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Sobre mimHere is a guide to my rating criteria. I also employ half stars if I can't quite decide where something belongs:
5 stars - So well-written that I can lose myself completely in the world, with an engrossing plot and fully-realised characters who feel almost real to me within the context of that world. Yet its excellent formal qualities are accompanied by real 'heart', so that I become emotionally involved with it. Whatever genre it belongs to, it transcends the conventions of that genre and becomes something greater and more unique. Usually a book like this leaves a kind of aftertaste - whether that be glowing happiness or bittersweet sadness - which can linger in my mind for days.
4 stars - A book of fine merit, which nevertheless falls just short of perfection for me. That might be because, for all its very good formal qualities, it never quite manages to engage me emotionally. Alternatively it might be a firm favourite but, despite my fondness for it, I can recognise some occasional weaknesses in the plot or writing. If it belongs to a particular genre, it might be an excellent example of that genre but never quite transcends it.
3 stars - A book which I mostly enjoyed while reading it, but there might be aspects of the writing, plot or characterisation which I feel detract from my overall enjoyment. If it belongs to a particular genre, it is a solid example of that genre but I may feel that it pales in comparison to other books by the author which I've read.
2 stars - Dull, derivative or contrived, with serious weaknesses in writing, plot or characterisation. It might simply be that I don't gel with the particular writer or genre so it still might be worth you giving it a go if you think it would suit.
1 star - Objectively, excruciatingly awful. Don't waste your life on this. (There are unlikely to be many of these.)