There's debate among critics over the validity of using a rating system, if doing so trivializes the art of reviewing itself. I don't think it does as long as ratings aren't taken more seriously than they are meant to be. I've used them since my fanzine writing days in the 80's. To me, they're just a form of visual shorthand. Readers may read my reviews in their entirety (and I think book readers are more disposed to read an in-depth review than people who check out, say, weekend movie listings or CD reviews). But when they're out shopping, they're more likely to remember, Oh yeah, here's that book Wagner gave four stars. So that's the function ratings serve for me, and unlike the Great Unwashed on Amazon who think five stars is what you give everything, my use of ratings, I like to think, has a lot of nuance and reflects my own critical philosophies. For instance, it would be a mistake to think that any book with less than a four star rating isn't worth bothering with. Hopefully, in context with the written reviews they accompany, my ratings can help you decide if my opinions are helpful to you in making your own reading choices.
EXCELLENT. A book of exceptional merit. Grab it.
See all 4 and 4½-star reviews.
GOOD. Has its ups and downs, but worth reading. May have more appeal for devoted fans of the author in question.
See all 3 and 3½-star reviews.
FAIR. Not bad, but not particularly good either.
See all 2 and 2½-star reviews.
FORGET IT! Move along, folks. Nothing to see here. Move along.
See all 1 and 1½-star reviews.
Can it go any lower? Yes it can.