Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Why Every Book I Review Doesn't Get Five Stars

There has been some confusion and, well, downright rudeness lately because some individuals are unhappy with my rating system so I thought I'd address it in detail.

First, no matter what some reviewers practice, not every book is a five star book.  99% of books are not five star books.  I will not rate a book as five stars if it is not a five star book.

So, what DO my ratings mean?

For a book to receive five stars I have to close it and think to myself (or say out loud) "Oh my freaking god that was awesome!  I want to read it again right now!)".  Seriously, it has to be that good.  What would rank as five stars?  The Phantom Tollbooth is five stars because it is simply magical.  I have loved it for ages and own the paperback, audiobook, and Kindle editions.  The Paddington books, as read by Stephen Fry are also five stars because they are, again, simply magical.  They are utterly adorable and just perfection.  Lightning by Dean Koontz is five stars.  It actually inspired me to write the author a fan letter and I never write fan letters to anyone.  Ever.

A five star book is like fresh, hot lobster claw meat drenched in butter and eaten with your fingers outside at a picnic table on the beach in Maine, surrounded by the scents and sounds of the sea.  Or a ripe, sun warmed strawberry dipped in melted Godiva dark chocolate.  It's a wonderful experience that just leaves you all warm and fuzzy and thinking "Damn, that was good!".

For a book to receive four stars it's good.  I finished reading it and it left me with a feeling of satisfaction and, usually, a desire to read other books by the author.  It left me feeling "Wow!  I really liked that!".  This is a book that kept me flipping the pages late into the night or running down my iPod battery as I listened to track after track after track.  I felt a definite connection to the characters and story.  Something drew me in and kept me interested.  There is just something special about these books.  Sara Shepard's Lying Game books are a great example.  Most of the Dean Koontz, Brad Meltzer, and Carl Hiaasen books I read would be four star books.

Four star books are like a favorite food.  They're the dark chocolate covered pretzels from Godiva.  You know they'll be good every single time you get a box and you don't mind paying $4 for 12 mini pretzels because they're that darn good.  They're books that I consistently have no problem paying full price for at the bookstore, or buying as hardcovers, simply because I know that they will be good.

Three star books are okay.  They're not great but they're not bad either.  They're a solid "good".  This would be the vast majority of books that I read, especially the cozy mysteries that I'm addicted to.  They're fun and/or interesting.  They're not really something that I would pay full price for at the bookstore, but I'll happily get them from the library or buy them used.  They're perfectly good, with characters and stories that I have some emotional connection with.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with a three star book, but it just doesn't sparkle.

Three star books are good old standbys.  They're the Kraft Macaroni and Cheese in the blue box.  Is it great?  No.  But it is consistent and you know what you're going to get.  You know you're going to enjoy it.  The macaroni may come as character shapes or wagon wheels or shells or whatever but they're all just variations on the same solid, yummy theme that leaves you satiated with a full belly of warm goodness.  Three star books are the hot cocoa (made with whole milk and cocoa or solid chocolate, not those crappy packets of powder with desiccated marshmallows) you drink on a cold winter's night when there's snow falling softly outside.  They're comforting in their reliability.

Two star books are where things start to go wrong.  Typically the characters are annoying or the situations ludicrous.  They usually elicit an "Are you freaking kidding me?" response.  They're just not that good.  They're acceptable, and I finished the book, but I just didn't like it.  I may have slogged my way through it but I didn't really enjoy the experience.  It left me with a "meh" feeling.

Two star books are the Hershey's bars of the book world.  They're okay, but I wouldn't want them all the time.  I mean, they're better than nothing, but I would prefer something else.  They're the McDonald's cheeseburger when you're running late and you've missed dinner and there's nothing to eat in the house and you're starving.  They're Velveeta and spray cheese on a stale cracker at midnight when all the stores are closed and there's no way in hell you're going out anyway.

One star books happen once in a while.  Their sheer stupidity or poor writing leaves me speechless.  Rarely, they're so bad they illicit tooth grinding rage and possibly may involve an airborne trip across the room.  These are the books that are just so stupid that I make it through about three pages, or so annoying that I want to throw them on the floor and stomp up and down on them.  I most certainly never finish them.  These are the "What the f***?  How the hell did this crap get published?" books.

One star books are the Slim Jims of books.  They're the cheap, dollar store chocolate bars that you open and find have a hideous bloom on them.  They're the charred microwave popcorn kernels at the bottom of the bag.  They're the tiny bag of chips where every single chip is broken into crumbs.  They leave you feeling disappointed, annoyed, or nauseous at the very best.

So, there you are, that is how I rate the books I read.  You can see that a three star rating isn't bad at all!  This is why the vast majority of the books I read and review are three or four star books.  And why a three or four star rating isn't a bad thing.  Three or four stars means I enjoyed the book!

If you feel that every book deserves five stars this is not the review source for you.  If, however, you want an honest take on a book, you can count on me to be completely truthful.  If a book was like nails on a chalkboard it will get one star but if it was a lovely experience it will get four stars.

Hopefully this clarified some things.  I'd love to hear what you think about my rating system so leave me a comment below if you are so inclined.

And one more thing - I will not write you a plot synopsis in my review.  My aim is to review the book, not give you the Cliff Notes version of the plot.  Seriously, that is why I put the book description at the top of the post along with the book cover art.  The book description more than covers that for you.  I also don't want to provide spoilers in case you do decide to read the book.  There is nothing worse than reading a review that tells you exactly what happens and ruins the book's ending for you.



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