Sexy, steamy, or downright raunchy — how do you rate THOSE scenes?

Has this happened to you?

You’re reading a pleasantly romantic book, eagerly turning pages, enjoying the building chemistry… and WHAM! Suddenly, you feel like you’re either in (a) an anatomy classroom or (b) the gynecologist’s office? So many body parts. So much fluid (ick). So many, many, many specifics.

Now, granted, tastes vary GREATLY by reader. The moaning and slipperiness that send me running for the hills are absolutely what other readers look for in their romance fiction. All tastes are valid! I’m body-positive, I swear!!

I just prefer my reading to leave certain things more to the imagination, ya know?

When I write reviews of romance fiction, I’ve struggled to find a clear way to let readers know what to expect. And that’s key for me actually — just tell me what to expect!! If I know a certain book has sex scenes that are way more graphic than I prefer, then I can decide for myself ahead of time if I want to read it. (And sometimes I will anyway, because the story or characters interest me enough to give it a try — but at least that way, I’m going into it fully aware of what I’m reading).

I did a bit of Googling, and haven’t found too many consistent approaches. Some of what I’ve found:

Open door/closed door: Pretty much what it sounds like. The door in question is the bedroom door, of course! Open door means the scene will show everything — the metaphorical door is wide open and we’re welcome to watch it all, in technicolor details. Closed door, on the other hand, means we may see some build-up, but once the action really kicks in, we’re left to imagine for ourselves what’s happening on the other side of the door.

Clean: When people talk about clean books, sometimes they’re talking about sex (i.e., nothing more than mild kissing at most), and sometimes the implication goes beyond that, to include everything from swearing to smoking to drinking. My spidey-senses tell me that readers looking for “clean” books often have a more religious standard in mind than I’m comfortable with, so this isn’t a descriptor I’d ever use on my own.

Movie ratings: I’ve seen some book reviews that use the MPAA rating systems as a guideline — G, PG, PG-13, R, NC-17. In some ways, that’s fairly clear and easy to understand… but as a tool for distinguishing between different ways sex is portrayed in fiction, I’m not sure it’s all that helpful. X-rated or NC-17 makes it sound like porn, which isn’t what I’m talking about.

A few other variations I’ve come across:

All About Romance’s sensuality rating system — ranging from N/A to Burning.

Book Cave’s rating system — All Ages, Mild, Mild+, Moderate, Moderate+, Adult, and Adult+. (Interesting, but their system factors in alcohol, violence, profanity, and horror, as well as sexual content, and that’s well beyond the scope of what I care about)

Here’s a raunch rating scale I found on Reddit, which seems pretty practical.

I’m still unsure.

But… I’m thinking something along these lines:

Sweet: Kissing, cuddling, clothes on. Think Hallmark movie dating scene — cute, innocent, lightly flirty.

Suggestive: The flirtation becomes more physical — make-out scenes, caresses, breathlessness, mostly clothed action, driving each other crazy. Getting hot, but not seriously heavy.

Steamy: Bedroom scenes, but from a more zoomed out perspective. We know enough to know what’s going on — actions, positions, interactions, clothing removal — but no camera lens up close and personal.

Graphic: The aforementioned anatomy class / gynecologist’s office scenario. Everything is shown. Lots of fluids, lots of sounds, lots of swollen… well, everything.

What do you think? What am I missing? Would have a ratings scale for these type of scenes be helpful to you as a reader?

As I’ve said, I’m not a prude, I think sex is a good and positive thing when it’s between enthusiastically consenting people, and I believe strongly that people should read whatever appeals to them. I fervently oppose censorship! And I think “smutty” books and erotica are perfectly valid forms of expression, and I support people’s right to read whatever appeals to them.

And yet… I know my own tastes when it comes to what I do and do not want to read — and at this stage in my life, I’d rather know ahead of time that that cute-looking romance I was about to pick up is actually on the graphic end of the scale, thank you very much.

Do you have a scale you use or have come across to describe this kind of content? Do you see a value in it?

I’d love to hear other opinions on this!!

Blogging: Any favorite WordPress themes?

I’m thinking about themes.

I’ve been using the same WordPress theme (Adelle) on my blog for several years now, and while I like it, I think my eyes are just getting a little tired of looking at it!

I’m thinking that it’s time to select a new theme, but it’s not as easy as I thought it would be. There are so many to choose from!

Here’s what I’m looking for:

  • A simple, clean layout
  • Being able to keep my header image without any words superimposed over them
  • Keeping the widgets in a right-hand column
  • A simple menu bar
  • No borders — I think it’s the black background on my current theme that bugging me right now, but when I experiment with making it white or a different color, I don’t like it. I’d like a format that’s the width of the page (if that makes sense — I’m not up on layout terminology!)

Here’s what I don’t want:

  • Excerpts with a “read more” link. I like to see full posts displayed on the home page.
  • Magazine style layout — an image grid on the home page that you have to click through to read the content.
  • Lots of fuss. No built-in images or graphics that can’t be changed.

WordPress used to display the theme name at the bottom of a blog’s home page, but I notice that’s not displayed any more, which is frustrating. When I visit other folks’ blogs, I’m always on the lookout for great layouts and themes!

So, for all you WordPress bloggers — any suggestions? Any particular themes you especially like? Do you know of any that might suit what I’m looking for?

I’ve spent a bunch of hours so far this week playing around with demos of different themes, but I’m just not finding anything (yet) that makes me happy.

Any recommendations would be much appreciated!

Oh my stars! Part 2 – Yes, I’m adding a ratings system.

Twinkle, twinkle little star. NOW I’ve decided to include you when I write book reviews…

Following up from my post last weekend, I think I’m going to give using a ratings system a whirl. Can’t hurt, right? Thank you to all who took the time to share thoughts and offer insights and encouragement — it’s been so helpful.


I’m just quietly going to start using stars when I post book reviews. And if I like it, I’ll keep it going!

Here’s a quick look at what my ratings mean:

And now, off to put my stars into action! Let me know what you think!


Oh my stars! Reconsidering a ratings system.

Twinkle, twinkle little star. How I wonder whether I should include you when I write book reviews…

Sorry, is that not how the nursery rhyme goes?

About five years ago, I wrote a piece about star ratings and why I don’t use one (here). Looking back, I can see I did some serious overthinking of the issue. But hey, that’s not so unusual for me!

I’ve been blogging and reviewing books for over seven (!!!) years now, and from the beginning, I opted not to include a rating with my reviews. I’ve often felt boxed-in by the Goodreads 5-star system (oh, for those half stars they deny us!), and felt that the approach that works best for me is to put my reactions and feelings about a book into the review, and not try to attach a number to what is essentially a qualitative experience.

So why am I bringing this up again now?

Because I realize that my approach may be a little contrary to how I read other people’s reviews. Okay, I’ll admit the stark truth here: While I don’t use stars (or any other numeric ratings system), I do find myself scanning other people’s reviews to see their ratings before I go ahead and read the reviews themselves. There could be lots of reasons for this:

  • It’s a book I’ve never heard of, so I want to know at a glance if it’s worth considering.
  • It’s a book I’m reading or planning to read, and while I don’t want to know anything about it just yet (the dreaded spoiler phobia at work), I do want to know the reviewer’s overall opinion of the book.
  • I’m in a rush. I do follow quite a few bloggers and some days, there just isn’t time to read everything in my feed. But, if I see that a blogger whose reading tastes usually align with mine gives a book 5 stars, I’ll slow down and read that review to see if the book is for me.

Give that I value other bloggers’ ratings, how do I continue posting reviews without including ratings as well?

I’m cautiously dipping my toes into the idea of adding ratings to my reviews going forward. (Sorry, mixed metaphor, but whatever.) It feels like a big change for me, but also like not quite as big a deal as I once made it out to be.

What do you think? For anyone who’s read any of my reviews… well, first of all, thank you! But secondly — would you prefer to see me include ratings with my reviews? Overall, do you prefer to see ratings when you visit book blogs?

Please share your thoughts!

We interrupt this program…

Bookshelf Fantasies is taking some time off this week. I’m away from home due to a loss in the family. I originally thought I’d find time to keep up with my normal blogging schedule, but it hasn’t quite happened that way.

So, no Monday Check-In or Shelf Control this week. I may pop in here and there if I feel inspired to write a book review. Meanwhile, I have plenty of books on my Kindle, and right now I’m enjoying my first-ever read of Anne of Green Gables!

I hope to be back on track as of next week. Meanwhile, some kitties and a rainbow to brighten the day!

rainbow kittie

Off I go… see you soon!

My bags are packed, I’m ready to go.

It’s vacation time!

I’ll be away for the next few weeks — although perhaps not really entirely off-line. Because hey, there’s still the internet, wherever I go!

I’m off on a multi-part trip, first stop New York, where I’ll be doing THIS:

and also:

Yup, two Tony-award-winning shows over three days. Woooo!

Since I’m traveling with my teen-aged son, we’ll also be doing some top 10 tourism, like the Empire State Building, Central Park, and (if I can convince him), the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

From there, we’ll spend a few days visiting family in the area, before getting on yet another plane to go visit my husband’s family… and spend (I hope) a bunch of glorious days at the beach, enjoying sun, sand, good food, and plenty of books!

I won’t be posting on a regular basis, and I won’t be doing a whole lot of visiting other blogs and saying hello — but somehow I have a feeling that I won’t be completely absent either. No commitments!

And now I’m off to make sure my Kindle is charged and my designated beach paperbacks are stuffed into my suitcase.

Happy Summer!

Shelf Control is taking a little break!

Shelves final

I have some family visits and travel plans for the next few weeks, and while I may still do some blogging, I won’t be able to stick to a schedule or keep up with my regular weekly features. Shelf Control will be offline for about 4 weeks, returning in early July.

But, please, do me a favor! If you write a Shelf Control piece, I’d love it if you’d leave me a link here in the comments, so when I get back, I can catch up on everything I’ve missed!

Wishing you all a wonderful start to summer. See you soon!














An update on Thursday Quotables

Hi there, lovely readers!

Several years ago, I started up a weekly feature here at Bookshelf Fantasies called Thursday Quotables:


Welcome to Thursday Quotables! This weekly feature is the place to highlight a great quote, line, or passage discovered during your reading each week.  Whether it’s something funny, startling, gut-wrenching, or just really beautifully written, Thursday Quotables is where my favorite lines of the week will be, and you’re invited to join in!

For anyone who pays attention to such things, you may have noticed that I’ve really slacked off when it comes to weekly posts. In fact, I just realized that my last Thursday Quotables post was for Thankgsgiving — and even then, it was a repost of a holiday favorite, not a brand-new “quotable” discovery.

So what’s going on?

Well, the answer is simply that I’ve lost a little motivation when it comes to doing TQ posts according to a fixed weekly schedule. I’m finding that when I come across lines or quote that I love in whatever books I’m reading, I tend to go ahead and include them in my review posts. Or else, I get so caught up when I’m reading an amazing book that I don’t stop to highlight or flag the parts I want to come back to, because I’m focused on the reading itself and not thinking about posting about the reading.

At this point, I think I need to acknowledge that I’m not going to keep up with Thursday Quotables as a weekly blogging event here on my blog. When inspiration strikes, I’m sure I’ll continue to do occasional TQ posts, but I’d rather not feel like I need to hold myself to a schedule.

For those of you who participate in Thursday Quotables… well, great! Keep going! Come back and share your links with me, either here or on social media, whenever you feel like it. I’d love to see what you’re up to.

This isn’t good-bye for Thursday Quotables… maybe it’s more like “see ya when I see ya”!

Of course, if anyone is interested in “adopting” Thursday Quotables and taking it on as a new host, send me a message and let me know. Meanwhile, I’ll continue my TQ posts… when I feel like it.

Ah, the freedom!

Summertime slacking

Summertime, and the living is easy… or so I’ve heard.

And although I’m not lazing away my summer days on tropical beaches, I am trying to do a bit of relaxing and refreshing. Between my time away in early June for family matters, work craziness, and lots of upcoming projects and planning, I find myself in desperate need of more down time.

And so…

I’m planning to slack off a bit and cut back on my blogging commitments. Specifically, I’m putting the two memes I host each week, Shelf Control and Thursday Quotables, on a bit of a break. Have no fear — they shall return! Meanwhile, I’m looking forward to reading whatever I feel like, posting on my blog according to my whims, and living commitment-free for a couple of months…

Okay, not exactly commitment-free. I still have a job and a family, places to go and people to see. But for July and August, I’m letting myself off the hook in terms of the need to stick to a weekly posting schedule.

Aaaaah. I can practically feel the sun on my face and the wind in my hair!

Welcome back, glorious summer!

I’m baaaaaaaack!

Hello all!

It’s been a long 2 1/2 weeks, but…

Unfortunately, my time away wasn’t exactly a vacation. I was on the east coast, working with other family members to relocate our aging parents and settle them into a nursing home. This ended up involving interstate flights, wheelchair transportation, nursing aides, moving trucks, visits to hospitals, and transferring medical records, but in the end, we made it.

Good company and a few glasses of wine certainly helped.

I’ve been completely absent from my own blog, and definitely have been checked out from the world of social media, following anyone else’s blog posts, and all that other good stuff to be found on the interwebs.

But hey, I’m back!

I did manage to read a ton while I was gone, thanks to all those flights (and a few sleepless nights). I think I’ll do a bunch of mini-reviews to catch up on all the books I read. Some were great, some only so-so, but I’ll try to share thoughts on all over the next few days, in between trying to catch up on everything I missed at home and going back to work after a couple weeks away.

Bette Davis supposedly said:

(I say “supposedly”, because I’ve seen 3 or 4 different versions of this attributed to her, and haven’t found the definitive version yet.)

In any case, old age ain’t for sissies, but neither is being the folks making all the arrangements! I have to say that I feel lucky and blessed to have had some wonderful family members to partner with to make it all happen.

And now, I’m taking a few deep breaths and diving back into my normal, day-to-day life.

It’s great to be home!