Book Related

Why I Rate Books The Way I Do, And Why I Won’t Change It

So the one thing I hear more than anything else when it comes to my reviews is ‘You’re so harsh! These X-star reviews are killing me. You got the book for free/You said a lot of positive things, can’t you just cut the book some slack and knock it up another star?’

The short answer is no. ย The long answer is a little more complicated, but is still basically no.

What it comes down to is that I’m not reviewing a book with the intent to blow smoke at the author. I don’t go into a review thinking ‘what can I say that will make the author’s day?’ Writing a review shouldn’t be about pleasing someone. It should be about giving an accurate depiction of the book based on one’s own opinions. If you ask for an honest review, you should expect me to pick apart your story, or you should ask someone else.

I use the following system to rate the books I read:
5 Stars – This book was incredible, a new favourite, will be reread a thousand times. There are faults to every book, but they were easy to overlook in this one.
4 Stars – This book was great, I loved it, I’d probably reread it on a regular basis, but it had an issue or two I couldn’t completely overlook.
3 Stars – Good book, maybe one I’d read again but maybe not. Enough issues that I couldn’t just overlook.
2 Stars – This book is not for me. It is a good idea, but not well executed. It was hard to get through for one reason or another. I will not reread this book.
1 Star – I did not finish this book or I had to pull Sisyphus to get through it, and I have absolutely no inclinationย to go near this book again.

I do use half stars at times, but try to do so sparingly. Most of the times, they clearly fit into one of those five categories, so I don’t need to bother with it.

I typically go into writing a review with a rating based on how much I enjoyed the book. This is based off nothing more than how much fun I had reading it, because I don’t really think about my reviews until after I’ve actually finished a book. Then I start breaking down the good points and downsides of the book, and start factoring that into my original rating.

For example, spelling or grammatical errors that are obvious even to my eye or chat speak where it’s inappropriate is an automatic loss of a star. Failing to develop your characters or your world is another star deduction each. On the other hand, a great depiction of family life or friendship might earn a star. Did you characters grow in a reasonable way from book to book? Another star right there. So sometimes, I read a fantastic book that starts with 5-stars from an enjoyment perspective, but it only ends up with a 3-star rating, because there are some unforgivable things in there.

The way I see it, writing books is your job. If a musician showed up to a performance and didn’t rehearse at all in preparation, you wouldn’t be impressed. If your accountant showed up to a meeting without looking over your file, you wouldn’t be impressed. Well, if you write a book and don’t have it edited or haven’t put in the research to see how PTSD should affect your character, you haven’t done your job as a writer.

On the other hand, for all intents and purposes, book blogging is my job. Maybe I don’t get paid for it in the traditional way, but the review copies are nice. I’m not doing my job well if I say your book is a 5-star read when there are obvious mistakes and/or shortcomings. And I take a lot of pride in my work.

As well, I want my 1-star and 5-star reviews to really mean something.ย If I read a book that I have fallen completely in love with, I want my rating for it to stand out. But if I’ve rated a hundred other books 5-stars, this one doesn’t mean much. But if I only have a couple dozen books that I’ve given 5-stars to, that review means so much more. And the same goes for books that I just hate.

I know that I have high standards, and anyone in my life can tell you that this isn’t just for books. Why would you settle for anything less that than the best possible thing you can put out there? You’ve got this amazing book idea, why are you letting that brilliant idea get hidden behind bad grammar and lack of research? As I tell my clients for work, I want to see you be and do the best you possibly can, and I won’t settle for anything less.

So this was a lot of me rambling about how my brain works, but in conclusion, if you want an honest review that picks things apart a bit, I can do that for you. If you want a high rating, maybe consider someone else for your review.

What about you? What aspects do you consider when you rate and review books? Do you consider yourself a harsh reviewer? Let me know your process in the comments below!

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26 thoughts on “Why I Rate Books The Way I Do, And Why I Won’t Change It

  1. I don’t actually think it’s ‘harsh’, how you described yourself at all. The way I see it is that everybody has their own perspective, which has been formed throughout their lives by what they have been exposed to. Therefore, creativity and art (which books are) will not always be seen in the same way by everybody. I could detest a book you love, based on our differing ideologies. So you might rate a book one star whereas I might rate it 5, and it would not reflect on the author or the quality of the book in anyway, but our perceived values of it! I don’t think you should give a book 4 stars if you think it deserved 3 – why not be honest? Honestly, when I publish my book, I would want people to tell me frankly and honestly exactly what they thought. It certainly wouldn’t change anything, some might love it and some might hate it and some wouldn’t care either way, but feedback is important and always welcome. This was a mighty interesting post to read! I myself do not rate books, but I review them and if my reviews are ‘too harsh’ then that is just my opinion! ๐Ÿ™‚ Goodreads is a brilliant place to review books.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s exactly it too. With books, everything comes down to what interests you and what sort of stories you like. And while there are some things that I think are less forgivable (maybe my opinion, but quality writing should be expected in a published book, no question), but a lot comes down to what you’re interested in. And that’s what makes this all so fun – we have the chance to discuss and compare ideas, and maybe even see something from another perspective.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Your rating breakdown seems pretty standard to me, so I’m not sure what’s so harsh about it! I tend to be a fairly high rater (3s or 4s mostly), but I have no problem with people going lower.

    I also have an issue with the arguments that essentially amount to “But the author put so much effort into this! Can’t you be nicer or give a higher rating?” Um, we’re not evaluating effort; we’re evaluating the work that was produced. I don’t really care whether it took you 9 weeks or 9 years to write the the book; I’m interested in whether I enjoyed it and thought it was well-written.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I think if you are reviewing books before they come out, then it is really important to rate the way you do. I am pretty bad with rating, I am an either 5 star or 1 star person lol. So far, I have read heaps of books that I have absolutely loved so I just give them 5 stars because I know I will re-read them over and over again. Awesome post, and I love your rating criteria ๐Ÿ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I sometimes do my reviews the same way like you- adding a star when something good happens, and removing one when something bad occurs. My rating system (out of 10) is pretty lenient, but I’m getting more strict with them. If I enjoy it, it’s at least an 8 because a 3 out of 5 stars for me just seems too harsh! But I mainly grade on how I enjoy it and other factors.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Definitely! I actually give 11’s and 12′ if there’s just so amazing they blew me away! An out of 10 gives lot more leg room, but 1-5 out of 10 seems very harsh at times. You can see my rating scale in my blog if you’d like to check it out! ๐Ÿ™‚

        Liked by 1 person

  5. I don’t really rate books actually. I don’t give them a number of stars or anything like that. I just want a book to have a wonderful story, incredible characters and a book worth reading. Sometimes I read a book and realize I loved it, but have no idea why. Reviewing a book can almost be as hard as analyzing a character in any type of literature

    Liked by 1 person

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