About two weeks ago, I received an email from author asking if I’d change my review rating for a book she wrote because she fixed several of the issues I pointed out. This was for a review written months ago and while I’m glad the problems I brought up were addressed, I feel as if I’d be cheating by changing the rating. First of all, I’d have to reread the book to see what changes were made and second of all, I’m not in the same mindset when I first read the book. How many times have you read a book and thought it was brilliant, but reread it later only to change your mind? I don’t consider myself a difficult / picky reviewer. I do have an academic background and might pick up on things other reviewers might miss.
Here’s a little insight to how I review and how it affects the way I rate. First, I look at the use of conventions (ie: spelling, punctuation, grammar, etc) and how it affects the overall piece. A book with a lot of convention errors will more than likely not achieve a score higher than a 3. Then I look at character development. Are the characters full developed? From there I look at narration. Is it told in first person? If so, do the thoughts, feelings, and opinions come directly from our narrator? Is everything we read their point of view? If the author introduces another point of view and doesn’t tell us, this affects the way I will rate. Even with a third person narrative, I ask the same questions. Then I look at the writing itself as a whole with regards to the entire story. Are there any plot holes? If so, what are they and does it affect the timeline that takes place in the novel? Can I suspend disbelief? If not, why not? If it deals with a topic or a situation, did the author do the appropriate research? Finally, I look at tone and I realize that tone is difficult to gauge because reading is subjective.
Knowing a little at how I review a book, doesn’t mean I follow the same format for each book. Mystery / suspense / thriller novels are reviewed a little differently. The same goes for romance novels. In a romance, I don’t need a happily ever after to enjoy the book nor do I need x number of sex scenes in order to rate it high. I’m probably one of the few reviewers out that there that will give a lower rating to a book if there are more sex scenes than actual plot. Novellas also are reviewed differently from full length novels.
What I’m trying to say, I have no clear formula as to how I rate a book. There are a lot of factors at play and changing a few details I pointed out, may not necessarily change a rating to a higher score. I consider myself a thorough reader, but I’m also a forgiving reviewer. If a plot drags on, but has strong character development and the writing is engaging, it may receive a 4 instead of a 3. There’s no direct equation I use when coming up with a rating. Just because I may decide between two ratings and not go with the higher, doesn’t mean if everything I addressed was fixed, it would get that higher rating. There are a lot of factors at play and most of it has to do with the moment. I’ve been there before, a reading high, saying book is a 5 and beyond, but upon further reflection, there are little things that nag at me and the total LOVE moment has just passed. This is one reason why I tend to sit on writing reviews then curse myself for waiting. I also don’t compare books or authors when I rate. I treat each book as if it’s the first book of an author I’ve read even if I’m a fan of series or have read them before. I’m aware of bloggers who compare books to different authors. For example, one blogger only gives 5’s to books that compare to Tolkien or C.S. Lewis and this is difficult for me to grasp because she reads romance primarily. I have yet to find a romance author whose book is on par with The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. I couldn’t do that to a modern author writing a different genre to Lewis’ nor I could I do that with one that writes in the same genre. Each work is different as well as the author and then you have to factor in their personal history, lifestyle, time period they lived in, etc. So many factors to consider when comparing authors in order to get a rating. That doesn’t seem fair to me.
So in short, I did not reply to this author nor will I change my review. What I will do is modify a review to say the author has made changes, as I did with a recent review when the author informed me that the copy I purchased was bought a week before she updated the new copy.
How do you rate / review your books?