I used to think being a book reviewer was easy. You eat a book. You make an opinion. You write it down. You award self by buying a small galaxy. TA DA. Done.
Well. Sometimes it’s more complicated than that. And I don’t just mean because purchasing galaxies is expensive.
SOME BOOKS JUST AREN’T EASY TO RATE.
They don’t neatly slot into one of the five star ratings most reviewers use. Your thoughts on the book are perplexing. Head and heart are warring! IT’S A DIFFICULT RELATIONSHIP.
When I’m reading, I mentally preparing myself for a review. (Do you do this?) I go into most books with an open mind, expecting and hoping for at least a 4-star read. By 100-pages I have a good idea of the rating, but I don’t “officially” decide, of course, until I finish the book. But my brain is mentally sliding the star-rating around the WHOLE TIME I’m reading.
But when I hit that last page and still don’t have a single clue what to rate it? It frustrates me.
So I want to talk about some books that took me nine billion hours to decide the rating.
FRAGMENTS was a particularly hard book to sort my feelings over, because it’s a sequel and I loved PARTIALS. I had such fond memories of Partials that I couldn’t really believe I loathed the sequel. But I did. It was so freakishly boring. Until those last 100-pages where they all started shooting each other instead of sitting around eating tinned noodles.* I ended up rating it 3-stars because…ugh. BOREDOM.
* I actually can’t remember if they ate tinned noodles at all. I’m pretty sure they just sat around, sans noodles, which is why the book clearly was so boring.
I spent half the time reading MORE THAN THIS going:
It’s like a science-fiction mixed with dystopian and sprinkled with contemporary characters — also with the most confusing and open ending ever. I hardly knew what to think the whole time! BUT. I chose to go heart over head for this one (pfft, I almost always do) and gave it 4-stars because I liked it. Even if I was confused.
But I’m almost always confused when books are open to interpretation and don’t make anything definite. I’m possibly Castiel. I’m rather angelic, don’t you think?*
* Unless your answer to this question is “YES YOU ARE, CAIT” then don’t speak.
I basically hated everyone in FALLING INTO PLACE. The main character is self centred and awful and the side characters aren’t much better. But, maybe that was the point?! Still…it’s hard to read a book and not care if the characters poke themselves in the eye with a spork because they’re just so unpleasant…
But the writing was good! The short sentences were awesome! The present tense/mostly-third-person is my favourite! GAH. It wriggled 4-stars out of me in the end.
To put it bluntly, EGG AND SPOON is boring. It drags oooon and oooon and ooooooooon like a disagreeable zucchini.* Plus it’s 5 million pages, or, well, 475 pages which is basically the same as 5 million. I felt the book was amazing (from a distance) but I was ridiculously happy to finish it. So easy low star rating, right? RIGHT?
It was actually notoriously funny. I snorted at just about everything Baba Yaga, the infamous Russian witch, said…plus I quite related to her. She’s not fond of people and she calls them weird names instead of their actual names, beecuase she’s hip. In a Russian Tsarist sort of way.**
“Shut up, you two,” said Miss Yaga. “I’m starting to remember why I prefer life in my own private hermitage.”
* Don’t question this statement.
** It’s best if you don’t question this statement either. In fact. Don’t question anything I say. Or else you’ll get the incorrect suspicion that NOTHING I SAY MAKES SENSE.
Now I do talk about THE SIN EATER’S DAUGHTER quite a lot, actually. Possibly because I’m ridiculously upset at the lack of actual eating of sin in this book. The title is SUCH A LIE. Yet, here I am, always talking about it…why? Because the ending really threw me on my head. And I LIKE that! Hence the book is actually stuck in my brain despite being a) disappointing, b) lacking of delicious food, c) lacking of sin, too, actually, and d) ridiculously boring.
It should be 2-stars because I ground my teeth all through the beginning. But that ending? It wiggled 3-stars from me because I was impressed with the plot twist, although it took me HOURS to decide that. Hours, I tell you!
So how do I decide on a rating when I’m completely stuck? Usually I peel back all my frustrations and complex and tantrumy feelings and think, “Did I enjoy it? YAY or NAY?” And then I rate accordingly. Which often sucks, because I’ll look back at books and think, “That was rubbish, why did I rate it so high?” because I’ve whacked the star rating on because of a fleeting feeling.
Sometimes I also dream of half star ratings.
Sometimes I just yell “I QUIT” to my minions and leave them to come rate and review because I’m 1000% done with the entire matter. This is a good reason to have minions, yes?
STAR RATINGS ARE A TRIAL! It isn’t as easy as I used to think. See what suffering I go through to be a book reviewer? Geesh. Let no one declare being a bookworm is easy.