Book-blogging Terminology Glossary

Since I sometimes use somewhat specialised vocabulary in my reviews that may baffle some of my visitors I decided to set down a glossary of terms and acronyms I use that may not have made their way into mainstream dictionaries, just in case someone stumbles over them. Some I have used, some I may use later on. Most of them are used by some book-reading group or other.

In addition to this specialised vocabulary I occasionally use more general literary terms like dénouement, foreshadowing or Deus ex machina. Explanations of these can be found in many dictionaries or any good glossary of literary terms, several of which can be found on the web. Or you can use One Look or Wikipedia to look them up.

I will be adding more terms as they come along.


Bibliomystery: A mystery that features books, manuscripts, book writing, bookshops, libraries, publishers, booksellers, authors, reviewers or any other book-related subject prominently in the storyline or setting. Unfortunately the Bibliomysteries website had died, but here is a list of bibliomysteries from GoodReads.

Cosy (alt. American spelling: cozy): Short for cosy mystery. So called because they are comfortable reads. This category of mystery is generally defined as a mystery where the violence takes place off-stage and few or no gruesome descriptions are given. The setting is small, usually a country village, small town or a country house, but can be any fairly closed-off location such as a train, ship or small island. There is a small group of suspects and the detective is usually an amateur or a private investigator who solves the case by power of observation and reasoning and/or special knowledge of some subject, like human nature, literature or antiques. Cosies tend to come in series and when they do there is often a running theme involved, like a bookstore, quilting, cooking, cats, gardening or what have it. The majority of authors seem to be women and many of the sleuths are female as well. Writers include Lilian Jackson Braun, Georgette Heyer, Dorothy L. Sayers, and of course Agatha Christie, whose Miss Marple still reigns as the queen of the cosy sleuths.

50 page test: Every book deserves a fair chance and so I do not give up on reading one until I have read a minimum of 50 pages (or 2 chapters if it's a long book), whichever is the longer. By this time, the story should have taken off. If not, it goes in the DNF box (see also DNF). I usually give DNF books a second chance, but occasionally I come across one that's a wallbanger and then it's out (see Wallbanger entry.

Crime magnet: This is a series character who is the kind of person you would not expect to ever be involved in a serious crime or a criminal investigation except maybe once or twice in their lifetime (and then it's more likely to be any crime other than murder), yet they keep stumbling over corpses and investingating murders and other serious crimes over and over. I am not counting PIs among them, because although most real-life PIs never have to deal with anything worse than cheating spouses or insurance fraud, they do have some training in investigation techniques and therefore count among the professionals.

DNF: Acronym: Did Not Finish. One of the top five worst things that can happen to a reader: the book didn't hold my attention and I gave up reading it before I finished it. See also 50 Page Test.

Firstbookitis: Typical mistakes found in the works of inexperienced writers. Includes unnatural dialogue, story threads that go nowhere, disappearing characters, discrepancies, factual errors, wrong vocabulary for the era, etc.

Glom & the glomming urge: This is when you have the urge to read everything a certain author has written - often based on one or two books - that is so strong that you start mass buying their books or checking them out of the library in stacks to make sure you have them on hand when you want to read them, which may be right now or whenever

Hook: A literary device. When used early on in a story it is designed to catch the reader's attention and keep them reading (like a fish caught on a hook). When used late or at the end of a story, it is designed to get the reader interested in reading the sequel.

Howdunnit: “how did he/she/they do it?”: A mystery where finding out how the crime was committed is the most important thing. When not an element in whodunnits (see that entry), the identity of the criminal is known or strongly suspected, but proof is lacking or alibis seem bulletproof. Some examples include short stories by R. Austin Freeman about Dr. Thorndyke and by Arthur B. Reeve about Professor Craig Kennedy.

Mary Sue: A character so perfect, beautiful, wise and talented that she (or he) never makes mistakes, takes everyone's breath away and is always right. Very, very annoying. A common firstbookitis and fan fiction mistake. See Wikipedia for a further definition.

Murder magnet: See Crime magnet

Nested-doll story: A riddle inside a mystery wrapped in an enigma, or in other words: a story so full of mysteries framing other mysteries that frame yet more mysteries that they resemble a matrushka doll in their layered complexity.

Paranormal (as opposed to Supernatural): I figured I had better put in definitions of those two terms as I use them, as sometimes they seem to be used interchangeably. I use "paranormal" to refer to stuff like vampires, zombies, shapeshifters, cryptids (e.g. Nessie, yetis, jackalopes, etc.), aliens, ghosts, and also to mind powers like telapathy, telekinesis and precognition.

Perennial read: A book I reread again and again, sometimes once a year, but usually less frequently.

PI or P.I.: Private Investigator.

Reader's block: A sudden and inexplicable lack of interest in reading. May last a couple of days or a couple of years. Sometimes shows itself as a lack of interest in reading anything new. The worst thing that can happen to a true bibliophile.

Red herring: A false clue that is meant to put the reader and the sleuth off track. May be planted by the villain or may be a coincidence (i.e. planted by the author).Why it’s called a red herring

Supernatural (as opposed to Paranormal): I figured I had better put in definitions of those two terms as I use them, as sometimes they seem to be used interchangeably. When I use "supernatural" to describe something, I am generally referring to phenomena like magic, prophesy, miracles, the afterlife and other phenomena believed to exist but unprovable by science.

TBR: Acronym. To Be Read. Books I plan to read. Also sometimes referred to as “the stack”.

TSTL: Acronym: Too Stupid To Live. A term borrowed from romance fan vocabulary that describes supposedly sane and sensible characters who behave in such an unbelievably stoopid fashion that they deserve to die for it (and often nearly do). Tempe Brennan in Déja Dead is a good example, as are most heroines in gothic novels.

Wallbanger: A book that started out well and passed the 50 page test, but then became so annoying, terrible or otherwise unacceptable that I didn't just stop reading it - I threw it at the wall and then put it in the recycling bin. I have on a couple of occasions finished such books, but I regretted it sorely afterwards.

Watson: The principal side-kick or helper of a sleuth or detective, named after Dr. Watson in the Sherlock Holmes stories.

Whodunnit: Also spelled whodunit. “who done it?”: A mystery that is about finding out who committed the crime. The classic premise for mysteries. Most whodunnits have howdunit elements and some also have whydunnit elements.

Whydunnit: Also spelled whydunit. “why (they) done it?”: Usually an element in a whodunnit, but the occasional example can be found without a whodunnit element. When independent of a whodunnit, it is a story about finding out why a known criminal committed a crime. These stories usually have a strong psychological element.