Like many authors, I have chosen not to post negative book reviews. I believe every reader has a right to an opinion (including me), but I also know that writerland is small and it's not worth burning a bridge or creating awkwardness just because I may have not liked someone's book.
However, if I enjoy a book, I will post or tweet about it and give it a rating on Goodreads and/or Amazon. And sometimes the hardest part about doing that is deciding between a 4 and 5 star review--or finding the difference between "really liked it" and "it was amazing". I noticed that I rarely give 5 stars to anything because apparently I have a really high bar set for that, even though pinpointing where the bar was set wasn't so clear.
Then I read an advanced copy of Tiffany Reisz's The Siren this past week and immediately knew I would give it five stars (and no, not because Tiffany is my agency mate.) Why? Well, I realized I DO have certain criteria that launch a book to a five-star rating. Here's what I came up with...
A Five-Star Book...
1. Is a story I cannot put down.
This means I will forgo things that I love to do just to keep reading. I was on my anniversary trip in New Orleans this past week. I should've been walking around the French Quarter and eating beignets, but instead I had to take a midday break just to get in a few more chapters of The Siren. (Hubs didn't seem to mind since this gave him the chance to check in on the golf tournament.)
2. Has characters I will remember long after I finish the book.
Terrific exciting plots are great. Love that. But without richly developed characters that I can connect to, a story will fall flat. I want to finish a book and feel like I've just read about real people that exist somewhere in some alternate universe.
3. Requires a period of reflection (or a grieving period) after I'm done.
This means that I cannot immediately jump into another book the next day. I need time to absorb, reflect, and appreciate what I've just read. If I pick up another book too soon, the book automatically pales in comparison--not because it's not a good or even great book, but because I'm not ready for a new relationship yet.
4. Makes me want to buy the author's next book or backlist RIGHT NOW even if I have a TBR pile that is threatening to bury me.
A five-star book makes me forgo all plans to read whatever I planned on next. I need more from the author and I need it now.
5. Is one that I must have a hardcopy of.
I love ebooks. I was a pretty early adopter with the Kindle and buy ebooks regularly. However, when a book turns out to be a 5-star-er, I want to have a hardcopy I can keep, flip through, and see on my shelves.
6. Compels me to tell everyone I know about it.
Ah, that lovely word of mouth all authors want. These books are the ones that start that forest fire. You want to tell anyone you meet about this great book you just read. You turn into a book pimp.
7. Is re-readable
I'm not a big re-reader. I think this has something to do with my pantsing mentality--once I know a story, I don't want to read it again. But there are a rare few that even if I don't sit down and reread the entire thing, I will go back to favorite scenes and chapters and read them again. Some of this is because, as an author, I like to analyze what made the scene so compelling. But often, as a reader, this is just for my pure enjoyment.
Now, having said this, I don't want anyone to think a 4-star rating doesn't have some of these qualities. After all, 4-stars means "really liked it." But I think when a book has all of these, it launches it into the rare air of the 5-star rating. And all I can say is I sure hope I've written some books that will end up on people's 5-star radar one day. :)
Oh, and if you want to find me on Goodreads and see what I've rated, here I am.
So what criteria do you use to separate the "really liked it" from "it was amazing"? Do you find you're very selective about the high ratings or give most books you enjoyed a five? Am I the only one who has a book grieving period or who buys a hardcopy even if I have the ebook?