I now blog over at The Eyre Guide! This blog is an archive of my past posts.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Taking A Look At Book Ratings

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,

When I first started blogging I didn't add star ratings to my reviews, mostly because I found it difficult to narrow down my thoughts to numbers.  It's all pretty subjective anyway.  But since most websites that look at reviews force you to give star ratings and I did find that I liked getting an immediate visual on other blogs for how the blogger felt about the book, I thought I should just add it to my reviews.  But it's still hard sometimes to decide on a rating!  For me, the overall deciding factor (especially when there are small issues I had with the book)  is how much did I enjoy it?  And such a subjective measure does bother me a little because I do like to think my ratings are fair and generally accurate and true across the board.  But they can't be if my number one measure is personal enjoyment/preference.  Oh well.  It is the same for every blogger.  Sometimes I like to kick around the idea of a rating that analyzes specific factors and takes away personal preferences - a way to logically argue a viewpoint of things like characters, plot and pace and takes off points for a character doing something stupid and unbelievable for instance.  But that's ridiculous really, and way too difficult!

I wanted to break down my feelings on what each rating I give means to me in this post - as a way for me to fully understand why I give what I give to keep me consistent, and also to see what others think when it comes to how to rate books.
Five star books for me, almost always excel in the storytelling.  The writing, characters and plot doesn't have to be perfect, but my enjoyment of the book was perfect.  Sometimes everything about the book was perfect to me - and I like to highlight that in my actual review - but there are times when I was disappointed here or there but I felt like the book held my interest and captivated me enough to give it all the stars.  If I couldn't put the book down even if there are flaws I think it deserves a rating that reflects that I was totally involved with the story.  Also I would recommend this book to others and if it's a series I am definitely planning to continue on with it.

Probably this is the rating I give most of the books I read.  I did enjoy it and I connected with the story and/or characters, but there were little issues that meant I felt it wasn't the perfect read for me.  Oftentimes I give this to a story that has a great plot and characters but the writing or execution of it somehow was disappointing.  Or even if a book has a big disappointment for me, but also something rather brilliant about it, I will rate it more for that brilliant part.  Basically there are flaws, but I still thought the book was an excellent read.  If this is a series though, I may not put continuing with the series on my priority list, but there is a big chance I will continue with it eventually.

I always feel bad giving this rating because these books almost were great for me.  They had a lot going for it, but in the end I couldn't get into it as much as I wanted to.  These books could even be generally thought of as excellent, but my own personal enjoyment was middling to bored and I can't say I would recommend the book.  I might even forget the book the minute I finish writing the review.  So probably the best thing I can say is that it's not bad, it's just not worth the time I put into it.  

This is a book I could not connect to.  My enjoyment level was near the basement, and I forced myself to continue either with the hope that it would get better or because I felt like I had to finish it for some reason.  But really I didn't care for it, and I was disappointed by it most of the time.  There may be some merit - in the writing, characters or plot but it wasn't enough for me to feel warm happy thoughts about the story.  

I've never actually given out this rating on my blog.  There are definitely books that deserve it but they also belong to another category that gives me less stress and allows me to enjoy reading.  And I don't review these on my blog.  What are these?  The DNF.  To hit this category I have to dislike the writing, the characters, the plot, maybe even shudder at the title of the book.  To my mind, the worst book I ever had to finish (the one that made me hate life as I turned pages) was Moby Dick.  I know it has merit.  I just couldn't find it.  And it didn't help that it's so bloody long.

In the end, I still don't really like to give star ratings to my reviews.  Mostly because I feel bad about docking stars from a book.  I want to love you Book!!  But it is necessary when readers are faced with so many books in the market, and on average star ratings on websites (like Amazon and Goodreads) are pretty accurate when gauging the quality of the book.  When first you factor in what genres you like to read of course.  It helps readers make a difficult choice - What book should I read next?

If you are a reviewer reading this, how do you feel about giving ratings?  How much do you rely on them when scoping out your next read?

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  1. Pretty Little ReaderMarch 26, 2014 at 7:27 AM

    The only way I can blog happily is to do it with emotions, which is usually how my ratings are done. Unfortunately this means there's times where my rating and my reviews don't always seem to add up! I tend to be quite analytical in my review, but my rating is always a gut thing. It's like you said, it's always about how much I liked the book.

    I continue to rate books because I know I appreciate being able to see, at a quick glance, how the blogger felt about a book overall. If it was one I adored, I don't want to read a scathing review and a rating helps me avoid that unpleasantness haha. So I want to provide the same thing to my readers :)

  2. I know my ratings are subjective. I don't try to make them otherwise. I will try to be somewhat objective in my review, where I have the words to explain myself, but my rating is always about what I took away from the book, not the book itself. After all, my own reading experience is the only thing I feel qualified to judge.

  3. Your rating system is pretty similar to mine, I also have the 3 star as okay. I actually think the 3 star is a difficult rating, there are 3 stars book I still enjoy and will continue the series and there are those 3 stars that where okay, but I won't be picking up any other books in that series.

    I agree with you it's difficult to narow down your enjoyment of a book in a number. I use my rating system more as a global indication, my review tells you exactly what I did and didn't like. I don't think I ever have given a 1 star rating, as I usualy DNF a book that I really don't like. And I don't give DNF's a rating as I didn't finish them and it feels weird rating the book as a whole.

    I still like ratings and it gives you an easy way to see how much someone enjoyed a book, but they are also complicated and I have had a few books for which i really didn't know what to rate them. Great post!

  4. Yes I think it is easier to base the ratings on your emotions! And you make such a good point about not wanting to read a negative review of a book I loved - I also use the ratings to avoid reading those too! It will just make me sad and I already know I will disagree. If I liked the book but I can see it's faults then I like to read those negative reviews to get their perspective.

  5. Very good point on the reading experience! It is so personal sometimes, that there's no way of making your thoughts universal for every reader.

  6. Yes, I rarely pick up the sequels of 3 star books but just recently I read a 3 star one that I think I would like to continue with - it is a tricky rating! I'm glad you like to reserve 1 star ratings to the books you usually DNF too - it seems like a minority of people do that. I also don't like to review DNF books since maybe by some miraculous twist the ending was awesome and made up for the book as a whole! And it seems unfair to pass such public judgement on a book without giving it all the chances.

  7. I started out the same way - I would just say whether I recommended something, or not. But you're right - so many places need you to give a star rating, so I ended up adjusting my reviews accordingly. I usually end up giving out mostly 3-4 star ratings, and I rarely DNF a book. Actually, I am a terrible person and thrill at giving a 1 star rating. But I make sure to only critique the actual writing, plot, characters, etc. and I avoid talking about authors at all.

    But I don't really look at others' ratings when I'm thinking of a read - I prefer to skim through actual reviews.

  8. I have read a few 3 stars that where still good enough to have me give the sequel a try. And even a few of those cases where the sequel was a 4 star. It's a tricky rating indeed and I most often wish to use the 2.5 or 3.5 star rating, but I don't use those and neither does Goodreads.

    And sorry for the confusion, but I meant that books I DNF get no rating as I don't finish the book. I do give out some 2 star ratings, but I can't remember ever giving a book a 1 star. For DNF books I only write short review on Goodreads to explain why I DNF'd it.

  9. Yeah, the half star rating is nice sometimes but I don't use it because I can't use it on Amazon/Goodreads so I might as well keep my rating as consistent with all my posting places. Maybe they will let us do half star rating someday though!

    Oh I see! Ok that does make sense!

  10. Ana @ Read Me AwayMarch 26, 2014 at 7:03 PM

    Me giving out ratings have pretty much the same metric as you do. For 2-star books, they're rather "meh" to me. I don't dislike them, but I find them boring or something like that. Either that, or I really disliked some bits but the book was saved by some interesting things. For example, I gave Ink (Amanda Sun) 2 stars because I really disliked the characters but I found the writing of Japanese culture very interesting. 1-star books are ones that do earn that "dislike" tag, I think I only gave it once on my old blog but not yet on my new blog. The 1-star book was one that actively made me angry, I think.

  11. LOL yes, though I don't like to be too harsh when I'm judging books, 1-star books do get me a little mad for some reason! I guess it's because I'm investing the time to read it that I almost feel like it owes me some enjoyment. :) So it's better for me to quit the 1-star books as soon as I can.

  12. I'm a terrible person, I know :x My DNF's are usually because they're so boring I can't get more than halfway through. I think I may be in the middle of a potential DNF right now, which makes me SO SAD. Oh well, not every book can be a winner.

    I think it's smart that you don't waste your time reading a book you don't enjoy. Sometimes I hate a book so much my anger gets me through it, but when it's just apathy...eh. Why bother.

  13. My reasons for giving out a 5 star rating are very similar. I can read a book that may not be technically perfect and/or has some other kind of flaw here and there, but if I was completely absorbed by the story or even a single character, I'll rate the book a 5. I love getting insight into other bloggers' rating systems and really enjoyed this post! :)

  14. Thank you! I'm glad we have a similar view on ratings! I suppose it might be nice to give like a 5+ rating for those books that were really perfect for me, for the instant favorites. But then Amazon/Goodreads doesn't have that option so maybe I should keep my life uncomplicated. ;)

  15. Rating is HARD, which is why I also use 2.5, 3.5 and 4.5 stars. My rating is similar to yours :) I most of the times end up rating with emotion, but that's not always the right way. I like being able to see in one glance what someone felt about a book, so I always prefer to have ratings in a review.

  16. If Amazon or Goodreads changes their policy to give half ratings it would be great! I really try to find the balance between thinking and feeling too - especially when it's a book I think has a lot of merit.

  17. I agree about the use of ratings. It's an instant visual and gauge for readers to know how you felt about a book, and it really helps when you are able to distinguish between a book that was very good but you just didn't feel like you could have without even really saying anything. I find that to be the biggest distinction between four and five stars for me.

    And I like that your ratings are at least partially based on the technical merits, but you also rate based on emotions. I do often change what I think my star rating will be after writing my review and exploring those technical elements that I may have liked or disliked. I tend to refrain from solidly deciding on a star rating until I'm done with the review for that very reason... Though a five-star read is always still a five-star read for me after writing the review. :) Awesome post Charlene!!

  18. You make a great point that I wish I had included in my post - that actually writing through my thoughts on a book helps me decide the actual rating! Though most of the time it seems like I rate lower than my first thought after I read my review of a book - when I see just how many problems I had with it! :)

    I would like to think my reviews are more helpful if I try to cut back on personal emotions and focus on technical merits and I'm glad other reviewers try to review in that way too! It makes me feel more confident in their reviews when I feel like they tried to judge the book as fairly as possible.

  19. Rating books can be hard. Lately I have so many books to read too that if the first book in a series is a 3 or less I'm out. I just won't continue. I will say though when another blog rates a book the first thing I glance at is the number they gave the book THEN I read the review. I just can't help myself.

  20. Same for me! I don't want to spend time on a series it looks like I won't enjoy. And also same for me that I purposefully seek out the rating first - even if it's at the bottom of the post, I'll scroll down and then read. Which is why I moved my rating to the top of my post, but I do think there's a nice punctuation to a review by putting it at the bottom!