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Hello Hello! How are you?
I wanted to add a little disclaimer to this top of this post, it’s fairly long, so buckle up and enjoy and don’t hate me for all the waffle aha!
A while back, I decided that my 5-star rating system just didn’t cut it and sometimes, I end up really confused about how to rate a book. There are books that I read that are immediately 5-star ratings, or that I knew were a certain rating as soon as I closed the book. However, we’ve all read those books that are really hard to rate, not because they are bad books by any means, but because we have so many thoughts, questions, and it just takes a while to work everything out. This is where this idea came from.
I have always read quite a lot and I never really thought about the ratings I was giving books, I didn’t really have a conscious thought behind WHY the book was worth x or y amount of stars for me. When I started my Bookstagram last year, and my blog at the start of this year, I realised that a) my reading tastes had changed so much over the last years, and b) I was getting a lot more critical of just what I was reading. I started asking questions about stuff in books and my head would be all over the place. As I started writing reviews on my blog and allocating various ratings to various books, I realised one day, a few months after having read some book, that it definitely was not a 4 star read, but I hadn’t realised that at the time.
The inspiration behind this post and this idea basically comes from my friend Fiona from Fi’s Bibliofiles. Much like the rather well-known CAWPILE rating invented by Book Roast over on YouTube, Fiona came up with her own rating system called the ESCAPE rating, definitely head over to her post talking about it to find out more!
I knew I wanted to do this kind of rating system too but have been putting it off, thinking I could do it ready for next year, but lately, I’ve read books that I enjoyed but didn’t know how to rate as my thoughts were all over the place. Even with my very organised way of structuring my posts and putting all my thoughts in categories, this wasn’t enough to help me. And therefore, after a few months of thinking I had to change it up, and after 3 days of thinking, changing the wording, changing the criteria and playing with pieces of paper to make words, my new ASPECTS rating was born (and I probably lost a few brain cells and confused a few people in the process – sorry)!
WHAT IS THE ASPECTS RATING?
The ASPECTS rating is much like CAWPILE or ESCAPE. Instead of rating solely with stars, this new system will allow me to think about different criteria while trying to decide what rating I think the book deserves (according to my own tastes and thoughts).
Each capital letter in the ASPECTS rating has a specific meaning and is a different grading criterion. It all sounds very complicated when I put it like that, but it is the simplest and most obvious way I have found to help me rate books.
I will explain each different item in a minute, but there are no maths involved really, only adding each category and seeing what the total amount of points is worth (you’ll see what I mean soon). I had looked at the CAWPILE rating method and the maths sounded much too complicated for me, and as I’m not mathematically-minded, I knew it would take up a lot of my time to work every rating out. Here, I just have to add each number on my phone calculator, and see what that is in terms of stars!
BREAKDOWN OF THE ASPECTS RATING
The ASPECTS rating can be broken down as: atmosphere, start, pacing, ending, characters, theme, style. Now I will explain what each of these means and what I will be grading in each category.
In this part, I will be thinking about the overall atmosphere of the book, but also the setting, or for fantasy and science fiction novels, I will be calling this world-building. Each category can be broken down into larger sub-categories, but to make it easier and to actually come up with a word to fit the new rating system, I had to fit what I could under such words as “atmosphere”.
What is the setting like? Is it realistic or does it seem fake? Is the world-building imaginative and immersive or is it badly done, or not done at all? What is the atmosphere like?
I ended up calling this section start after a lot of struggles trying to make a word with an O for “opening”. I don’t know about you, but the start of a book is always an important part of my rating. If the book starts off with a really boring sentence, I will definitely have a hard time remembering it, and I like first impressions that stick.
In this part, I will be thinking about the first few sentences of the book, if the wording is good or if it is just boring and mundane. Did it draw me in right from the start? Did it surprise me and leave me wanting to read more immediately? Or did it fall flat? Was there a contrast between the first few sentences and the rest of the book or was it a smooth introduction into the story?
Prior to this year when I really started reading all the time and judging books with a star rating, I hadn’t really thought about what pacing was. But let me tell you when you’ve read a book that had bad pacing, you know about it.
This is another big category and I will be thinking about the pacing of the story, right from the start, if there are contrasts or transitions, if the flow is choppy or fluid. I will also think about whether it is slow or fast-paced, especially in SFF because if something is high-action but has extremely slow pacing, I usually struggle to get into it.
In this part, I will also ask myself whether the story had a logical flow, if it deviated from the current events or if it stayed on track, but also if it was believable, not just in the grand scheme of things, but in the story and its intricacies. There is nothing worse than having a vampire that can’t be in the sun and have him run through a field in broad daylight later on in the book, is there? Obviously, I can’t question the logic and believability of an SFF novel against the realities I know, but if I see something in a contemporary or a historical fiction that doesn’t fit my knowledge or any research I do later on the subject, I will definitely have to factor it into my rating.
Oftentimes, the ending is what can make or break a book for me, and call me sentimental if you will, but there is always something that happens to me when I close a bit of a meh book on a great last line or impression.
I want to know if the ending was a good one in its wording, the way the story was cut off, if there was a resolution which was clear and logical and if the boxes were all closed and tied with a knot, basically. However, if it’s a series and it ends on a cliff-hanger, it has to be a good one!
I will also factor in my captivation of the story throughout. Was I hooked from start to finish or did my attention waver? This is also where I will factor in my overall enjoyment of the book, and it would have been an extra criterion by itself had it not been for the double E it would have caused!
As a fantasy fan, I like to think as myself as a reader who enjoys and looks for intricate world-building and amazing plotting, but I have to say that a lot of times, I can be swayed massively in my impression, enjoyment and rating of a book by the characters in it, I love a good character-driven book.
I love learning about a character, from meeting them, to seeing the characters at the end of the story, seeing their evolution, but the backstory is also something I massively take into account while reading a book. I love when books start in the middle of the action or a battle, but I also really enjoy when we learn about a character, their personality, their feelings, fears, past, wishes, etc.
This part will both be about the main characters, and also the secondary characters, if they were good, well-written, if they were questionable (not in a morally grey or an unreliable character type of way, but more in a logical, rational sense). Basically, everything about the characters!
This is what you could also call story or plot, but for the sake of the word, I had to use a T! This is going to be about the ins and outs of the plot. I feel that especially for myself, the plot of a book is a very important part of my reading experience and I will often wonder about how the plot actually unfolded and if I found it to be enjoyable or not.
I will think about what the plot actually was, whether it was original and unique or fairly basic and obvious, but also if it was well-executed, plotted out, how it evolved and whether it deviated or stayed on track. I’m a sucker for a good plot-twist, so I will also be thinking about that.
This is the last part of my rating criteria list, and its possibly the most important, for me at least. It’s another big category and within the “style”, I will be thinking about everything from the writing style, if it flows, if the reading experience is enjoyable and easy or if it’s clunky, if it’s a good quality and nice to read, but also the structure of the book itself and how it is set out. If there is one thing that I really am not a fan of and that bothers me a lot is super long clunky chapters. So I will also be thinking about the chapter length, how the chapters were broken down, how they flowed and transitioned.
In this part, I will be thinking of criteria such as linguistics, semantics, the structure, grammatical errors, etc, I know it sounds like a lot, and very complicated, but I’ve read loads of books that are amazing and just have no structure or are filled with errors and that just totally takes the enjoyment out of it for me.
Now, I know this sounds like a lot, and you probably think I’m crazy, but I can guarantee that in nearly every book I have read, I have thought about all these things and having to transfer all of those thoughts into a 1-5 star rating is just quite tricky at times!
FROM ASPECTS RATING TO 1-5 STAR RATING
Finally, I’m going to explain how exactly I’m going to not make this rating system too mathematical, and frankly, it’s really easy!
As you have seen, each letter in the ASPECTS rating is one criterion or a category of questions I ask myself at the end of each book, so each letter will be worth 10 points. I will rate each from 1 to 10, and at the end, I will just add all the points together on my phone’s calculator (my mental capacity is not enough for this aha), and that will give me a rating between 1 and 70. I have broken down the total 70 points into star ratings as you can see below.
1-7: 1 STAR
8-14: 1.5 STAR
15 to 21: 2 STARS
22 to 28: 2.5 STARS
29 to 35: 3 STARS
36 to 42: 3.5 STARS
43 to 50: 4 STARS
51 to 58: 4.5 STARS
58 to 70: 5 STARS
Once I have added up the points, I will then check my fail-safe rating conversion above and assign each book with a star rating according to the points I have awarded it.
I know this sounds like a lot, and there is a lot of waffle as per usual with me, but this is the easiest and most objective way to rate books that I have come up with and I think it suits me perfectly!
Each review I post on my blog will have the star rating in the title as usual, but you will be able to see the ASPECTS breakdown at the bottom of the post and see what I thought of each criterion. And I will, of course, be keeping my picture rating with the stars!
I’m really happy I finally came up with this system and I’m excited to use it for the first time in tomorrow’s post, so stay tuned for that, and if you’ve made it to the end of this post, well done and I’m very sorry for all that aha!
That’s all for now, I hope you enjoyed this post. What kind of rating system do you use? See you soon, stay safe,
Disclaimer: I came up with the ASPECTS rating myself, it honestly took me such a long time to get it to something that I liked the sound of and that suited me and my rating criteria. I would appreciate it if I were told and credited if you ever use this rating system as I put a lot of time, effort and thought into creating it.