I began reviewing books online about 2 or 3 years ago. I have loved books since the 4th grade when I started Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Writing is an outlet for me as is reading so I love being able to combine the two.
I’ve had a few people ask me what are the deciding factors for my book ratings. I have lots of factors but I thought I would share with you my top 7.
- World Building This is the one thing I am a complete snob about. The reason for this is because the majority of the books I read are fantasy. And if you know anything about the fantasy or sci-fi genre, then you know the world building makes the book. Narnia would not be Narnia without the setting. Harry Potter would not be the same without cresting a sense of urgency to attend Hogwarts Schools of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The Night Circus would be far less magical without all of the enchantment of the circus. World building is crucial. But I think it is the most crucial in fantasy and sci-fi stories.
- Character Development and Reader Attachment I go back to Harry Potter on this one. No book, I repeat, NO BOOK has ever made me fall in love with the characters like J. K. Rowling did with the Harry Potter series. And what I love most about them is that you can see their growth. You can see how Harry evolves over time going from the boy who lived in the cupboard under the stairs to The Boy Who Lived. You can see that confidence. With Draco you can see how he is a brainwashed little boy and grows into his own man. With Hermoine you see how she changes from the outcast to embracing her muggle side and witch side. And with Ron I really love seeing how he realizes when and why he loves Hermoine. He’s always kind of a goofball, and that makes him more loveable. I can’t get into a story if I don’t love the characters. Especially in a series. If that attachment isn’t there I will stop reading them.
- Consistency If a story line is not consistent I feel less devoted. I need to know what the black and white is of a story. I don’t like being left confused or making excuses for an author. I’m not sure about The Vampire Diaries books but the show has a lot of inconsistencies that drive me crazy. I hate how it’s unbalanced. Why is there a cure but vampirism is a tragedy that cannot be undone? Obviously someone made a cure at one point in time. Why can’t another powerful somebody do it again? Things like that get to me. I feel like it’s bad planning. Readers like answers. At least I do. Even if there is a cliff hanger, I like things to be cleared up eventually.
- Interesting Hook This is the case for most readers. I usually give a book about 50 pages to get me interested. However, I know lots of people who do not have that attention span or who are a lot less inclined to keep reading if the first 3 chapters do not have an interesting hook. Be it a problem, a question, setting, or character. Readers read to be entertained. Make it interesting!
- Feelings I’m not a mushy person but I do appreciate writing that evokes feelings. Maybe not sobbing tears of sadness but I like when a book keeps me on the edge of my seat or makes me feel empathy for a character. This criteria almost goes with character attachment because you have to be attached to a character to feel something for them but I think the tone of a book can fall into this category too. Does this book make me feel happy? Is there a sense of adventure or of the unknown? Does it make me laugh because the writing is funny?
- Author’s Voice I don’t think this is a must but I appreciate a good author’s voice in writing. If there is a clear voice then I am more likely to go research the author to learn about them or to check out their other work. I’m more interested in THEM. Libba Bray cracks me up. She’s witty and that’s why she’s one of my favorite authors. It’s why I always go purchase her books. Erin Morgenstern has an enchanting writing style and that hooked me from the first page of The Night Circus. I love Ellen Hopkins nostalgic voice in her writing. Especially in the Crank books because you can feel that she has a close relationship with those particular books. You can hear her experiences in it.
- A Pretty Cover I put this last for a reason. Because I know many of you are shaking your head at me. “You can’t judge a book by it’s cover!” or “I’ve read so many great books with boring covers!” Yeah, I know… but I’m more likely to pick up a pretty one. Or to display it in my classroom or home if it’s pretty. I also feel like someone somewhere worked really hard on those covers and that they deserve credit for it. I love how people are taking pride in covers these days, and even under the dust jacket! Author’s are utilizing that space for extra maps and drawings for their readers. I like that. I like that the author and publisher are taking pride in that and helping to further create the world in their books.
These are the main criteria for me to rate a book. However, if a book is lacking in one area sometimes it can be made up for in another. So I wouldn’t say these are set in stone, but they are my guidelines. If you have any major rules for book ratings I would love to hear them.