The Way I Review Books

I read books. Not a lot. I’m a slow reader; not slow as in it takes 30 minutes to read a page. Slow as in I only get about four hours a week to read. At this rate, I usually read a book a month.

I’ve realised lately how difficult it is for authors to find reviewers. I’ve also learnt that reviews are important to book sales. No reviews could equal low numbers. One review may encourage a reader to purchase a book. Hundreds of reviews can send book sales through the roof.

During my reading, I’ve discovered books by large publishing companies (aka traditional publishers) are often no less flawed than books published by authors, or I’m just lucky enough to read great self-published books and unlucky to read less than perfect traditionally published books.

After thinking about this for a month, I’ve decided to start reviewing books…one a month. No. Please. Don’t send me your book. Not yet anyway. I have five books already scheduled for review. They’re a mixture from different publishers. This post is to introduce how I plan to write reviews.

I won’t use a five-star rating system for these reasons:

1) It doesn’t tell me a lot.

2) It’s too limiting.

3) It doesn’t provide constructive information to the author or the reader.

4) It’s been done.

Instead, I’ve opted for what I’ve understood since junior high: a mark out of 100. Don’t worry, I can translate this number into the five-star system everyone’s familiar with.

A book is not just the story although this is the most important part. To properly rate a book, everything should be evaluated. How else will an author know if it was the cover or the title or the opening sentence that prompted the sale?

Diane Lynn Tibert McGyver

The Seven Properties I Use to Rate Books:

1)  Cover: Is the cover appealing? Is it too plain? Too cluttered? Can the title and the author’s name be read clearly? The maximum number of points a cover can receive is five.

2) Title: Does it tell me anything about the book? Does it grab my attention, making me look further into purchasing it? The maximum number of points a title can receive is five.

3) Back Cover Blurb: Does it make me want to buy the book? Why? Why not? The maximum number of points a blurb can receive is five.

4) First sentence: Does it intrigue me? Is it unique? Does it make me want to read more? The maximum number of points the first sentence can receive is five.

5) Spelling, Grammar, POV, text errors: Does the book contain these types of errors, and if so, do they distract from the story? I won’t note every mistake, but will note a few with page numbers and paragraphs. The maximum number of points the first sentence can receive is ten.

6) Satisfaction Factor: This is a big one for me. If I’m going to invest 20 hours into reading a book I want to feel satisfied at the end. If I’m not, I can literally throw the book against the wall and wonder why I bothered to read it. Add to this the fact that I’ll probably never read another book by this author because I feel cheated.

The Road by Cormac McCarthy is a perfect example of a novel which did not satisfy me. I stared at the last page and flipped it several times to see if another chapter existed. Staring off into the distance, I wondered why in the heck it ended the way it did. Later I decided McCarthy didn’t know how to end the story so left it hanging. I was so glad I had borrowed the book from the library instead of buying it; it meant I didn’t throw it against the wall and create a gaping hole in the gyproc.

So the story must satisfy me. This is my opinion and I’m sure it will differ from others. The maximum number of points the satisfaction factor can receive is thirty.

7) Engaging Story: Was the story interesting? Did it hold my attention? Did I want to finish the book? Did I feel for the characters and root for any of them? At the end, did I wish there was a second book, so I could continue reading about these characters? Did I laugh, cry or cringe in horror? Were there any great lines that made me stop and think? This is obviously the most important part of any novel and will be marked out of 40. A book would have to be darn good to get a 40, the best I’ve ever read. For the most part, I think the average will be between 25 and 35, considering the books I’ve read lately.

I’ll calculate the points and make the novel out of 100, and then translate it into five stars. Back in school, any mark 90 and over got you on the honours list. Marks between 75 and 89 landed you on the principles list. For most, 50 was the passing mark, but I always set my standards high when it came to education, so I used 60%.

You may not agree with everything I have to say—everyone has different tastes—but it will be my honest opinion.

My first review will appear tomorrow.

10 thoughts on “The Way I Review Books

  1. I’ve never thought about all these things, Diane, but then I really don’t review books. You give good guidelines, however, for anyone who wants to but doesn’t know how to begin. BTW I like the new look of your blog. 🙂


    • Thanks, Laura. I wrote a review once, but it was just a general paragraph. I don’t think it would have been very helpful for readers or authors. I hope this helps both.

      It was time for a theme change for the blog. I had it reviewed and they suggested several things. I’m still applying some of the suggestions, so it will change a wee bit more. Thanks.


    • Our cat, who brings home plenty of mice and other dead things, and attacks the kids when they get too rough should have a name like Killer, Hunter or Meet Your Doom. However, our black panther was named by his master (who was 8 at the time) and goes by Fluffy. lol


    • Thanks, Darlene. As I mentioned I’m a slow reader, so one a month is all I’ll be able to manage. Next up is MacLean by Allan Donaldson. I’m almost finished it.


    • I agree; writing reviews for books that grab me is easier. Like you, I don’t have a lot of free reading time, so I’m not going to waste it on something I won’t like from the beginning.


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