HOW MANY STARS? USEFUL AND USELESS BOOK REVIEWS.

Authors lust over getting good reader book reviews on Amazon. Good reviews help drive sales, plus it also feels good. Therefore, as a courtesy, I make an effort to review each book I read. I take this responsibility very seriously. I put a chunk of time and thought into my reviews. The hardest part, for novels, is the star rating I assign.

Fiction is subjective. I don’t have a problem giving a non-fiction book a low rating. Hey, if it has errors in fact or logic, it deserves a low rating. Fiction isn’t nearly as easy.

I typically look at a few five star, three star, and one star reviews before buying a book. Too often, I see a review that says, “I received this book free in return for an honest review. Now I don’t normally read (fill in the genre, it could be romance, sci fi, fantasy, or …).” Then why did you accept the book? Invariably the book’s given a three star rating. I mentally toss out that review. A bad or mediocre review isn’t useful unless it’s for a genre the reader enjoys.
Similarly, there are different writing styles. I don’t think my rating should reflect my like or dislike for a writing style. I started Samuel R. Delaney’s Dhalgren. I didn’t finish the first page. Many people like the book. The book has sold over a million copies and was nominated for a Nebula award. Personally, I didn’t care for its muddled stream-of-insane-consciousness writing style. Some readers have thought the same. Should I give Dhalgren a one star rating? I did hate it, but that was a reflection on my dislike for the style. I’d be rating a writing style, not the book itself, if I gave the book one star. I chose instead to simply not rate Dhalgren.

So my fiction reviews tend to be four or five stars with an occasion three stars. I focus on how imaginative the plot is, how engaging the characters are, and overall how well the book entertained me.

What are your thoughts on rating and reviewing books?

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Filed under Art and Craft of Writing, Book and Movie Reviews

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