For the sake of clarity and simplicity, I have started using a five-point star system in the blog and felt that this perhaps required some context.
The range of books I read is wide: literary classics and modern literary fiction nestle alongside more genre fiction – fantasy, crime, steampunk…. Adult books butt up against Young Adult books. The star system is very fallible: do not expect a four star detective novel to contain the same style and strengths as a four star literary fiction. We appreciate different things in different books. Gripping battle scenes might boost the star rating of a fantasy novel but do nothing to something more literary.
My star system, therefore, is purely subjective and broadly speaking goes like this:
- One star: positively disliked the book, could not engage with it at all; would try to dissuade anyone from reading it.
- Two stars: failed to meet expectations, flawed in some way; would not recommend.
- Three stars: met expectations, was an entertaining way to pass the time; may not remember much of it in six months’ time; unlikely to recommend it.
- Four stars: exceeded expectations, was powerful and effective within its genre; likely to be recommended to readers of the genre.
- Five stars: significantly exceeded expectations, was masterful within its genre; highly recommended to readers of the genre and outside the genre.
So, Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life was remarkable and lyrical and heart wrenching and absolutely warrants five stars; but so does the Mistborn Trilogy by Brandon Sanderson which, from an objective point of view, has less to recommend it but was no less masterful as a fantasy novel.