I prefer not to write negative reviews, so when reading for pleasure, I’ll primarily only review the books I liked. However, if reading specifically for review purposes (e.g. reading an ARC), I’ll always be honest.
Honesty is my main policy: I’m not in the business of pretending to like bad books, though of course I’ll always try to find the positive aspects, and will try never to be rude or insulting to the author themselves. Whether I’m reading an ARC from Netgalley, a book I picked up from the library, or something given to me by the author in exchange for a review, what you get is what I think.
My main preference is for YA fiction, particularly fantasy, but I prefer things without too much romance. I also like SF/F, some historical fiction, and poetry. With fiction, I particularly like things that are funny as well as exciting (Scott Lynch, Terry Pratchett, Cassandra Clare, Holly Black, etc).
My star rating looks something like this (click on the ratings to see all books in that category):
***** Phenomenal. I’m blown away, this book has changed my life or how I view the world, and I’m going to seek out everything this author has written. Alternatively, this book made me laugh so hard I cried. All of my friends will have this book thrown in their direction eventually until they read it.
**** Really good. I thoroughly enjoyed this, and I’ll probably read other books in the series or by the author. I’ll recommend it to friends.
*** Good, but with a few flaws. I still thought it was good, and I’d probably recommend it or read its sequels, but there were things I would have changed, or something about it bugged me.
** Could have been a lot better. It’s not without merits — either it was beautifully written but a lousy concept, or it was a great concept not entirely executed well. Maybe an editor should have been on hand.
* Oh god, oh god, I want to die. Why am I reading this? Let me shred it, please.
In my whole life as a reader there have only been a few books that come under the one star category (one of them was Catcher in the Rye, which I feel I can safely insult, as it’s a Classic so it’s not like it needs me to like it to succeed commercially). And I probably won’t review any of them here because, as I said, I don’t like writing negative reviews.
Very few books will get five stars, too. The vast majority will have three or four, and even three still means I really liked it. Two stars is bordering on solid dislike, but only one is actually hatred.
Of course, ratings are very subjective, and some books just can‘t be rated. So some of my reviews won’t have a star rating, and that doesn’t mean I gave them no stars, but I thought my own reading of it limited my ability to give it a numerical rating. For example, I might have loved a book, but I read the second one in a series first, and therefore spent the whole first half baffled because I didn’t know who anyone was. In that situation, I’m unable to honestly review a writer’s craft, no matter how much I enjoyed the story in the end.
I hope that clarifies my reviewing policy. If you’ve got any questions, please just ask, and I’ll be happy to answer. I’ll reply to as many comments as I’m able.