Hi everyone! We’re back to our regularly scheduled book posts after my little detour at the end of last month talking about graduation, and this time I’m going to be talking a little about my rating system for the books I read, focusing particularly on what makes a five star read for me as I know I tend to be a bit more stingy with my five stars than other bloggers, or at least it seems that way to me sometimes, so I wanted to explain, as much as I am able, since rating books it such a subjective thing, what makes a book a five star read for me. Though honestly it’s not always the same thing, of all the books I’ve loved over the years, I can’t say that I’ve loved exactly the same things about each one of them.
The biggest thing for me with five star reads, isn’t really a tangible factor, like oh I love great worldbuilding, or great friendships, or a fast paced interesting plot. Yes, those are all things I love and will contribute to me giving a higher rating to a book, but it’s not the most important thing.
For me, what differentiates a four star read from a five star read is that feeling of immersion in a world. When I read a book, and forget for hours where I am or what I’m doing and I’m only focused on that world and those characters, that will instantly be a five star read for me, no matter if the writing could be better or the plot better paced. It’s why I fell in love with reading in the first place, it’s what made me want to be a writer, and it’s something that all my favourite books have in common. This is why world building is so important to me, because only when a world has been fully developed can I feel properly immersed in it.
I also obviously need to have a really strong connection with the characters in a book. I say I prefer plot driven books, and I do, I often find that character driven books somewhat lack in plot, but characters are obviously really important for me too. If I feel no connection to the characters in a book, if I don’t care about them, then that book is never going to be a five star read. Five star books for me are books where I find myself thinking about the characters long after I’ve read the last page, and am desperate to know more about them, what they are doing in the future etc. All my favourite books and series have characters that I have fallen in love with pretty much from the very start of the book.
I don’t know if this is important for everyone, but it definitely is for me, I love dialogue. Dialogue is my favourite thing to write and it’s my favourite thing to read, I think because I’m not a massively visual reader, so I don’t really picture places or people in my head, but I can hear them speak (if that makes any sense at all!) so natural dialogue is a must for me. It’s also a really good way of establishing character dynamics, if the dialogue feels natural and fits the characters then I will be much more likely to believe and enjoy their dynamics with the other characters in the story. I especially love humourous banter though I know that doesn’t necessarily fit in every book.
I also have personal preferences when it comes to writing style, I know a lot of people enjoy very descriptive, purple prose but personally, because of the type of reader I am, intensely descriptive prose is kind of lost on me, therefore those types of books tend not to be favourites for me (with some exceptions). It’s quite hard for me to describe the kind of writing style I do like, because it varies so much from book to book, and none of my favourite authors have very similar writing styles but generally the writing I like will do all of the things I’ve mentioned above, make me feel immersed in the world, connected to the characters and establish believable dynamics. That doesn’t always need to be done the same way, which is why I can’t say that there’s a specific kind of writing that I like and there are many ways for authors to convey the things that I have mentioned in this post.
Romance is also a big one for me in terms of whether I rate a book five stars, because I’m incredibly picky about the romances I like, I need the couple to feel believable and not just like the romance has been shoehorned in because it’s a YA book and therefore “must have romance”. I don’t think romance is needed in every book and a lacklustre romance is enough to ensure that I won’t rate a book 5 stars, even if it does have a strong plot. Though often I find that romance impinges on the plot, there is too much focus on that, and not on what’s happening in the book and that’s a surefire way to ensure that I won’t rate a book five stars. A convincing romance, that adds to the plot and drives the story forward however, can add to my enjoyment of book and push it further towards a five star rating, so it really depends.
Obviously being a plot driven reader, plot is really important to me, but obviously none of my favourite books have exactly the same plots, though they do share similar tropes that I love (and those tropes will also contribute to my rating a book five stars). No the most significant thing for me in terms of plot, is pacing. I need a book to capture my interest and hold it for however long the book is, which could be anything from 300-700 pages (and very rarely more than that) so pacing is vital. A poorly paced book will never get a 5 star rating from me. That doesn’t mean it has to be non stop action all the way through, it just means that I want the right balance between quieter moments and more exciting moments. I don’t want all of the action to be right at the end, and the rest of the book be slow build up because that’s very boring for me. Pacing is a really tricky thing to get right, and it’s quite subjective, so it’s difficult to explain what I mean, but all of my favourite books have kept me engaged throughout with both faster paced sequences, and slower, quieter moments.
Ultimately though, I can say that all of these things will make me more likely to give a book five stars, and they will, but it all comes back to what I said at that start: a feeling. A feeling of “Wow, I can’t get enough of this world”. A feeling of “I love these characters”. A feeling that when the book is over, I want to go back and pick up that book again. A book can be technically the best book in the world, but if I don’t get that feeling, it’s not a five star for me. Reading is such a subjective thing, and it’s hard to explain exactly what that feeling is for me, but I hope this post has given you at least a little insight into what contributes to it!
What makes a five star read for you? Any of the things I’ve mentioned here? Let me know in the comments!
I don’t think I’ll have another discussion post for you this month, since I’m super busy with work, but I will be back next month for another one, though I’m not sure what it will be about yet. In the meantime, I will have another Top Ten Tuesday for you tomorrow, so keep an eye out for that.