And yet, it can also say so little. This is why I am not a star blogger.
The star system works quite beautifully for many because they have been able to put into words what each rating represents. Take, for example, Jessica of Chick Lit Teens's rating explanations:
5 Stars - How many times can I reread this without seeming eccentric?4 Stars - It was great, but I wouldn't say it was one of my top 20.3 Stars - This kept me entertained.2 Stars- Not a big fan.1 Star - I'd like my time back, please.
1. The plot and my level of interest in it
Authors, you can craft the most beautiful sentences in the world, but if I am not invested in the plot, it is not likely I will enjoy the book. I want to feel desperate to keep turning pages because I absolutely have to find out the ending of the story. I want humor, drama, tears, and/or suspense, depending on the book. I want a storyline that makes me keep reading.
2. The writing
I love gorgeously alliterated lines that spin around in my mind as I turn them over and over, trying to take in their beauty. Equally important is that the words have an appropriate tone; please do not use modern colloquial language in historical fiction and please do not make all teenagers sound like whiney brats who OMG hate their super-lame overprotective parents. I also appreciate fabulous foreshadowing, marvelous metaphors, and stellar symbolism, and I will often remember a novel's literary devices with more vibrancy than the plot.
3. The characters
Connecting with the main character can be nice, but mainly I just want to understand the people in the novel and fully comprehend their motivation. I live for conflicted characters, and I cannot even express how much I adore being shown the inside of an antagonist's mind and discovering why he or she is the protagonist in his or her version of the world.
4. The amount it makes me think
This can reference a deep, serious, emotional issue novel that really makes me reevaluate the world, but it can also refer to any book that gives me something to ponder, such as the way the author uses a specific setting to create a certain atmosphere. I enjoy books much more when I am bursting to write a review-even a negative one!-because I have so much to say.All of this presents one overlying question. With so many standards, what do I do if a book excels in some but fails in the others?
Should I give it three stars? But what if it is so good in two categories that it makes up for its lacking in the others? And what if it is so brilliant in the first and most important point that I do not mind its shortcomings in the others?
I simply cannot create a consistent system of ratings because I have too many ideas to factor in, too many thoughts to be summed up with a number. And therefore, any stars I awarded would be ambiguous, meaningless, and contradictory. I choose instead to write reviews that explain my thoughts on the book in more depth, and if that is not clearer than a grouping of cartoon celestial bodies, I have not done my job as a book blogger.
I commend those readers who can clearly create boundaries between four and five stars. My lines are fuzzy and will never be as crisp and clear as theirs are; pretending otherwise would only cause confusion. Being a star blogger would make me much less of a blogging star, so I will allow these shining stores of hydrogen and helium to secure their spots in the sky…and on other peoples' sites.
Let's discuss: Do you use the star system? What do your ratings mean? Do you prefer reviews that include a rating of some sort?