Writing book reviews makes me insecure when it comes to awarding stars. Hence this post on the official Insecure Writer’s Support Group day.
At one point, in the dim past, it seemed simple: if it was a book that I would re-read, then it earned five stars, like J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. If it was a disappointment, then it earned three (or less). Nothing earned less, as one and two star books didn’t get past the initial blurb-opening-cover test – although I admit to a few mistakes.
Anyway, here’s my latest guide to the Stars based on reviewing as a fellow writer and as a reader.
One Star: The author managed the awesome feat of publishing a book.
Two Stars: Published and with almost no formatting/proof-reading/typo/spelling errors etcetera.
Three Stars: Published, error-free-ish, and with a logical, understandable plotline. Okay read.
Four Stars: As three, plus engaging story, characters, setting, and well-crafted sub-plots. Recommended read.
Five Stars: Not just a recommended read, but a book that demonstrates the craft of writing. Enjoyable and inspirational.
Although this star system avoids judging books against each other, which I hate doing, there is one major problem with this rating method. My review tomorrow demonstrates that failing. What score should I give a book that deserves five stars, is a ‘read-again’ book, and demands that I work through it looking for the clever techniques that the writer used. Do I need to have a Six Star grade?
I remember doing that when I got to the end of Agatha Christie’s The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. I needed to know how she had got away with Rule 1 of the 10 Rules of Golden Age Detective Fiction, producing a clever twist ending that worked. Of course, that rule is now broken in many instances, as are many others.
Anyway, I’m not sure how I will apply my Stars grading to non-fiction, but what are your measures of a fiction book’s qualities? Do you avoid giving five stars? Do you want to give five stars to most books that you choose to read? Have you ever given a book one star, even if it was mine?
The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. We post our thoughts on our own blogs. We talk about our doubts and the fears we have conquered. We discuss our struggles and triumphs. We offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling.
Please visit others in the group and connect with my fellow writers.
Let’s rock the neurotic writing world!
Our Twitter hashtag is #IWSG
And be sure to check out our Facebook group –https://www.facebook.com/groups/IWSG13/
The awesome co-hosts for the June 1st posting of the IWSG are Murees Dupe, Alexia Chamberlynn, Chemist Ken, and Heather Gardner.
I hate having to rate books. I tend to give 4 or 5 stars to most books as I generally find something I like about most things I read. To be honest, I don’t pay that much attention to stars on Amazon reviews that I read other than noting whether 1 and 2 stars dominate. Then, I’ll probably give that book a miss.
Hi Ellen. I agree about not paying attention to the stars, as I focus on the reviews. But I am wary of too many one star reviews. Ignore those that just give stars and nothing else.
You know what? I think the 5-star rating doens’t make sense. I know everybody use it, but I don’t think it make sense anyway. Think for example to Goodreads. Thousends of people rate books and every single person has their own code. The some of those code really tell nothign to me, because everything’s so subjective.
Now a grood review, well thought out and with plenty of evidence in support of an opinion, that’s something valuable. And it has nothing to do with starts.
I agree that the stars make no sense…unless you know what the reviewer’s rating system is. The review is where the real substance is. Problem is that the star rating is a requirement and some people feel it means something.
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Very interesting rating system. I only ever post a review if I think the book is a 4 or a 5 star. I don’t want to take away from another author’s success. Also, I may like or not like a book depending on the mood I’m in. I started a book once, and thought boring, so I put it down. A year later, I picked it up again and loved it. What if I’d written a review saying the book was boring, when in reality, it was me who couldn’t concentrate? That’s when I decided I would only post positive reviews. If I don’t like a book I keep my thoughts secret….
Good approach, Kristina. I tend to do the same if I’m struggling with a book; especially as I try to be selective before I buy it and even start turning pages. Mood plays a role.
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I know my stars are based on personal enjoyment. It might be error free and people love it, but it depresses me therefore I can’t give it a high rating. Yeah, it’s not a judgement of the book’s quality, but it’s a rating of how much I liked it. Perhaps that’s the bad thing with reviews.
Personal opinion is what really counts, Loni. Although I dislike reviews that criticize the writer and writing because they the reader struggled, and then don’t put it in context. Seen too many of those.
For a long time I shied away from writing reviews, but I know how important they are, especially to indie writers, so I’ve started writing them. I’ll only write a review if I liked the book. It’s hard to tell anything about a book from just the star rating system because it’s so subjective. Everyone has their own rating ideas to go with the number of stars.
It’s hard to make out what some people intend with their stars if they don’t write a review. I’ve read good reviews with three stars = confusing, but understandable.
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Exactly. When people say “I really liked the book” but only give it three stars, it leaves me scratching my head.