In January 2020, I began reviewing books for HorrorTree.COM. I didn’t take this opportunity lightly, and it wasn’t a selfless act on my part. I thought I could help others, as well as myself, to become increasingly better writers through the process.
Who do I think I am? How am I qualified to review books? My resume includes an Associates Degree in Communications and the Arts. I have been a contributing writer to the Press and Journal publication, Dauphin County Woman for nine years. My editor takes the liberty of editing my work as she sees fit. Sometimes my reaction has been, “Oh yeah – it needed that.” Other edits have brought on physical illness and sniffles. However, I’ve never had a reader tell me they didn’t understand what I was saying and I’ve often had them tell me what a riot my column was, or how it made them cry.
What I’m saying is that I understand the editing process and I get it when my incredible and witty prose doesn’t sound so wonderful to discerning eyes. I know that feeling of someone not getting me and thankfully, I have been surrounded by tough love and constructive criticism throughout my writing career. Both have served me well.
I am not that reviewer who puts down or attacks an author personally. A few mistakes here and there won’t make or break achieving one rating over another. It is my job to give an honest and unbiased opinion. Here is how I use the five-star rating system.
One Star – A book is problematic on every level. I have yet to assign this rating and I don’t expect to. I can’t know how excellent an author thinks their book is when it’s turned in to me, but I am mindful that their forthcoming reviews may be highly and eagerly anticipated. It remains my job to give a fair opinion. To get the one-star rating, a book would have to leave me feeling like the author didn’t care about their work. It would have to lack correct usage of basic grammar and adherence to fundamental writing skills. I would question an author’s intent to remain an author for work deserving of this rating.
Two Stars – A book doesn’t have an interesting enough story line, but I can tell the author is on to something. It probably has enough grammar and punctuation errors that it got on my nerves every time it interrupted the flow, and there was likely too much telling and not enough showing. Although the piece may read like an author’s first attempt, it has potential.
Three Stars – Ah, the illustrious middle of the road. Is it a bad rating? A good one? To me, three stars are a good rating with “needs work” attached. The book was rewarding to read. Plot, setting, dialogue, characters all ring true but there were things that took away from the overall enjoyment. Too many grammar and punctuation errors, too much passive voice, too much telling without showing would all keep an otherwise four-star book anchored in three.
Four Stars – The book was an enjoyable read and I would recommend it to others. It didn’t have quite the impact it could have to warrant five stars. I may have wanted to give it five stars, but there were minor problems involving character, plot, etc. or enough grammar and punctuation mistakes that it interrupted the good time I was having reading the book.
Five Stars – The book had memorable moments and held my attention. It had an impact and something about it stuck with me. There weren’t issues with point of view or pacing, dialogue rang true. Proficiency in grammar and tools of the writing craft allowed the story to flow well. I would recommend the book and would reread it myself.