What Makes a 5-Star Rating: How I Rate My Reads

To a lot of people, rating seems like a very easy thing to do. You either like something or you don’t. But for me, rating a book is a very complicated thing. I consider various different factors before making my rating. Even then, I find that using a 5-star system doesn’t necessarily capture my overall feel for the book.

Here are some of the things I consider when rating a book:


Plot is one of the most important things for me. I need to love the story! Depending on the genre, I’m looking for different things in the plot. But the key things I want are originality and proper pacing. With so many books out there, it can be hard for an author to come up with something completely new. For me, originality doesn’t just refer to the story line; it also refers to the author’s voice or their perspective. I want something intriguing, something that makes me look at a concept in a different way. The way the author presents this idea is super important because if it’s done well, I will find myself sucked in to the story.

Which brings me to the idea of pacing. A good book is paced to match the story. The last thing I want is to read a really great book that is too fast-paced to allow me to appreciate the characters or world that is being created. I also don’t want to read a book that moves too slowly and has nothing happening in it, especially if the story premise gives me the impression that it is filled with action. When the pace is set to match the events that are unfolding, it makes it easy for me to envision myself inside this novel, beside the character who is going on this adventure. Too many times, authors try to pack in everything they can into the story without considering how it will affect the pacing of the story.


I cannot stress how important this is for the way I rate a book. I have to love the characters. Now, this doesn’t necessarily mean that the main character has to be good. I love devious or sinister main characters. Nearly any character that is different from the norm will be one I like.

The most important factor is believability (yeah I know, it isn’t a real word, but you get the point). I need to feel that the actions/feelings of the character are realistic, or else I won’t be able to connect with them.

I also like characters that are resilient and intelligent enough to figure things out on their own. I really hate the “special snowflake” effect … but I’m not going to get too into that since it will just end with me ranting.

The interactions between the different characters is also really important because it builds the secondary characters’ personalities.


THIS!!!! I can’t tell you how many times I read a book that has a great plot and great characters but absolutely no world-building. I need to know what makes the world/setting in this book different or similar to the real world. This is especially important for fantasy, science fiction, and historical fiction novels; the story LITERALLY takes place in a different setting and if it isn’t explained, I’m not going to understand what’s going on. I think this is the hardest part of writing a story because it requires a lot of thinking and research… but it is one of the most necessary parts.

So there you have it. These are the 3 areas I focus on when I’m reading and rating a book.

But I want to know about your preferences! What makes a 5-star book for you? Are there other areas that you focus on? Do you take the cover into consideration? Let me know in the comments below!!!!



0 thoughts on “What Makes a 5-Star Rating: How I Rate My Reads

  1. I think I agree with you on your 3 points. Character development is super important, and this goes especially for books in a series. I don’t consider the cover in my rating, but it will make a difference on whether I pick the book up in the first place. I wouldn’t totally ignore a bad cover, but the blurb would have to be pretty special after a dull cover.

    1. Oh yeah, when it comes to series, character development is key! Haha yeah a pretty cover will catch my eye right away but I do know that sometimes people rate a book higher because of its beautiful cover! Thanks for commenting!

  2. This is such a great post! I’m hesitant when it comes to giving five stars. A book has to really wow me and check all the boxes. But it’s such a great feeling when you read a book deserving of all five stars!

    1. I definitely agree! I’m hard to please so the book has to hit me on all the different levels for me to love it, which doesn’t happen often!

  3. For me a 5 star rated book will be one that really touched my heart and had me obsessing over them. The ones over which my heart will race even days after I’ve finished them. Nothing else matters that much.

    There are many good books out there but they don’t make you feel different emotions. A book which dies that definitely deserves 5 stars

    1. Very true! We read to feel, don’t we? Even if a book is well-written, if it doesn’t appeal to my emotions, it won’t be one I will give a high rating. I usually attribute this to my ability to connect with the characters because that’s where I get emotionally invested. Thanks for sharing 😊

  4. Oh goodness. Easy? No. Rating is the bane of my book blogging existence lol.

    It’s interesting to learn what other people focus on when rating! I don’t have specific focuses myself. I go more with the overall feeling of the book, if it felt amazing or meh or frustrating. I take into my own personal tastes as well how objectively good it was (like, if there were no actual major issues I noticed). That includes everything from characters and plot and setting to emotions it gave me, chemistry in relationships, humor, diversity rep, and who knows what else, depending on the book. That’s why it’s always so hard for me to decide, haha.

    1. I agree! Ratings are very difficult. Even writing this post was difficult because there’s so much more than just these separate categories; it’s how the different elements work together to create this cohesive and compelling book! Glad to know I’m not the only one who suffers! Thanks for sharing your thoughts 😊

  5. I agree with your points here, but I also take a step back and think about how it made me feel whilst reading and by that I mean: even it’s not the best writing, or developed world/characters if I enjoyed it the likely hood is it’ll either be bumped up by half a star or a whole star. It really just depends but that’s the only other thing I sometimes take into consideration.

    With contemporaries I look for what topics they cover and how well they cover them since a lot of contemporaries follow a very similar frame for how they fold out. Great post Vee 🙂 you may have given me the idea to do my own post similar to this haha, since ratings are far from simple to give.

    1. Oh that is definitely interesting to consider! I think that I might unconsciously do that, too, and it may account for my half-stars! I haven’t read many contemporaries but it’s cool that you have a slightly different thing you look for when it comes to this genre!
      Can’t wait to read your own post (if you do one)!

      1. aha yeah I tend to look for different depending on the genre as you can’t compare genres all that well so I compare the book to another in its genre.

        I’ve noted it down – it’ll probably appear some time in April xD

        1. That’s very true. I have different weightage for different story elements depending on genre. There are also factors that I consider in one genre that aren’t relevant to another. That’s why I chose to only talk about 3 story features in my post that I thought would be pretty relevant across the board!
          Yay can’t wait to read it!!

  6. Another great post, Vee! I agree that world building is (everything) especially in fantasy books!! Thanks for sharing how you break down your rating system and what makes a good read!

  7. The characters are always super important to me.. And so is the world-building. However… I can’t say that rating a book is an exercise in weighing all these and putting out a star number as the answer. For me, it’s more like an emotional thing… I guess I don’t think about the rating too much (I do when it’s not favorable xD) the only difference between 4 and 5 stars for me usually is only the emotional factor – did it blow my mind, or not 🙂

    1. I think that when I’m reading a book I focus more on the emotions I am feeling. But when I sit down to write my review, I find I start to think about the different factors and add some kind of weightage to it. Most of the time I already have a rating in mind as I’m reading but then the factors I mentioned are how I justify that rating. Thanks for giving your input!

  8. Characters are a HUGE deal for me since I’m stuck with them for well… The duration of a series! It would suck if I hated the characters *coughs* Allegiant.

    Anyways, the plot is important too, along with world building. If I don’t get it, we’re going nowhere, haha. Us bookworms have other books we could get to instead. 😉

    1. Hahaha I felt the same way about Allegiant! And yes, plot is so important! Half the time I get lured by what sounds like a great adventure but ends up being just meh. And that’s still time I invested into the book!

  9. I agree with everything you said, I do the same. I also focus on character development…especially in a series.
    Because I proofread and have begun learning to edit…spelling, grammar, and punctuation issues really pull be away from the story. This has a negative impact on my rating. Sometiems it has great potential, but the errors make it too difficult to read through.
    Emotion plays a big role. Was I able to relate to the characters? How did the book make me feel overall?
    I might have to consider writing my own blog post about this topic.
    Thank you!

    1. I am super picky about grammar so I definitely get how that can affect your rating of a book! Most of the books I read nowadays are egalleys that are uncorrected so I tend to not hold the spelling or grammar errors against the author/book, but I make a note of it for the publishers! Definitely do a post about this, I would love to read it!

        1. Ah ok thanks for clarifying! Yeah, at that point, I expect to not see any issues in terms of grammar. I know a lot of authors that self-publish can have grammar errors, and that really bothers me because that’s an easy fix.

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