How Should We Rate Books?

Today I want to discuss how we rate books. I’m taking a different approach in my reviews, find out why..

Whilst I like to see others review books based on a star rating I have a different method myself. I will star rate for a short n sweet tweet but for my blog I use a little system I call ‘Roxanne’s Reactions’, Let me explain why..

I find it difficult to rate a book that may have been a fantastic read but lacked in certain areas. I can deal with snippets of poor grammar (I’m pretty lazy with my own to be honest!) and I might care a little less about character development if the world building and pacing is perfect or vice versa, but we all have different wants and expectations from our books so my five star might not be your five star.

I particularly struggle with THE 3 STAR PREDICAMENT.

In my own opinion 3 stars isn’t a bad rating, I take it to mean something like..

-Worth reading but no need to run straight out to buy it
– Stick it on your wish list and pick it up in a sale
– Already own it? Maybe give it a lower TBR priority

3 out of 5 is the middle of the road, when did that stop meaning average and start being a negative rating? It seems many people view it that way then feel too guilty to post a 3 star review and end up bumping an average book up to 4 stars.

I’d struggle to rate fiction books below 3 in reviews simply because I’m conscious that it’s somebody’s personal work. An author poured blood, sweat and tears into this creation borne from their own psyche. It feels completely different to rating a film- with it’s vast team of actors and directors- or a video game with an army of graphic creators and producers. I’m not diminishing their effort or workload by any means, but the content of a book can be a solo creation whereas other entertainment might involve hundreds or thousands of people in its process. Bearing that in mind it feels like a direct insult to say you don’t like an author’s work- irrational as that may be since we are consumers.

In the same breath I’d hope authors wouldn’t take criticism personally. I assume all creators enter into their professions with the understanding that not everyone will love their work. I agree completely that you shouldn’t tag an author in a negative book review, if they come across it themselves that’s a different matter, but don’t shove your criticisms in their face– they didn’t ask for that.

I do enjoy seeing brutally honest reviews, if anything it might save me wasting money on a book I would also dislike. However, I refrain from sharing any myself because I wouldn’t want to put a reader off a book they might thoroughly enjoy.

To combat all this noise in my brain I’ve invented my own system. Instead of numbers or stars I use responses.

Roxanne’s Reactions are one word colloquialisms I use to describe my varying responses to a book.

They are open to a little interpretation, though my review itself should give an overall idea of my opinion. I try to use these silly words to convey a range of emotions including: Boredom, Fear, Enjoyment, Confusion, Disbelief, Suspense, Awe, Sadness, Shock, Adoration, Interest, Disgust, Happiness, Apathy, Squeamishness(?!), Intrigue and Amusement. 

Try squeezing all that into numbers and stars!

Hopefully readers will enjoy Roxanne’s Reactions. *Though I’m aware at the moment they come up in a slideshow when using a phone reader.. not sure how to fix that, I’d prefer a collage. Oh well.

I’ll leave you here with a couple questions..

Would you read a book if a blogger you trust gave it a negative review?

How do you feel about 3 stars?

Let me know..

Author: Roxanne Michelle

Dramatic, curly-haired wannabe writer from a nowhere town in Somerset. Stop-starter of all projects great and small. Here to talk books, film, mental health and lifestyle.

20 thoughts on “How Should We Rate Books?”

  1. I agree with you for the 3 stars, I don’t see them as negative, I see them as “it’s an ok book” and for me this is good enough. 🙂
    And for the negative review, I am completely on board with them! You can love a book but you can hate it, and you have the right to say so both ways. And I have read some books that I discovered because some bloggers that I trust a lot posted negative review, because the reviews intrigued me anyway. Some of them I didn’t like, neither, but some of them I liked. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. An interesting post, I have been pondering star rating myself a lot lately! I like your reaction-system and I think it can solve many problems in rating. Do you use multiple different reactions when reviewing a book? I feel like I have so many emotions that one reaction wouldn’t be enough but using many would destroy the system’s functionality as a way to categorise books (I use ratings for that too). But I like the personal take on it!
    I’m one of those people who view star ratings as a scale. If I give a book 2.5/5 stars I’ll happily still recommend it to people, after all that’s half the points already! I don’t mind doing negative reviews either because that’s I would want from reviews myself. I want to know the honest feelings of the person and I usually get quite frustrated when I read a review that highlights a problem after problem with little positive but still gives the book 4 or 5 stars 😕 yep the author’s heart was most likely in the book and that story was their passion. But I think that professional authors do want honest reviews, they want feedback from readers to direct their next idea towards what people want.

    A great post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thankyou! Yes I use every reaction I had, I could never narrow it down to one per book. I find it’s easier to quickly show that a book had some slow/boring parts but still surprised or intrigued me. Sometimes I can love parts of the story but find a slump along the way and I think that by using a numeric system points can be lost when really they don’t detract from the book too much.
      As you say though, too many reactions can muddle the overall take which is why I only use this system for my reviews so I can take time to explain 😊

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Ah that makes a lot of sense! Yeah usually it’s kind of hard to give a star rating to a book because it was better at other times than some others. I think your reaction system seems really cool.


  3. Great post, Roxanne. I’m with you on the 3 stars, I never saw it as negative but I have had people complain to me about 3 star reviews as a bad thing. It’s something to do with the Amazon algorithm apparently. I don’t write and review books for the Amazon algorithm but as Amazon now apparently run the world, we are supposed to! This is the reason I don’t have star ratings on my blog, but Amazon and Goodreads require them so that’s some tough choices to make.


  4. I personally write some very negative reviews of books I didn’t like but I always try to explain why and make it clear that, although I didn’t enjoy it, someone else might. I think it’s useful because if any product has lots of negative reviews, I wouldn’t buy it.
    However, it’s nice to come to a blog full of positive vibes every once in a while 😊


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