Recently, I was asked the question “How or why you rate books the way you do? What makes something a five star read? Or a 4 or a 3, 2, 1…” Talk about timing. I’d been considering writing a post about this very topic. It wasn’t until I was asked the question that I realized it was worthy of a post.
Anyone who’s been following my blog since the beginning might remember I didn’t rate in the beginning. Call it inexperience on my part. The blog evolved and I felt it necessary to start a rating system. If you’ve noticed I’ve NEVER rated any book less than a 3. Why? Well, in the beginning, I purposely chose only bestselling books which were truly 4 or 5 star reads. My intent in writing a blog was twofold. One, I wanted to share my love of books with others. If I hated a book, why would I share that with someone else? It’s not like I was about to recommend reading a dreadful book. Second, I was educating myself as a future author. I wanted to know what made a book worthy of a 4 or 5 star.
My Rating System: (Hands are equivalent to stars!)
(5 Hands=Excellent; 4 Hands=Pretty Good; 3 Hands=Good)
My basis for a 5-Hands read consists of: 1. The book was well-written, 2. The book resonated with me on some level, and 3. The characters were well-developed and believable. Three simple qualifications, right? Well, what do I mean by resonate? Ever finish a book and three days later you’re still thinking about it? A good book will do that for you. Those are the books that if there’s a pending sequel, I don’t HAVE to re-read to refresh my memory. I WANT to read those books again and again and again. If I reviewed through an ARC, I’ll buy the e-book when it drops. If there’s a chance to get a signed copy, I’ll buy it. I want that book on my shelf permanently.
So what knocks a book down to a 4-Hands read? Something was off for me. Maybe it was the language (I’m not talking about swear words. I’m good with that unless they seem inappropriate for the character or the story itself.). Maybe the characters didn’t seem completely believable, but they were LIKABLE. Maybe the book wasn’t as polished as it could have been (not necessarily grammatical errors either), but I enjoyed the premise or the plot itself. These are the books that may or may not linger in my memory.
And then, there’s the 3-Hands read… These are the books I WANTED to like. The blurb drew me in and I thought WOW. But then, I started reading it and the wow factor quickly died. The writing might be a little off, or the characters just didn’t do it for me at all. Maybe it was the wrong genre for me. If there’s a book two, I probably won’t be reading it. The book, however, might be something someone else might enjoy.
In cases of two stars or even one star reads, I won’t bash the book and I won’t review it. It’s easier to send a quick email to the author. If I received the book through an ARC program, I’ll thank him or her for the opportunity. I’ll discuss what I liked about the book, but explain how it wasn’t for me. Remember what I said about ‘wrong genre’? This happens when you’re open to discovering other types of books. Sometimes you find an author in a new genre that appeals to you. Then you go to read another book in that genre by a different author and hit the epic fail button. It wasn’t the genre you were interested in. It was the author’s work. The book that didn’t do it for me doesn’t deserve to be bashed or criticized.
The important take away—sometimes books don’t rate higher than a 3 because they didn’t work for ME.
I no longer read only bonafide bestsellers. Some books on that list don’t do it for me (I’ll be nice and not mention titles). If the book wasn’t part of an ARC, I have no obligation to explain why the book didn’t do it for me. But I do have a responsibility, as a fellow author and an avid reader, to not bash books or authors. It’s a free country. We write what we choose to write. We read what we choose to read. No one’s holding a gun up to anybody’s head. It’s called respect, pure and simple.
I once read someone’s post on Facebook that there were very few truly worthy five star reads. The person claimed that s/he had been around for a while and knew what they spoke of. I think that person missed the point of rating. It’s a SUBJECTIVE process. No two people view a work of art (Picasso, Rembrandt, etc.) the same way. No two people hear music the same way. Everyone has a different experience watching the SAME movie. It’s incorrect for anyone to walk away and say something wasn’t worthy of acclaim as a blanketed statement to the masses. It’s correct to say THAT movie, book, painting, etc. doesn’t do it for YOU. (The same reason why I don’t base my reading choices off of the reviews of others.)
Now if you state ‘I don’t give out a 5-star rating because I believe that’s a status only for Classic Literature’, then you are sharing your opinion. You’re someone who feels that current literature must hold itself up to the same standards as Faulkner, Dickens, and the crew. I won’t knock your opinion, so don’t knock mine. Like I said, it’s all about respect. And that’s what I’m trying to foster with this blog. You don’t have to agree with me. That’s fine. It’s your opinion. I RESPECT that. Hey, if we all saw eye-to-eye, I’d suspect that we were all less than human.
Just my humble opinion…