On October 13, not only will it be my birthday, but it will also mark my nine month book reviewing milestone. 9 months is a lot of time to be posting reviews almost daily, but in that entire time I’ve never once explained my rating system. I had assumed that from my reviews people would gather what I meant. But then I realized that things that seem obvious to me are rarely obvious to anyone else. Therefore, I am finally going to explain my rating system.
5/5 stars: Excellent! Three dimensional characters that actually kept my interest throughout the novel, a plot that was interesting (not necessarily fast-paced) and in fantasy, believable world-building…all these are hallmarks of 5 star books. Even though I try not to be influenced by the ending, I still am. If the ending is tragic but makes sense in the context of the story, I’m fine with that. But if you’re writing a story that follows the plot of your typical opera then suddenly has a perfectly happy ending, I’m not going to be pleased.
4/5 stars: Good! There are likely excellent characters and a good plot, but the world-building may have been off or the writing style wasn’t descriptive enough or was too descriptive. Usually I describe 4 star books as good, but not great. They lack that sense of oomph! you get from the truly great novels.
3/5 stars: Meh. 3 star books are the hardest to review because you have to strike a good balance between the good and bad elements. In ‘meh’ books the characters are usually uninteresting but the plot is decent because the author pays more attention to the plot than the characters. Sometimes there’s poor writing, but there usually isn’t.
2/5 stars: Ugh. This is a ‘Why did I waste precious hours of my life reading this?’ book. 2 star books usually have vapid, stereotypical characters, boring or confusing plots and poor writing. They’re not so bad as to merit actual hatred from me, but rather disappointment. Usually they’re books with a lot of potential, but they don’t deliver.
1/5 stars: Terrible! This is reserved for books with all of the characteristics I listed in my 2 star category, but they tend to go the extra mile. By that, I mean the premise stunk, the delivery was poor, the characters were vapid and the plot made me doing time calculations by page 5. These are the truly bad books, the ones with no hope of redemption. So why don’t I give them 0/5 stars? Well, obviously the writer put in some effort to publish a novel, right? Some editor must have liked it. In self-publishing, it usually just means the author was using writing as a means of wish fulfillment.
0.5/5 stars: One of the worst books I’ve ever read! This is the lowest rating I’ve ever given out. It means that I felt something other than disappointment in the novel: it means I truly hated it. I’m not a person that has very strong emotions in general, so when a novel receives 0.5 stars, you know I truly, truly hated it. Books like these are a waste of paper and precious hours of life. They should never have made it past the slush pile or the author should never have had the determination to go the self-publishing route.
Does that clarify things a bit? For my fellow reviewers, what are your rating systems like? What’s the lowest rating you’ve ever given?