Here's where I explain my rating system in great detail! Will anyone even read this? I don't know.
I rate things out of five stars. Half stars are a thing here.
I have thought long and hard about my rating system and my reviews since I abandoned Jellyfish Reads. Ratings are now... harsher than they used to be, so a book that I will rate 3 stars on this blog is better than a book that I used to rate 3 stars on Jellyfish Reads. If that makes sense. I give out fewer 4 and 5 star ratings, so 3 stars is actually quite good.
What do I look for in books?
Writing style matters a HUGE amount to me. I love pretty, poetic, descriptive writing. (The Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy has the best writing style I've ever read in YA. Outside of YA, I like Neil Gaiman's writing style a lot. I also like Alan Hollinghurst, and Donna Tartt, although I've only read The Secret History by her. But that's pretty much exactly the kinda writing style I will flail about.) If I like the writing style, even if nothing happens in the book, I'll probably love the book.
Characters also matter SO MUCH. It actually takes a lot for me to connect with characters. I have to really care about them. If you manage to make me care about your characters, then your book will be at least 4 stars. I want to believe that they can actually exist. I want to read their thoughts and their dialogue and their interactions and think that they sound alive. A real, complex person with a rich past, with flaws and annoying habits and dreams and fears. I want lovely character development and moments in a character's story where they wow me with their growth and their vulnerability and their strength.
I love to read about friendships and other non-romantic relationships. You know what makes those shine for me? History. If characters are already friends before the start of a novel, and the friendship is at all important to the story, I want to read the novel and end up with a sense of how exactly these two characters became friends and all the stupid and funny and sad and happy things that have happened along the way, before the events of the novel ever took place.
I care quite a lot about setting. This does depend on the book; in some books it matters less. But I love it when I read a book and I get a strong sense of the place it's set in. This matters even in contemporary novels and can really make a book shine. For example, I will forever remember that A Kiss in the Dark by Cat Clarke was set in Edinburgh because the city was utilised so well as a setting.
This obviously ties into worldbuilding, which is also fairly important depending on the book and on what intrigues me. If something intrigues me and I fail to see it developed in the book, that will make me sad.
Plot matters least to me out of everything. Nothing much has to happen if an author gets everything else right. But a good plot is of course fantastic. I like things that are different and original and I like surprising twists.
I love diversity in novels. A book being diverse won't make me like it if it's badly written, but a book being diverse will probably make it shine even more if it's already a good story. I mean, who doesn't like to see themselves represented and reflected in stories? And even the most well-written book will probably make me feel a bit annoyed and disappointed if it's completely populated with straight, cis, white, able-bodied, middle-class characters. The world isn't like that, damn it.
To the ratings!
This is the lowest rating a book can ever receive. This means the book really, really bored me. And it means the book failed in every way mentioned above.
Also horrific. The only reason a book gets a 1.5 star instead of 1 star is because there is some tiny redeeming thing about the book that I will probably spend half my review yammering on about because I FOUND ONE POSITIVE THING OMG. I feel really guilty writing negative reviews so I will probably cling onto the one positive thing and talk about it too much.
This book was just okay. Readable, but still quite boring and probably very flawed.
This book was ALMOST good. But... it's just missing something. Like, I can see all the ways in which it could have been a good book, and yet. Nope.
Here's where things finally get interesting. 3 stars means I liked it! But for some reason or another, I didn't love it. (90% of the time it's because I didn't connect with the characters enough.) If I give a book 3 stars it means I will probably read the sequel if there is a sequel.
I LIKED IT A LOT. It's well-written and enjoyable. But it's not perfect, and I'm not quite in love.
I loved this book. I will definitely recommend it to everyone I see. However, it may just be a liiiittle bit lacking in the emotional department. If I can see how the book is awesome in every way but for some reason I just didn't feel it enough (I still feel it a lot, just not enough), then it's 4 stars.
SO AMAZING but there's just this one tiny flaw that I can't ignore and which prevents this book from reaching the heights of perfection. But it's very, very close to being 5 stars, and I'll probably never shut up about this book.
Utterly flawless. Or I am just so overwhelmed by sheer emotion that I can't even think coherently about in what ways the book might be flawed. This rating happens when the book succeeds in every criteria mentioned above and it has real emotional power. It makes me cry, it makes me shiver, it makes me think about it long after I've read it. I will run around telling everyone how it's the best book ever. My review will be an incoherent mess.
And here's a cookie for you if you read all of that.