desertisland-300x200 I have always been stingy with my A’s and I found with reviewing the expectancy of the grade weighs on me more. Why? Because I have been on the other side. In the past, my anticipation has skyrocketed over a five star or A rating, only to end in disappointment. My first experience with romance book ratings occurred with Romantic Times magazine. Now four and a half star ratings were fairly common but five stars or 4 1/2G only happened once in a blue moon. Upon seeing a five star review, I was determined to find the book come hell or high water. Just that rating had me pulling out my small discretionary income and buying it. It must be fabulous, because it got a five star rating. However, more often than not, I didn’t agree with the grades there, and was quite let down.

Sometimes I wonder if giving an A/DIK creates too much expectation, making it almost impossible for the book to live up to its grade. Finally, I realized that the bigger the hype the bigger the disappointment, leaving me leery and almost jaded about the high ratings. So when I think of giving an A grade, I tend to ask myself “can this book stand up to the expectations that a DIK rating gives?”

I shared my opinion with the AAR staff, and we had a lively discussion. I am sure that some people thought I was saying that they graded too easily, which was not the case. But I did wonder if we all considered a DIK the same thing. Officially, we here at AAR consider A-range books to be books that are among the best we have read. However, interpretations of what that means can differ, and so I gave mine and asked for theirs.

I stated “A DIK book to me is the best of the best. B+ are better than average, even great but an “A” book has to be more than the easily given five star ratings on Amazon. It is a book that I finish, and immediately start reading all or parts of it again. It is a book that I think about long after I finish it. It is a magical, touching book that makes me laugh or makes me cry. The characters seem like friends. And of course it spoils me for other books.”

I used To Kill a Mockingbird as an example of a book that is a DIK. While most agreed that is a great book, Blythe said it best when she stated that every book didn’t have to be as good as To Kill a Mockingbird since to many it was an A+ book and there was more room at the top for A- and A books.

Maggie: “To me a DIK goes beyond a good book I like. It is a book that is well written, that is at the top of its genre, that makes me think. When I shut the book, even if I don’t pick it right back up it sticks with me. I think about it. I am both anxious to get to the finish because I want to see how it ends and sad when I get there because the experience is over. I’ve stopped during the reading a few times because I needed time to process. A DIK isn’t just a read, it’s an event in a lot of ways. I know I have something special. Not all of them will be To Kill A Mockingbird but they will be memorable in their own right, meaningful, something I am proud to recommend.”

Wendy: My definition of a DIK is a book that I read as fast as I can because I can’t stop, but wish I could put down because I know it’ll kill me when it’s over. DIKs also spoil me for other books, the effect sometimes lasting for weeks so that all other books suck in comparison. I know a book is a DIK when as I close the back cover I hug the book and sigh.

Pat: “A DIK is a book I would read over again, often a comfort read, something that sticks to my mind and that I’ll share with my romance-reading daughter and anyone who asks, “Read anything good lately?” Or it’s my answer to “Romances are just trash reading.” I think about the characters in a DIK as real people, people whom I like and who live on in my mind. Usually they are people for whom I evolve an after-book life. I get a solid sense of place from DIKs and when I visit a real setting for a DIK, I recognize places and remember scenes that took place at those places. All in all, however, I give a sigh or a smile, or wipe my eyes at the end of a DIK and wish that more pages would magically appear so I could keep reading. A DIK on an island would make the island disappear.”

Louise: “A book that makes me laugh and cry, that I want to reread the minute I finish it, books where both the hero and heroine are perfectly portrayed, books that can make me a fan of a genre that isn’t in my comfort zone, a book where when the phone rings and it’s my friend – I’m a bit startled that it wasn’t a character from the story instead because I was so immersed.”

LinnieGayl: “For me, a DIK is definitely one I want to re-read (and I do re-read many favorites). It also is a book that touches my emotions and has me thinking about the characters and the plot when life interrupts my reading. The characters in my DIKs are vivid and well-developed, and the plot holds my attention throughout. When I’m reading a DIK, I know it because I squeeze out extra reading time. If it’s a DIK in audio, I’ll sit in my car in the grocery parking lot, in the parking garage at work, listening for a few extra minutes before finally turning off my car. If it’s a print DIK, I’ll stay up late reading it and will sneak a peek at the Kindle version during random moments at work or meetings.”

Lee: “To me a DIK is a book I find hard to put down while I am reading it and when I am done, I say to myself “that was a GOOD book.” And I will keep it to re-read it at some point in the future, whether months or years.”

Lynn: “DIKs are books that are very memorable for me. Would I read this book again and would I give this one to other people? Since I almost never re-read, it makes a good test for me.”

Blythe stated “To me a DIK is a near perfect book. That doesn’t necessarily mean I will re-read it, but then I rarely re- read anything ever.”

Dabney: “A- books aren’t perfect but they’re damn good, way better than most. That’s how I see it.”

Rike: “For me, a DIK is a book that enthralls me completely, so much that I end up devouring it (preferably in one sitting). In addition it’s a book that I feel I may wish to reread, and one that I recommend heartily. But the really important point is the devouring. I must feel breathless while reading it.”

Heather S: “I will readily admit that I am stingy with my A – level grades. For me, it’s not about perfect grammar or tight plotting, though those elements help. I have to feel fully engaged in the author’s world. I need to truly care what happens to the characters. And I absolutely must be taken on an emotional journey. When an author can bring those qualities together in such a way that it leaves me wanting more, that’s when a book goes on my keeper shelf.”

Jean: “My DIKs are the books that I’ll still agree with in 20 years. And actually, looking back at all my DIKs, both personal and at AAR, I stand by most of them.”

So it looks like we all pretty much agree on what is a DIK book. Do we grade alike? No, just like your teachers in school, the way we grade, and what impresses or touches us, varies. But you can rest assured that when a reviewer gives a DIK rating, the book was special to her.

Now it is your turn. What is your definition of a DIK? Are you generous or miserly with your “A” ratings? What do you think when you see a book that has a DIK rating? Are you filled with great expectations or do you pass it off as hype? Do you buy a new to you author based on a DIK rating? Or do you need some assurance that this is an author you will like? If you see a DIK in a genre that you normally don’t read, are you tempted to give the book a try?

– Leigh Davis