Friday, September 13, 2013

A thought on reviews

I think every author gets a warm and happy feeling when receiving a good review. Given some time, we also learn to cope with people not liking our work. (How dare they? LOL!)

Here's the thing though: reviews and ratings are subjective.

There's no set scale for what five stars, three stars, or one star means.

Readers know this; most readers I've asked about it look at the text in the review and use this to determine whether pros and cons will apply to them or not. As writers of a book or manufacturers of an item on the other hand, it's easy to get mentally stuck on the stars.

I personally don't write reviews if I can't give the book/item at least three stars. When I was a little girl, my mom taught me, "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all."

It's a good rule.

I give five star reviews if I loved something, four star reviews if I liked it, and three star reviews if it was okay. I like to say positive things and make people happy. Also, I don't want to linger on the negative in life. I'd rather forget about it and move on.

My way of reasoning might be right or wrong; it doesn't matter. The scale is subjective.

When talking to people on Goodreads, I heard some other interesting opinions.

One reader said three stars is her normal. For her, three stars is a good book. In order to get four or five, the material has to sweep her away. If it's just okay she'll give it two, and if she dislikes it, she'll give it one.

Another reader said three stars is a book she liked. Four stars means she wants to read the book one more time, at some point in the future. Five stars means that she wants to read the book over and over again.

To be honest, I find it difficult to remember that the rating system means different things to different people. I can get a three star review and be all disappointed, until I actually read the review and realize the person has another frame of reference.

What do you think? How do you reason when you give reviews?


  1. You're right, the ratings are very subjective. I use a rating system very similar to yours. For me the rating is an indication of my level of enjoyment. 5-stars, I loved the book; 4-stars, I enjoyed it very much; 3-stars is a good book and I really don't assign ratings below a 3. If it gets below a 3, I just mark the book as "read" and move on. I also have a special shelf where I keep books that are(to me) just outstanding, what I would consider to be beyond 5-stars. Those are the ones that stun you and leave you a little breathless. I usually always rate a book (if it is 3, 4 or 5 stars) but only write reviews when the book is particularly inspiring. So yeah, my reviews tend to always be positive. And I can totally love a book, but not be inspired enough to write a review or, conversely, some books can have your brain churning so much you're just not sure how to write the review.

    When reviewing, I try to always remember that there is a living, breathing human behind each book who has put a lot of time, effort and heart into it. They have feelings and don't deserve to have their work bashed just because they failed to entertain me. Besides I am by no means a literary critic; just because I don't like it doesn't mean it won't appeal to someone else.

    I suppose a lot of people who read as much as I do become familiar with the regular reviewers on Goodreads and on other reviewing blog sites; so after a while you come to know that your tastes are similar to certain reviewers so you tend to focus on those reviews more than others. On the other hand, I also know that some reviewer's tastes are so diametrically opposed to mine that when they hate a book, I often know I will really enjoy it, so bad reviews are not always bad for the book. I also look beyond the star ratings to the narrative of the reviews because some of the reasons that reviewers give (POV shifts, flashbacks, first person vs. third person narratives, etc.) just don't matter to me. All I really care about is "was it a good story". There a lot of different ways to tell a good story.

    It's funny that you posted your mom's words above as I have said the same thing (my mom's words) in my Goodreads profile. "If you can't say anything nice..." Besides reading makes me happy. Very happy!!

  2. Thank you for coming over and sharing! I loved hearing your reasoning behind the review system. =D


A new look for the 250th anniversary

I don't know exactly how old my 18th century cottage is - the local history association says we know it was there in 1772, so it was pro...