Discussion- How Do You Rate Books?

I’ve really been thinking about my rating system here on My Friends Are Fiction. I don’t have a hard set rule that I follow to rate books but do it on a mixture of emotional impact and the skill of the writing. The longer I blog though the more I realize that sometimes this doesn’t work for me. I’ve read some books that though I didn’t enjoy them (due to the subject matter most often times) I can see that they are beautifully constructed. I’ve struggled on how to rate these books.

I asked Twitter -when rating books do you base it more towards your personal enjoyment or how well the book is written/constructed?. I loved the comments I received:


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I had more comments but you get the point that from my non-scientific gathering of information most bloggers tend to rate using both their emotional connection and how the book is constructed and executed. I completely agree that if a book is poorly written it is very difficult for it to be an enjoyable experience. But, what about the books that are written beautifully but for some reason you fail to connect to the story-line? Maybe it’s because you can’t get behind the main character or the story line is something that personally turns you off as a reader…how do you rate it when you know that it is a good book but you just didn’t enjoy it?

Here are two examples of this from my own blogging experience. Because of the advanced hype and that eerie cover, I requested Gated by Amy Christine Parker. I read it and knew while reading that it was beautifully constructed and that Parker was a very skilled writer and story teller. Her research into cults was evident and I respected her for embarking on the topic. For me, I had such a hard time while reading it. I have a young son so the mother-daughter interactions really bothered me and I could not say that I enjoyed my actual reading experience. I was at a complete loss as to how to rate this book. I ended up leaving it unrated because I was so confused at the time.

Another, more recent example, is Red Rising by Pierce Brown. While I was reading I was swept away in the brutality of the society and world he created. I loved his vivid details and heart stopping action. But, I was very much bogged down as I read through the lengthy middle section that dealt with a lot of military strategy and was filled with violence (though tastefully done–for the most part). I  was able to decide on a rating much easier for this book and ended up giving it four stars though a large portion was not enjoyable to me, personally. I came to this rating after much debating on my part. I felt it deserved it because of the amount of time I spent thinking of the story, that I never once considered DNFing and my curiosity of the next book. Also, I was very impressed with Brown’s writing.

Sadly, I barely had any readers respond to my query. I was very interested in learning what they look for when they are trying to decide on a book to read. Of course, the star rating is only the jumping off (or concluding) factor of a review. What we write about the book and the details we use to express our views is the most important aspect.

I’d like to hear from you as either readers or bloggers (or both) how do you rate when reviewing? How does the rating effect your reading of a review or your impression of the book?

Review of Red Rising by Pierce Brown

Red Rising (Red Rising Trilogy, #1)Red Rising
By: Pierce Brown
Publisher: Del Rey (Random House)
Release Date: January 28th 2014

An electronic copy was provided to me in exchange for an honest review.

My Rating:

Darrow is a miner and a Red, a member of the lowest caste in the color-coded society of the future. Like his fellow Reds, he digs all day, believing that he and his people are making the surface of the planet livable for future generations. Darrow has never seen the sky.

Yet he spends his life willingly, knowing that his blood and sweat will one day result in a better future for his children.

But Darrow and his kind have been betrayed. Soon he discovers that humanity already reached the surface generations ago. Vast cities and sprawling parks spread across the planet. Darrow and Reds like him are nothing more than slaves to a decadent ruling class.

Inspired by a longing for justice, and driven by the memory of lost love, Darrow joins a resistance group in order to infiltrate the ruling class and destroy society from within. He will stop at nothing to bring down his enemies… even if it means he has to become one of them to do so.

The Story:
I really had no idea what to expect going into this novel. I hadn’t heard of Pierce Brown and only knew that the story was classified as dystopian. I loved the cover and thought the summary had a lot of potential.

Red Rising starts off brilliant. I was awed with the gruesome world Brown created; it was harsh, realistic and gritty. We are introduced to the Reds, the lowest caste in a futuristic society. The Reds dig underground on Mars and live short, brutal lives. Brown’s words were vibrant, intense and spell-binding. I was immediately invested in Darrow and his story. I was sure Red Rising was on track to being one of my all time favorite books.

Sadly, around 30% the story took a major turn that switched the tone up and honestly felt like a completely different book. The summary supplies us with the knowledge that Darrow leaves his underground life to join forces with those above to retaliate and resist the upper castes–once these elements begin the feel of the books changes.

Many, many pages were dedicated to battle strategy, fighting and very gruesome deaths. All were written very well but overall I wish this section had been edited down so that the pacing felt faster.

The Characters:
Brown was able to create a very unique cast of characters with none of them being either good or evil. Each character had their faults though slivers of good shone through in certain moments. I enjoyed this juxtaposition of good and bad in each and found it made me interested in all the characters. The dialog was impressive since each character’s speech felt very different from the others.

The main character, Darrow, went on an intense personal journey throughout the novel. Though I was able to empathize and root for him I never connected to him as thoroughly as I would have liked.  Something about the way the majority of the novel was written kept me at arms length and I felt that I was watching things play out rather than living through them. I can’t pin-point why exactly but I think this is why that middle section dragged some for me personally.

Final Thoughts:
There is no doubt that Pierce Brown is a skilled writer and story teller. Red Rising is gruesome, gritty and horrific yet was able to get me pondering the questions Brown posed in his future society. Though the majority of the book felt a bit slow to me I was still able to find interest in the details and personal journey of the protagonist. The story’s stellar start gripped me leaving me unable to not know how Brown will manage to tie in the loose strands of his main story arc.

Kim at The Midnight Garden reviewed this title as well and was able to capture the atmosphere incredibly well. Head over to The Midnight Garden to read her thoughts.

Showcase Sunday #9

Showcase Sunday banner
Showcase Sunday is a weekly meme hosted by Vicky at Books, Biscuits and Tea where you show what books you’ve purchased, gotten from the library, received from giveaway, as gifts or for review. Thanks to Scott Reads It for inspiring me to request Alienated and All Our Yesterdays.

For Review (arc sent by the publisher):

Alienated (Alienated, #1)

Alienated (Alienated #1) by: Melissa Landers

All Our Yesterdays

 All Our Yesterdays by: Cristin Terrell

For Review (via NetGalley):

The Bone Season (Scion #1) by: Samantha Shannon, Never Fade (The Darkest Minds #2) by: Alexandra Bracken, Entangled by: Amy Rose Capetta and Red Rising by: Pierce Brown

 What did you get this week?