How many of us have been frustrated by the fact that Goodreads and other book review sites do not include the option of half stars in their rating systems? Yup, I see those hands, and I’m raising my own. It’s a constant source of grating on my nerves, because I very rarely have a straightforward, solid number-star view of a book. There are so many factors at play when we review! In the interest of bookdragons everywhere, I have decided to create my own system, which takes half-stars into complete account.
(By the way, if you don’t agree with my new system, Toby will stare at you in his ultimate cuteness until you collapse from the overload of adorbs.)
Half-star: Yes, I actually think less than one star is important to include. Sometimes a book just wrangles you in such a wrong way, and you’d like to express that in your opinion. For example, how many of us had to read a textbook for school/college that was so one-sided, or under-researched, or condescending, and you felt it was necessary to inform the professors of what a bad choice they made? (Not that they’d listen, but that’s a topic for another time.) The half-star can represent the fact you appreciate the proofreaders/editors/printers had to make a living somehow, and you support their struggle.
One star: This would be pretty much what it says on the tin — you thought the book was just so poorly written (either for typos or content, bad characters or lack of plot, or lack of research, or a combination of all these elements) that you just can’t give it a good rating. But, again, you want to recognize the sacrifice made by those who stay employed by publishing.
One-and-a-half stars: It’s not so horrific that you just totally abandon it. Maybe there was a particular character that you actually liked, or the premise was really promising, and you’re hoping the author can learn to grow their creative skills.
Two stars: It’s pretty bad. You’re not even sure you’d recommend it to others. But there was some redeeming feature. For example, when I tried to read Allegiant (I got through part of it, skipping major chunks until the end), there was so much about the “science” behind the factions that really didn’t make sense and didn’t sit well with me. But the ability of Veronica Roth to imagine intricate worlds and a conspiracy theory that didn’t simply boil down to “the aliens did it” or something so trite made me hopeful that her later novels would/will be more enjoyable and cohesive.
Two-and-a-half stars: It’s definitely not your cup of tea, but you may recommend it to other readers who like the genre/style. (I automatically think of authors like Stephen King and HP Lovecraft, who I cannot touch with a ten-foot pole — even a 10-mile pole — but I have been encouraged to try something by an author whose typical genre, in this case, literally scares the hisbiscus out of me, in order to appreciate the writing style and insights. I did complete “The Eyes of the Dragon” by King, because it’s not his usual fare. While I enjoyed it more than I expected, I still am avoiding pretty much everything else on the man’s bibliography.)
Three stars: It’s fun, there are some minor niggles, you’d suggest it to friends, you might not re-read it, but you don’t feel like, “Good grief, what did I just waste my evening doing?” I think of the first Jackaby novel by William Ritter, which had an easygoing style and fun characters and lots of humor. The historical content was inaccurate in so many ways, but I could put that (mostly) aside for the duration of the (blessedly not too long) novel.
Three-and-a-half stars: It was definitely fun, you really liked most of the characters, the plot generally made sense, and you enjoyed yourself while reading. Maybe there were some flaws in the research, the setting, or the dialogue (like a little too much swearing or flirting, for your taste). (By the way, in this blog, it usually means my taste.) You’d certainly tell fans of the genre, “Try this one!” Maybe you’ll even purchase your own copy. (Remember, I get almost everything from the library.)
Four stars: It’s just about perfect. You fell in love with the characters. You didn’t think the action was too violent. The setting made you want to be there. You proceed to log onto Barnes & Noble.com and order your copy, because you know you’ll be re-visiting it in the future. The next time somebody puts on Twitter, “What do I read next?”, you type in this title in all caps. (My prime examples are the first Warriors series, the Beaumont and Beasley fantasies by Kyle Shultz, several of the Discworld books, and a few of Neil Gaiman’s short stories and children’s tales.)
Four-and-a-half stars: You believe the only flaw in these selections is that they may not appeal to everybody, yet you shamelessly push them on anybody you encounter. (Some of mine are The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams and Mort, Thud!, and Only You Can Save Mankind by Terry Pratchett.)
Five stars: Pretty much you feel the world will end if not every living soul on the planet read these immediately. You know you’ll not only re-read them several times before you die, but your own copies are like priceless, sacred artifacts. (There are very few titles I reserve this designation for, because I am picky. By the way, for those of you who gave Masters and Beginners 4.5-5 stars, you have my everlasting gratitude.)