My starred review guide…

I despise the five-star review system. There, I said it. Every time I see a one-star review on a book that I thought was actually pretty good, I can’t help but think, “I do not think it means what you think it means.” For example, not long ago, I read a book and liked it so much, I gave it a five-star review. Not long after, another reader gave it a one-star review. Why? Because it had a “cliffhanger” and the author was just trying to get people to buy more books.

Let’s start with the most obvious statement of, “Duh.” That’s kind of the point of putting your books out there for sale.

But, I want to delve a little deeper into this. For starters, in order for said reviewer to know that there was a “cliffhanger”, said reviewer would have had to finish the book. If a book kept your attention long enough for you to finish it and the only thing you didn’t like about it was the ending, giving it a one-star review is a tool move. Now, if the author had not finished the story of that book and the “cliffhanger” wasn’t just a lead into the second book, I would have probably been irritated as well. Not irritated enough to give it a one-star review, because…see above. I may have mentioned it in my review, though.

But that wasn’t the case with this book. Normally, if an author has another book in that series coming soon, they will include the first chapter of that book at the end, so you can read it. Why do they do this? To sell that book. Back to “duh”. This author, however, just included it in the narrative at the end, as opposed to breaking it out. Had it been taken out completely, the story she told would have stood on its own. Therefore, not a cliffhanger, in the traditional television era understanding of the word. But that review is out there and there will be readers who decide not to purchase that book because they think it has no ending. Which is just not cool.

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And this is the reason I hate the star review system. To be completely honest, I don’t often read reviews of things like books, movies or television shows before reading or watching. Why? Because they are too subjective and rarely contain anything I would find useful in them. I do read product reviews before purchasing. The operative word there is “read”. I look for things like whether the product worked or had issues in how it worked later. These are concrete complaints worth considering. Any starred reviews without a written explanation move to the bottom of my consideration pile. I don’t want to know that you gave a product a one-star review. I want to know why. That way I can determine on my own if you were simply trying to help me avoid some major issue with it or you were having a hissy fit because it didn’t meet expectations I don’t have. All caps reviews are tossed from my consideration pile completely.

Until I really jumped into this world, I didn’t review at all. But I have since learned the importance of those reviews to getting books seen, whether indie or traditionally published, so I do it now. I don’t like it, but I do it. In order for me to stomach it, I created my own guide on how I rate books I read. It’s probably not perfect but it works for me.

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Five star – This book exceeded my expectations. It grabbed me from the beginning and I couldn’t put it down. It was well-edited. If there were any issues, it didn’t take away from my experience. I was left thinking about the story and the characters after I finished and, if there was another book in the series, I am interested in reading it. I would definitely read more books by this author.

Four-star – This book met my expectations. For the most part, I couldn’t stop reading; however, there may have been parts of the book that slowed down and I had to force myself through or maybe there were a few too many editing problems that pulled me from the book. There were parts of the story that could have been fleshed out a little more. Overall, I enjoyed the story, though, and wanted to finish it. If there are multiple books in the series, I will most likely read them. I would most likely read more books by this author.

Three-star – I finished the book. Something about it caught my attention enough to keep reading but I was left a little disappointed. There may have been too many editing errors to fully keep my attention or other problems with the flow of the story. Maybe it just wasn’t for me. If there are more books in the series, I probably won’t read them. I may or may not read more by this author. It really just depends.

One and Two-Star – You probably won’t ever see me give these unless the book is a scam. For instance, the downloaded sample is perfectly written and edited, then I buy it and the following pages are blank. I’m not a book reviewer. If I am reading, it’s because I’m interested in the book for some reason. Maybe the cover caught my attention or the blurb, or I’ve connected with the author somehow and wanted to give their book a try.

I’ve started a lot of books I didn’t finish reading for a number of reasons. Either it just didn’t pull me in or it didn’t keep my attention at the time. There have been a few with a writing style I just didn’t enjoy. I have very limited “free time”, so I have neither the desire nor the schedule that permits wasting my time trudging through something I’m not enjoying.

I won’t leave a review for something I didn’t finish. Why? Because, on occasion, I’ve actually not been a fan of a piece of creative work, whether it is a book or a movie, until the end. It’s happened. So, unless I’ve read the whole book, I’m not reviewing it. And the only reason I would leave a book a one or two-star review is if I just couldn’t finish reading it for some reason or I had to force myself to finish reading it. Since I don’t have to force myself (nor do I have the desire to do so), then I have no reason to leave either.

So, that’s it. That’s my personal guide. Do you have a personal guide you use when reviewing?

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