I had a heck of a time trying to decide how I wanted to approach labeling my reviews. I understand why the “report card” system (i.e. A, B, C, D and F) and the 5-star system are so popular, but I’ve never really been a fan of such systems. To me, those kind of systems imply there is an objective way to grade a book. Personally speaking, I find that the reading experience is purely subjective. I’m sure we’ve all been in a spot where a book is getting love everywhere and you read it and go “what am I missing?” or even vice versa. To that end, I created the buy it/borrow it/skip it system I use now. Below are the general criteria I use for each grade, as well as the equivalent score in the more traditional rating methods.
The three things I look for:
Plot – books that go beyond the standard plot tropes for a given genre. They may have multiple threads and they take the time to actually show the world that characters inhabits. There may even be small quiet scenes that aren’t important to the greater plot, but let us get a feel for the characters or the world at hand. These books are also well edited so whether they’re 300 pages or 1000 pages they don’t feel rushed or stretched out.
Characters – Are well rounded. They have strengths and weaknesses. The author takes the time to give them personalities, to let us know what they like or dislike. These characters look and feel and act like people. If they fall in love, we can understand why they fall in love with a given character beyond the plot dictating it.
World building (for genre books) – The author has taken the time to make the world feel unique, even those based on medieval Earth. If there are magic systems involved, there should be a sense that there are defined rules to this world that the characters have to abide by, and the author shouldn’t be using vague rules to be able write themselves out of plot problems.
Buy It – books with this rating will be strong in all three categories and stand out in some significant way. Books with this rating as recommended to genre fans will be in the high B+/4 star range and titles with this rating recommended to all would be your A/5 star titles.
Borrow It – books with this rating may have a weakness in one of these categories, but the read is still enjoyable enough to give a look. Books that can be classified as “beach reads” (i.e. light, enjoyable but ultimately kind of forgettable) will usually end up here. These books are generally C to B range or 3 star reads.
Skip It – books with this rating have weaknesses in at least two of these categories and with so many good books out there I can’t find a reason to recommend them. Books that are “so bad they’re good” will still end up here because being fun still doesn’t make them good. These are your C- and below/2 star and below reads.
Hope this helps!