My Rating System
The whole process of reviewing a book is subjective, I think you get a better understanding of what I think about a book, and whether you will like it or not, by reading the review but I know many readers appreciate the convenience of a visual ratings system.
My opinions, and thus my ratings, are based on a number of things – the most relevant being the combination of plot, character and writing style and how much each element appeals to me.
Often I compare books within a genre, rather than against another genre, which helps explain why both Jane Eyre and Harry Potter can end up with a five star rating, even though they are completely different books.
Another influence is the amount that I read – I average around 250 books a year and that cumulative amount naturally impacts on how I might feel about a book.
Sometimes I have no idea how to justify why I loved a book, or didn’t. It’s not always a rational response, but something emotional. I acknowledge that my ratings might get a boost because I was in a good mood, or might drop because I couldn’t give the book my undivided attention.
I tag my reviews with stars, that allows the reader to sort by rating if they wish, but doesn’t make it a feature of the review. I use half stars because sometimes I am torn, but often I give the book the benefit of the doubt and round up.
In terms of fiction, the thought process behind my star ratings goes something like this:
★ If it has one star it just wasn’t for me, usually it’s a combination of elements that I struggled with that led me to skim or force myself to make it through to finish it.
★★ I start at two stars as my base, because most books are fundamentally okay. This usually means I found something appealing about the book but it didn’t resonate with me. Occasionally it might be that one element was strong but another was particularly weak, sometimes I might consider it a pleasant read but ultimately un-affecting. This isn’t a “bad” rating, and probably a good third of books I read fall into this rating.
★★★ A book with three stars needs to have at least two of my “holy” trinity elements – a plot, character or writing style that appealed to me. I would consider it a good book – entertaining, or interesting as the case may be. Maybe I sighed happily when I finished, laughed in a few places, checked the doors were locked (just in case) or learnt something new.
★★★★ Four stars I reserve for those books with all of the essential elements and it left it’s mark in some way. I probably thought about it in some way on and off since I’ve finished it, mentioned it to my friends that read similar books. It was enjoyable or fascinating or just what I needed to read right then.
★★★★★To get five stars a book has to have a combination of plot, characters and style that speaks to me – a book that I would try and convince my non reader friends to borrow, that I read til 3am, that leads me to hunt down everything else the author has written. I am not all that generous with five stars so these books have my highest recommendation.
Non-Fiction I rate a little differently based on my interest in the subject, what I learnt or how accessible it was.
So really most of my ratings indicate a book is at least okay, reading my review will give you a better idea as to if you will like it or not.