The 5-Star System

Are you looking to request a review from me? I’m delighted! Not only do I love reading, but I equally enjoy reading new-to-me authors. There is, however, one caveat that I need to mention.

I’m a traditionalist when it comes to the five-star system. 

What does that mean? It means that, if I give you five stars, it means you’ve knocked my sock off. Quite possibly on a literal level. It also means that the majority of the books I read get three stars – and that isn’t a bad thing! On my blog, I use half-stars, which makes the system that much more fun. (On Amazon and Goodreads, though, I’m stuck using full marks, and I round up.)

What does each of the stars mean? I actually borrow a system from my writing group home, Protagonize. It has served me well over the years, and it works. [It also takes in account half-stars!]

  • 0.5 stars – Defies explanation. Maybe the author’s first language isn’t English? Maybe their face crash-landed on their keyboard and accidentally published the output? For whatever reason, I cannot decipher what is in front of me. [I’ve never given this ranking, ever, and I don’t plan to.]
  • 1 star – Awful. Maybe the concept was promising, but the execution left a lot to be desired. The published copy reads like a first draft. I’d be wary of reading another book by this author.
  • 1.5 stars – Bad. There are some redeeming qualities. Maybe I liked the title or a character. There are slightly less errors on the page, though it is still far from being a professionally-published book.
  • 2 stars – Good effort. I equate a two-star rating with participation awards. The author did something great by writing a book, but the book wasn’t great. For whatever reason, it didn’t click with me, and I felt ambivalent about the whole thing. I’d only recommend the book if I knew someone in particular who would enjoy it.
  • 2.5 stars – Average in every way. Nothing stood out, good or bad, which can be a positive thing in that the writer likely doesn’t have bad habits. Good habits can be learned; bad ones are difficult to break. I’d consider recommending a book with this rating, but I’d do so with caution.
  • 3 stars – Decent. There are some major flaws in one or more area, but the rest of the book was good. It could use another round of edits to strengthen the manuscript. About half the books with this rating get a recommendation.
  • 3.5 stars – Good. Interesting and entertaining, but it brings nothing new to the genre. It’s a safe book – in its execution and concept.There could also be flaws in one or more of the major areas, which prevent the book from being as good as it could be.
  • 4 stars – Great. Entertaining and well-written. Chances are that I’m smitten with a book with this rating, but there are still some rough patches that could be smoothed to make it better in some way, either in its readability or cohesiveness.
  • 4.5 stars – Fantastic. Books with this rating get gushed over for weeks, if not months. Chances are I will be a fan of this author’s work for life and will rush to purchase anything written by them. The flaws found are so negligible that they are hardly worth mentioning, such as a missed comma or a continuity issue.
  • 5 stars – Perfect. There isn’t anything I, or anyone else, could do to make this book better than it already is. There are no flaws whatsoever, and the author is immediately elevated to modern Shakespeare status, at least in my mind.


How does this affect you? Amazon, in particular, goes by customer reviews to determine a book’s rank in its category. I’m not going to pretend to know (or understand) the entire algorithm; however, book ratings count toward its rank. Reviewing is largely a subjective process. Please keep this in mind before you request this service.

To curb the subjectivity, I request a sample of the book before I agree to read and review. This ensures that I will enjoy the book, which always bodes well for ratings. Genres that I snatch up are literary (with and without magical realism), mystery, thriller, women’s fiction (different than chick-lit and romance), and other contemporary and realistic fiction.