How Many Stars? My Book Review Criteria.
Stars vary based on the reviewer’s interests, reading history & life experience. Sample/Fiction: The Heart Doctor by Dupont & Johnson.
I had purchased numerous books for my Kindle and written reviews before I came up with standards for the stars. Like everything else, there was a learning curve.
The first thing asked for when entering the review is a rating by number of stars - one is awful and five is wonderful, highly recommended. How do you assign them on a consistent basis, unrelated to the genre or classification?
How do you decide on stars?
I had to come up with some standards. As it turns out, fiction and non-fiction standards are different. Since I read mostly fiction, here are my standards. Non-fiction will be in another article.
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Wonderful. I will most likely reread it.
The book is exactly what I expected, whether romance or science fiction. First, the story has to be believable and exciting, given the setting.
I should be able to identify empathetically with a character in some way - feel or think like the character. It can be a man, woman, or as in the movie Breakfast at Tiffany's, the cat, poor thing.
The writing style should pull me from chapter to chapter with a fascinating story. The book is hard to put down.
⭐⭐⭐⭐ Very good. I will probably reread some parts.
Something prevented five stars, often the writing style, structure, or the story is missing something. Maybe I could not identify with a character.
For example, one romance novel turned out to be mostly a mystery. I had to push myself through the first half of the book, but the second half was 5-star material, which pulled it up to 4 stars.
⭐⭐⭐Okay, easy to finish. No desire to reread any part of the book.
Parts were good, but the book was inconsistent or irritating in some way. Like a movie where the hero is brilliant until the end, then he turns into an idiot.
I would occasionally be eager to read the next chapter, but not often.
⭐⭐ Pushed myself to finish the book.
Nothing clicked, but it was interesting enough to finish the story.
⭐ Failed to finish the book.
The story was disjointed, unbelievable, totally predictable, or had other problems. Hard to stay awake.
For example, in one case I found myself scanning fifteen pages at a time with one sex act that didn’t even contribute to the plot. The author described everything to the smallest detail. Such writing might come out of a porn shop.
A one-star book goes into my scrap folder. I don’t buy books from authors in the scrap folder. I don’t even download free books by them.
Some sites, like Amazon, require a one-sentence headline. Put as much thought into the headline as you would in the title of an article or book. That may be all that some people read.
I have recently switched from science fiction to romance novels, mostly set during the English Regency period in the early 1800s.
When I mentioned that to a friend at the Wannabe Writers Club in The Villages, he gave me a paperback to read, set in the current time period. Here is the review that I posted on Amazon.
The Heart Doctor ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
— Kira Dupont, M.D.
— Millard Johnson
Headline: Realistic — Couldn’t wait to read the next chapter
A friend gave me his paperback copy to read. By chapter four, the story was so fascinating that I bought a copy for my Kindle to increase the font size.
Vicki, the prominent aristocratic heart surgeon, perfectionist in her job and everything else, and Mark, in his mechanic’s work clothes and antique truck, restored perfectly after two years of effort, met in the parking lot by wreck. They have one obvious thing in common. Unfortunately, it wasn’t obvious to Vicki, and maybe not to Mark, either.
Later, she brought her Maserati to his shop to be fixed. He invited her to see him and his band play at a local bar. She would never be seen in such a low-life place!
She unknowingly wound up there anyway when invited out for music by a friend. Mark is on stage! She wondered if he remembered her.
The first song, obviously written just for her, certainly answered that question. The lyrics are hilarious! I can still feel the sexual energy while writing this review. Everyone else in the bar felt it, too.
Even before that, she had fantasies about him, thus causing her personal life to start falling apart. She had her entire life laid out like a mathematical model, when to marry, how many children, etc. His very existence shattered everything.
They briefly encounter each other at the oddest times throughout the story and don’t get along. There is no pursuit, as with many romance novels.
I eagerly anticipated each chapter, predicting what would happen next. I was mostly wrong. Surprises like that often occur in real life. It felt like reading an autobiography, instead of a novel. I highly recommend this book.
Standards vary by individual. Yours may be slightly different from mine.
The review format
I have noticed that some reviews consist of one long paragraph, maybe 20 or 30 lines, making them hard to read and somewhat overwhelming.
First, attention spans these days are not nearly that long.
Second, short sections of 2 or 3 lines are easier to read on electronic devices.
I find myself more willing to read an article if it is split into short paragraphs, even if they don’t conform to standard paragraph structure and transition.
A lunch buddy showed me a long review on his phone. The review was good. Reading it was awful.
If you buy a book on Amazon, or some other outlet, please post a review, especially if there was something that you liked or did not like. It can help potential buyers reach a decision and help the author with their future endeavors.
The review should provide the reason for the number of stars, either explicitly stated or easily inferred.
One point, please. It doesn’t hurt to comment about the plot or characters, but no spoilers! Do not include details that give away significant events that could ruin the story for someone else.
Your criteria may be different. The main goal is to be consistent.