in a novel automatically makes it disgusting trash. Personally, I don’t write sex in my books for two reasons: first, I don’t think I’m all that good at it (I run out of synonyms), and secondly, I’m a movie kid. I went to film school. Part of my brain just prefers to function in that audience-happy PG-13 zone.

Okay, there’s probably also a third reason: I’m not all that mature of a person. I still snicker when I see the word “nipples.” Probably not the best person to write erotic scenes.

So yes, I’ve been interested in the subject for awhile, but I’ve mostly just written what I wanted, read what I wanted, and advised others to do the same. It was only when I read the reviews for Boundary Crossed (many praised the lack of sex in the novel; a few bemoaned it) and started meeting other UF writers online that I really noticed how concerned some readers get about the amount of sexual content in books. Not violence, mind you —no one cares how much violence—but the sex. A lot of people don’t like it in their books. They find it distracting and emotionally manipulative and maybe just kind of shocking. I can respect that. Some people, on the other hand, get really upset if a book doesn’t have enough sex. They feel that sex is a realistic part of adult life, not to mention something that most adults think about and participate in, so leaving it out just feels inauthentic. And maybe they get a little turned on by sexy books, and enjoy that aspect of reading them. I can respect that, too. In my humble opinion, people should read what they want, and write what they want, and the audience will sort itself out.

But the problem for readers is: in the post-50 Shades world how do you know what you’re getting into when you open a new book? After all, although movies, television, and video games all have a ratings system, and music often comes with warnings, there really isn’t anything for books out there. So, because I am basically a belligerent person who does what she wants, I made up my own (more or less stolen from the MPAA system, with less corruption). Then I asked the authors in question to choose where they would categorize their books, and added some titles that I’ve read and could rate myself. And now I’ve made those book recommendations available to YOU, through the wonderful world of Pinterest.
So, here’s the ratings system:

Pepper System

To give you an example, all of my books fall into the Two Pepper category.

Now, before you dive in to my recommendations (linked below) here are a few caveats:

1. These titles are the first in the series and its rating. This does NOT guaranty that future installments would have the same rating; i.e., book four might be spicier than book 1. You’ve been warned.

2. If a book is on this list, either I have read it and personally liked it, and/or I have met the author and personally like him or her. I’m still working on reading through this list myself; therefore, this is not an endorsement of the quality of these books. I like to think that all my friends are brilliant, but it is technically possible that there are duds on here, or, more likely, a title you might not like as much as another.

Please remember that the point of this list is to give you an idea of the sexual content of an urban fantasy story I hope you’ll enjoy. Even if you don’t enjoy a particular title, I ask that you be respectful and allow for the fact that even if a book isn’t your cup of tea, it may well be someone else’s. In other words, please don’t leave a comment along the lines of “Oh, [Book Title] is total crap!” That’s what Goodreads is for.

3. I welcome comments on this blog from readers suggesting titles, but please know that I will investigate them before adding them on. So just because you comment with a title and I don’t respond right away, that doesn’t mean I didn’t see it or disregarded it. I just have a few things going on.

4. If you are an author and you’d like me to add your book to one of these lists, please send me an email at MelissaFOlson@gmail.com introducing yourself and giving me the pepper rating. I’ll probably at least read the Kindle sample before adding your book, however, so I’d ask for your patience, too.

5. I’ll be adding to this page as long as I keep reading and getting suggestions, so you may want to bookmark your preferred pepper rating and check back when you need a book!

One Pepper Books

Two Pepper Books

Three Pepper Books

Four Pepper Books

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9 Comments

  1. Absolutely spot on! I was just reading what could be a silly/funny series from Cynthia St. Aubin, except the sex scenes take over to the wearying point. This is the exact reason I didn’t finish 50 Shades…I completely agree with Stokely above.
    On another note I’m now late for work as I’ve discovered your damn website. So glad though that I did – in the words of the immortal Donna (Suits) ‘you’re weird – we’ll be friends’ 🙂

  2. I like the rating system you developed. I think it would be interesting to see if Goodreads could get on board with a system like this and start including it alongside reviews.
    When I was a kid I burned through all the young adult books (there weren’t many good ones at the time) so I went to the adult sections in search of more complex stories. A couple of books provided more than my pre-teen sensibilities were prepared for. (Wizard’s First Rule). I’ve since recovered. And while I’m now an adult who doesn’t mind sexual content in stories, I still don’t write it, for the exact same reasons you have listed. It’s fun to find a like-minded author.

    • Alex: I did something VERY similar when I was a kid, only the unfortunate book I found was something kind of tribal about a god named Kokopelli…? I still don’t remember the name, and I’m sure it’s a great book for adults, but MAN was I scandalized. 🙂

  3. Neat idea. I’ve thought about rating systems in the past, mostly wishing that there was something universal that we could all look to. Like a global open source rating system (yeah, I’m a tech geek). The most obvious, ubiquitous thing (in the U.S.) is using the MPAA movie rating system, so I like how you’ve integrated that into your pepper ratings.

    In other news, I’ve tagged you participate in the Liebster Award. Hopefully I’ve made it fun to participate with the questions that I posed for you to answer.

    Take a peek, see if you want to join in. No pressure — do it now, do it later, do it never. If nothing else, know this: I think you’re great and enjoy you! 😉

    http://www.teddideppner.com/2015/06/the-liebster-award/

  4. I’ve started writing reviews for allthingsuf.com (I reviewed Boundary Crossed there) and one of the things that attracted me to that website to begin with was the sexual content portion of the review. That way I could know what I was getting into. I like your rating system though. There were a couple books on the one and two list that I was interested in that have now been bumped up higher on my list now that I know their “spiciness”

  5. Well as said on Facebook, I like the rating system. I’ll also throw in my two cents with regards to sex scenes. They have to serve a purpose to move the story along…
    Explosion of lust after a bunch of setbacks or interruptions-good. Changed hormonal balance makes one horny all the time- good. Stuff like that is good.
    It’s bad (imho) when it adds nothing but actually disrupts the flow of the story, or is gratuitous without cause. The show banshee lost me after the first episode because of a unnecessary oral scene. It wasn’t the sex I had a problem with (I’m still a guy), but the fact that the oral added nothing to the story, the plot, etc.
    That’s when it’s bad sex

    • Excellent note. I sat in on a panel about sex in literature (any genre) at AWP, and one of the panelists said that you should never put in a sex scene unless it tells us something that can’t be expressed in any other way. Throwing two attractive people together just so they can bone –not interesting. But for a character who has been timid, quiet, and passive to suddenly express her demands in the bedroom–that’s interesting. That tells us something about her that we couldn’t learn outside of the bedroom.

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