How This Reviewer Reviews

Until recently I only read novels for enjoyment.  However, since joining a reviewing team, I’ve had to be more structured, objective and analytical in my approach.

What I include (after bibliographic citation and synopsis):

  • analysis of:
    • writing style
    • themes
    • devices
    • depth of character
    • flow
  • evaluation
  • recommendation

What I exclude:

  • plot spoilers
  • subjective statements such as ‘I didn’t like it’ without qualification

How to decide what star rating to award:


I’m firmly on the side of the author, so each novel starts off with five stars.  I’m happy to overlook the odd grammatical mistake or typo.  I have no reason to deduct any stars if:

  • the writing style is clear, even-paced and consistent
  • the plot is enjoyable and plausible
  • the descriptive passages vivid
  • the characters three-dimensional
  • the backstory believable


I will deduct one star if I have:

  • a major reservation, such as:
    • it fails to fulfil any of the above criteria
    • there is a fundamental factual error that could easily have been checked
  • or a cumulative number of minor reservations, for example:
    • lack of background research
    • meaningless padding
    • inconsistencies in timelines or descriptions
    • uneven pace
    • loose ends


I deduct a further star if I have:

  • one major reservation and
  • three or more minor reservations


To date I’ve always found positive aspects in every work but I have to maintain credibility as a reviewer so theoretically, if:

  • the work is error-strewn
  • the plot or characters are implausible
  • the story loses its way
  • its genre is non-specific and its message confused

I would have no choice but to award a below average star rating.  However, I would offer constructive criticism as my main motivation as a reviewer is to encourage fellow authors.

I hope the above gives a bit of insight into the mind-set of this reviewer.

Happy writing/reading all!


About jhbooksblog

Hello - I'm Julie Haiselden, an occasional NHS med sec/practice administrator. Mother of three, wife of one, a chaotic cook and published crime/thriller novelist who blogs a bit about books, life and food. School alumna. Occasional am-dram actress/director. I enjoy walking and photography (although my enthusiasm outweighs my skill set). I've recently joined the reviewing team at Whispering Stories and can be found via the following social media sites: I also accept a few hard copy novels to review.
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3 Responses to How This Reviewer Reviews

  1. Pingback: August 2016 is Write an Amazon Review Month! | jhbooksblog

  2. Terry Tyler says:

    That’s interesting – I start from 3* and wait to see if I am impressed or disappointed! I only give 5* if I can truly say I LOVED a book, if it gives me that little rush of excitement when it’s time to start reading again. I do this so that people know that if I five 5* it means a book is very, very good indeed, and because there is no higher valuation, so, to me, 5* has to mean something a bit special. Which is why I often give 4.5*, because there are many books that I enjoy a lot, but don’t quite give me that rush!!

    I think it’s good to have a system like yours, because it means you aren’t in any doubt about what to award. I sometimes have to go by feel! One thing I do, though, is to award stars based on how good the book is of its type, even if I didn’t like it at all. Thus, a book to which I might give 2* can go up to 3 or 3.5 if I can see that others would like it.

    • jhbooksblog says:

      Yes, I’ve read some of your reviews, Terry and like your methodology.

      For years before I ever started to publish reviews, I subconsciously rated novels in my head according to a strict criteria and I’ve stuck with that (my A-level English Lit teacher has a lot to answer for!)

      Like you, I try to be objective as there are some books that I would never choose to read, so I award in comparison to other novels in the same genre.

      What is great for authors though, is that reviewers have diversity of approach.

      Good to have your feedback!

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