If you've ever checked out the reviews I've given on Amazon or Goodreads, you've probably noticed something. I give an awful lot of 5 star reviews. Like...a LOT.
Why? Am I too easy? Are all books puppies and rainbows? Do I give out all 5-stars to not piss off my writer friends?
It really boils down to how I view what a 5-star rating is. I read a fantastic blog post about this a few weeks ago that, sadly I cannot find to link here, but the gist of it was this: rate the book for what it does for you.
See, I review every book I read as a stand-alone. I base my ratings/reviews on how the book makes me feel. Did it engage me? Did I enjoy the story? Did I connect with the characters? Did it stay with me after I finished the final page?
If I answer yes to most of those questions, that's a 5-star book for me. Period.
I don't compare it to other books I've read. I mean, is Stay At Home Dead like Murder on the Orient Express? Ummm... But it made me laugh and I stayed up way too late to finish it and I still giggle, months later, when I think of Deuce Winter's antics.
I don't “save” 5-stars for the best of the best. If you've been involved in 4-H, you probably understand this mentality. When 4-Hers present their projects to the judges, they aren't competing against anyone for a blue ribbon. They share their project—what they learned, what they liked, etc—and the judge awards a ribbon accordingly. The ribbon a kid receives for a lopsided wooden birdhouse (that he built with his own two hands! By himself! And it was his first attempt ever at woodworking!) is exactly the same as the ribbon given to the kid who built the amazing log cabin doghouse with stained glass windows. They are separate entities. Sure, there is a Best of Show category later on, but no child's work is compared to another's during initial judging.
That's how book reviews should be.
And another thing. I don't usually review outside of my comfort genres. We all have them—we like mysteries but hate chick lit. We read YA but avoid science fiction like the plague. It doesn't mean I won't read genres I don't typically like (how boring would that be??) but I am careful how I review them. If something doesn't resonate with me, is it because of the book or because I am prejudiced against the genre? If there is any doubt, I simply don't review.
So what do all of my 5-star reviews really mean? I love books. Lots of them. I devour them. I celebrate them. And I want the authors who write them to know how much I appreciate the stories they've given birth to.
Do what you want with your reviews. But I'm happy to hand out five stars...generously.