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This subject came up when I asked my fiance, Josh, to do a guest review on my blog of a book that I thought he would enjoy. I've read several of his books now, so it was only fair. He's had the book for a month, just finished it last night, and the review will be up on Wednesday. I told him to review in whatever format he liked, but please use my rating system, and that's what prompted this comment: "Oh, you mean the system where every book gets five stars?"
This got my blood boiling a little, because in reality I am very, very stingy with my five star ratings. The observant reader will note that there are only about twelve 5 star books mentioned on this blog, including books that I had read and rated prior to starting the blog. So twelve books over the course of two or three years of reading. Twelve books out of roughly two hundred and fifty have earned 5 stars. I don't think I'm being overly generous here. In fact, on second contemplation I worry that I'm close to crossing the line into Overly Critical Bitch territory.
I'm a bit more free in handing out 4.5 star reviews, because those are the books that have tiny flaws, but still grabbed me by the heart and made me really feel. 5 stars demands perfection and emotional attachment--a magic alchemy that you just don't see very often. So in my mind, 5 star reviews should be rare--like blue moons or four leaf clovers. But not as rare as, say, Halley's Comet, where you'd be lucky to see it twice in a lifetime--and this is the point on which Josh and I differ.
I know every reviewer's philosophy on ratings is a little different. I've seen people who seem to read a 5 star book every week (lucky ducks) and people who read more 1 and 2 star books (curmudgeons). What's your take on this? Do you find yourself giving a lot of high ratings, or hardly any? How do you determine ratings?