Do you know what’s absolutely wild? We hit 200 followers yesterday. Two-zero-zero. Holy guacamole. It’s still insane to think there are people out there, around the entire freaking globe, that read the sleep deprived words that I furiously type into the keyboard at odd hours of the night. There are actual real live people that read my screeching and bad metaphors and babbling about expectations being the death of me and sprinkle covered donuts. I can’t even begin to tell y’all how thankful I am for not only finding this community, but for each and everyone of you that stop by. Seriously, all you lovely people make my day with your nice comments every single day. From the bottom of my heart, thank you.
Don’t mind me, I’m just going to celebrate this little accomplishment with a bucketful of black raspberry chip ice cream.
I was looking back at some of my old posts, generally feeling sappy and reminiscing and realized I never explained how I rate books. Whoops. I went into this post hoping to do just that, but then got distracted by being hungry and it sort of evolved into Recipe For A 5 Star Read // what makes a book a full five star read???
Before we completely dive into the whole recipe, I want to talk about 5 star reads as a generality for a hot second. I always struggle to balance quality of the book itself vs my enjoyment of the book when rating. Because there are books out there that might be good books, but just not my cup of tea. But there can also be books that have some more technical flaws, but fill the book-shaped hole in my heart with pure and unbridled joy (or pain! depending on what type of book it is). As a reviewer, I always struggle to balance those two components in a numeric rating. I actually talk a bit about my internal conflict and my general tendency to waffle with ratings in a discussion about Changing Ratings that you can find here!
Out of all the ratings that I do end up creating, I think that 5 star reads are the most feeling based. That’s largely why there are so few of them. I mean, let’s take 2020 reading as an example. I read a grand totally of 289 books last year and only 18 of them were 5 star reads. If I math correctly, that is around 6%. And that’s not even including the 4.5 reads that I rounded up for the sake of Goodreads.
In 2021, the trend of few 5 star ratings holds true as well. I use a super nifty graphic template and the 4.5 stars and 5 stars are separated and found that out of the 46 books I’ve read to date, only 3 books have been true 5 star reads. Again, if I math correctly that is around 7%. And that’s not to mention the fact that one is a reread from last year.
Ok, we are officially done mathing for today. I hope I didn’t lose y’all with all the numbers and percentages and whatnot. The point of all it off those numbers is 5 star ratings are rare for me. And that begs the question: What makes the cut?
Enter my recipe.
I do not want to read a couple hundred pages reading about characters that I don’t like.
Whiny? Meddler? Constantly laments about feeling sorry for themselves? Why-don’t-they-like-me? Sorry, but those are all no goes.
With a mediocre plot, the characters could sell me on the book. But even if the plot is a godsend, if I constantly want to chuck baseballs at the main character I’m not going to end up like the book. Characters are key to everything, thus the largest ingredient in the recipe.
The biggest thing here is humor. I don’t need to be rolling on the floor cackling like a deranged witch or anything, but I want some wit. Characters with next level humor are far more entertaining by those other humorless cardboard characters. I personally am a big fan of sarcasm.
I also pay attention to the way in which other characters are described. If a character is compared to the shining face of the moon, the book is an immediate no go. Especially in the first person, how the main character describes others is so telling and can make or break a book for me. When it comes to deciding to continue reading a book or not, I often check back for red flags like these.
I prefer multiple pov, but in many books it is like playing with fire. One of my biggest pet peeves is when the voice of all the characters sound the same. If it is first person especially, I should be able to tell the difference in the way the characters speak, describe things, and act in general. I want them to have their unique speaking mannerisms, catchphrases, and humor, something that makes that character uniquely that character.
The absolute best feeling when you read a book is when you did not see the ~thing~ coming and you have to just sit and stare at the wall for 15 minutes because wow. wow. wow. Did that just happen? This is why I have trust issues.
That being said, there is definitely a happy medium when it comes to predictability (which is why there are only 4 tablespoons, and not straight up bucketfuls). love being shocked, but I don’t want to be shocked to the point where it doesn’t make sense. Don’t shock me just for the sake of shocking me. There’s got to be those breadcrumbs, that foreshadowing, that groundwork done that makes the payoff worth it.
The Goldilocks approved happy-medium is when I can see about 5% of the picture. I think I know what’s going to happen, but I don’t really know. It keeps me actively guessing and reading throughout the book and causes no disappointment of an opportunity not seized. Most recently, Namesake by Adrienne Young wielded that 5% predictability like a knife that then proceeded to gut me on the spot because oh my god that end of act 1 reveal came to PLAY.
On the complete opposite end of the spectrum, predictability isn’t ideal, but it doesn’t destroy the enjoyment of a book completely. If I like the other elements of the book enough, I’m willing to overlook some of that predictability because my other enjoyment trumps it. Predictability does not make a book inheritably bad, but it definitely misses out of the extra credit shock factor.
Sometimes the only difference between a 4 and a 5 star book is just a gut reaction. Do I really feel the book? I honestly don’t know how else to explain it. It’s kind of a if you know, you know sort of situation. If it has that zazz, then it gets the 5 star rating. If it is everything you could possibility, minus the zazz, then it’s a solid 4.5.
What better way to complete my recipe post, then with out favorite rat friend Remy??
What makes a 5 star book for you? What components do you look for? Do you agree with any of my ingredients? Do you have your own secret ingredient? Do you like to cook?