Personally, I believe in order to create a successful platform to review media on, some ground rules need to be set. Most importantly, it’s important to talk about how you’re going to review the media. Setting these rules both helps your audience understand where you’re coming from and gives you a base point of guidelines for your reviews—which, on a much more personal note, is extremely helpful for people like me who are drawn to forgetfulness and going off on tangents.
My process for reviewing books involves a breaking down of the piece in several different categories, as well as a 5 star rating system scale. I like to break down books because it justifies the rating and gives it a lot of concrete context for how I came to my final decision. I also choose to rate on a 5 star scale as I think that’s easiest for simplifying the decision, and to be quite honest, it’s just what I’m used to—especially after having used Shelfari and Goodreads for years.
So let’s break down my reviewing process!
The plot is one of the primary elements I look at in a book. It’s the essence of the story at its base level. I look at how captivating it is, how it impacts me, and how well it’s executed.
This category may sound odd, but I think it’s really key to look at how a story is executed. I’ve read so many books where the story has such a great concept but it’s so poorly done; be that in the series of events—how they take place and what they are—or even the writing itself. A lot can fall into this category for me, as it acts as an overarching element to look at the construction of the piece.
Pacing is something I personally pay a lot of attention to. Are you boring me with mindless details that don’t serve a purpose in the story other than to extend it? Are you going so fast that it’s not selling me on what’s happening? Or is there that sweet middle ground that makes the most sense for the story? I find pacing can really make or break a rating for me.
Sometimes I just can’t get onboard with an author’s writing and/or storytelling style. This category is so far from any point of objectivity, but I’ve actually had to DNF books before because the style wouldn’t jive with me, so I think it’s pretty crucial to talk about!
Whether a story is character-based or not (in the rare case that it’s not), characters are so important to examine. If the main characters are static for absolutely no reason, I’m going to find myself wondering what the purpose of them and the story is, and that’s never a good thing. I also can’t find myself appreciating a character if they annoy me, which is very superficial, but for me it does impact the rating. I enjoy diverse and dynamic characters of all forms, so I’m often pretty easy to please in this category, but I have come across several many books where the characters have negatively affected the rating completely.
This is a fun category because it’s really based around the emotional impact a story leaves on me. I’ve rated many books higher than I normally would in terms of nearly all the other categories just because I had such a wonderful or moving time reading them! Art is supposed to evoke emotion; you can talk about the semantics and technicalities of books until you’re blue in the face but that doesn’t reflect the artistic nature of them. Honestly, leaving out that piece is a crucial flaw in any review of an art form.
Star Rating Scale
Now that my breakdown of the books I read is established, let’s look at how I translate those elements to my 5-point star rating scale.
- 0 – 1 star: I did not enjoy this at all, and probably barely finished it. I ultimately found nothing enjoyable or redeeming in this book, and it is possibly quite problematic.
- 1.5 – 2.5 stars: Lots of problems in the book, to the point where I probably didn’t enjoy it, and if I did it was very little. There are probably a few redeeming and compelling aspects to this book, but not enough for me to enjoy it or recommend it.
- 3 – 3.5 stars: This is an average book. Nothing too special, but I didn’t dislike it by any means. I probably even enjoyed it but it’s really not too spectacular at all. My issues with this kind of book can range from a few to lots, depending on the writing and execution. I would actually say 3.5 stars is an incredibly decent, enjoyable book.
- 4 stars: So great! I probably have some issues with it, or it wasn’t super strong the whole way through, but overall really great.
- 4.5 stars: Similar to 4 stars but the book had a lot less issues and was just shy of basically blowing me away, but still has this kind of wow factor that a 4 star book doesn’t have.
- 5 stars: This book is just amazing. Some aren’t entirely perfect, which is where the Overall Enjoyment category leans in heavy, but a 5 star book has well and truly blown me away, and these are books I can’t recommend enough!
And that’s my rating system! Feel free to leave a comment below on what you think or on how you rate books/creative works, I’d love to hear what others think!