Thinking Out Loud is my version of a discussion post and/or a place to just get things out of my head and off my chest. I have no plans for it to be a weekly feature, but more of a space that’s here when I have something to say.
How I Rate and Review
After running this blog for just a little over three years, I’ve rated and reviewed A LOT of books. Yet, I’ve never taken the time to tell you HOW I rate and/or review the books I read. I know every reviewer is different and there are so many factors you can take into consideration when it’s time to sit down and review the book you just finished. I’m not saying my way is right – it’s just right for me.
Before I started blogging, I followed a couple blogs and several bloggers on Goodreads. I quickly learned what I liked and what I didn’t like when it came to the experience of reading reviews, so I modeled my own reviews off the ones I learned I liked to read the most. I mean, if I’m not willing to read it after I wrote it, will anyone else?
First and foremost to me is review length. I don’t like (to read or write) L O N G reviews. I also don’t want a breakdown of the bulk of the events that happen in the story. I don’t even really need a synopsis, because every book already comes with that. If I’ve gotten to the point where I’m reading a review, I’ve already familiarized myself with the book’s synopsis or blurb – whether on a blog, on Goodreads or a retail site. I don’t want intentional or unintentional spoilers. Because I’m an emotional reader, I want to know how a book made you feel. So, I tell people how a book made me feel.
- Did I like/connect with the characters?
- Would I be friends with them in real life?
- Did they kinda already feel like they are my friends now? (I realize that might sound a little weird, but in some series, I find that the characters feel like old friends. Maybe it’s just me… but I don’t think it is.)
- Did I laugh, cry, swoon, fan myself, want to throw the book across the room?
I’m a big romance reader, as you know, so the love story, kissing and, ahem, more, is very important to me in a book.
- Did I like these characters as a couple?
- How was their chemistry? Banter? Passion? Feelings?
- Did they make each other better?
- Was there a lot of kissing? (The more, the better … amirite?)
- Sexy time?
- Assuming yes, how hot were those sexy times?
The plot of a book is important. No doubt. It’s also the toughest part of a book for me to review because I don’t want to get too deep into it because the review becomes too long and drawn out and I run the risk of spoilers. And, unless I’m being very deliberate about how I spoil – and when I do I warn people in advance – I don’t want to get into that whole mess. I only do it when it’s necessary to explain why I didn’t like something or to give a potential trigger warning, really. I don’t pick apart every little thing that happens during a book… most of the time. I think this tends to make reading more enjoyable for me.
- Did the storyline make sense?
- Was it TOO predictable? (Though not even this that much. Romance is predictable and I’m ok with that.)
- Was it satisfying?
- Did I want more when it was all said and done?
Though I don’t follow a specific template with my reviews, I try to keep them short, succinct and talk about the things that matter most to me. I shoot for 3-4 paragraphs when I’m writing. Though, every now and then a book will get a long, drawn out review … some titles just lend themselves to more chatter.
Reviews are one thing. Rating is a totally different beast. It’s entirely subjective and everyone does it differently. I’m just going to talk about how I do it.
- I rate with whole numbers only. Yes, I wish there was a half star more often than not, but with retail sites and Goodreads only accepting full star ratings, I decided to go with it.
- My reviews are all based on the following scale:
- 5 stars: Loved everything about it.
- 4 stars: Loved most everything about it.
- 3 stars: Liked it, but something was missing.
- 2 stars: It was ok.
- 1 star: Definitely not for me.
- I opted NOT to do a detailed star rating on plot, writing, characters, etc. It just didn’t feel right for me.
- I don’t compare the book I just read and want to give five stars to OTHER five star reads. Like “This was a great book, but it can’t possibly be five stars because [insert literary classic title here] was five stars and this isn’t the same.”
Bottom line is, for me it all comes down to the level of enjoyability and feels a book gives me. Yes, it needs to be believable. (Or, in the case of sci fi, fantasy or paranormal, the world needs to be built well enough that it FEELS real.) The characters need to stay true to themselves and not do super crazy things just to further the plot. (And because I am an emotional reader, sometimes a character might do something true to themselves and I’ll still hate the book. *cough* Allegiant *cough*). I’m not stingy with a five star rating. If I loved the book, it’s more than likely going to get five stars from me.
I feel like I also need to mention that you’re not going to find DNF reviews here on the blog. It’s not because I don’t DNF books. I do. I believe in it wholeheartedly. However, a DNF review isn’t a good fit for me personally. I can see why people find them helpful. If I DNF a book, I’ll write a few sentences about why it wasn’t for me on Goodreads. I don’t rate or write a full review because, honestly, I don’t think it’s fair of me to review a book I didn’t finish. Some books start slow and pick up. Sometimes abhorrent characters redeem themselves. If I’ve not completed the book, who am I to judge it based on the 20% or so I read? It doesn’t feel right for me, but I totally understand why others do it.
When I first started reviewing, I incorporated quotes into my actual reviews. Then I stopped. Well, I’ve gone back to including quotes with my reviews, but they’re in their own section now. I’ve always been a quote junkie. Lines of lyrics in a song? Love. Quotables from movies or TV shows? Yes. I’m a liberal highlighter when I read an eBook and I flag pages like crazy when I read a print book. I just love words. The quotes, I find, give you a good idea of the author’s writing and I consider them a bonus to the review. I try not to get carried away (though sometimes I do) and I try not to get TOO spoilery (but … it happens) when I pick quotes, but regardless I just love including them.
I think I’ve made this post way too long, so I should probably stop now. I feel like I should emphasize (again) that I don’t believe there’s any wrong way to review. This isn’t a “how to.” It’s a “how I do.”
How do you review?
What do you like to see in a review?