September 09, 2016

Why Ratings Give Me a Headache (Sometimes)

Hello my stellar beauties! (OK, where did that come from? O_O).
(From the equation stars = rating, probably. I guess my subconscious was trying to tell me something...).

OK, here's my confession for today: a couple of days ago, I went and changed a handful of my old ratings. Nothing major, just half a star more here, half a star less there. But the thing is, I felt that I needed to do it, or my present and future ratings would be taunted. Here's the whole story...

It all started with a couple of books I requested from their very authors in 2014. You know, directly approaching an author is very different from dealing with their press or agent. If they like your personality and/or your blog (and those two apparently did), AND they decide that you and/or your blog are a good fit for their story, it gets personal. Also, YOU were the one who reached out to them - not the other way around. YOU were the one who was acting all excited about their story, on the strength of the blurb alone. Of course, this is no guarantee that you'll fall in love with their book, and I suppose they know it. But still. So the books came, and I didn't fall in love with them. And, like I already stated in another post, I felt like a thief. Also, one of them was even part of a BLOG TOUR, for goodness' sake. Could I have opted out? No, because the author knew me personally by then, and had actually helped me get into it by pointing it out to me. So I soldiered on and coughed the additional half star out for both.
It has plagued me since then.
Until Thursday.

So, I was about to write a couple of reviews for books that I had either requested from the publisher (a very understanding one), or won in a giveaway. I wasn't under the pressure of giving them the additional half star this time. But I kept going to those old ratings of mine and thinking "if I rated [old book] X stars, I can't rate [new book] less or the same, because I actually liked [new book] better. But not as much as I liked [other book], so I can't give [new book] the same rating I gave [other book] either". Believe me, it was nagging at me too much for my own sake. Also, I had long ago realised that there was at least one book that I SHOULD have given the additional half star instead, because it was FAR BETTER than some stuff I would read and review later, only I didn't know it at the time. So, I decided there was only one way out of it - going back and changing a handful of my old 3 and 3.5 ratings (upping one of them and downing the others by half a star).
And now I feel...unburdened.

You see, this rating thing is crazy. There are people for whom 3 stars mean "meh" or even "I SO could have done without this book, thank you". There are people who never give a book 5 stars unless it rains upside down (I've met a couple on Goodreads), so their 4 mean "great read" and their 3 "very good read". And there are people who never rate books on their blog, and other people who never rate books on Goodreads either.
Not to mention the whole half-star headache.

Like for other people (maybe a lot of other people), my ratings are part brain, part guts. Especially with 5 star ratings, it's not about the book's perfection - yes, I take the style and pacing and originality and whatnot into consideration, and they do constitute a huge part of my rating, but in the end, 5 stars are for the stories (and characters...though not necessarily) that speak to me the most. They may not be perfect, but they stick to my mind as much as to my heart. On the other hand, there may be books that have no obvious faults, but that I feel less engrossed in. This is why I struggle with ratings. Some people see a 3 or 3.5 and think "oh, why should I bother with this one when there are so many 5 star books around". The fact is, even if Goodreads (and the like) didn't have a rating option, I probably couldn't help giving stars to the books I read. But on the other hand, I don't think they speak that much on behalf of a book. Yes, I admit starting on the reviews with the lowest ratings when I'm considering buying a book, because it's the fastest way to catch wind of anything I might not like. And it sometimes happens that a bunch of reviewers mention this or that thing that didn't work for them, while they are the very things that get me hooked on a story. But in the end...I pay much more attention to the actual reviews than to the ratings.

I have a daily habit of peeking into the Community > People > Recent Reviews > Recent Reviews of My Books section on Goodreads, seeking for new opinions about the books on my TBR list (OK, there are ALSO reviews of your read books in there, and you can't turn them off - but we know Goodreads is far from perfect. On the other hand, I sometimes meet people over our same book choice, plus it's fun to know what other people think of the books you've read anyway). I read an awful lot of reviews. So, the more like a bonus thing in a way. For me at least. But a bonus thing I have to do the right way, because I'm punctilious. (I think I first used the word "punctilious" in this post, and since Erin Callahan seemed to like my choice of words so much, I can't think of a better one to describe my pickiness right now ;D). And nevertheless, whenever I rate a book 3 or 3.5 stars, I feel bad because I know some people will think "OK, I can skip this one then". (On a side note, I don't think my reviews have all that power - but maybe someone who has never heard about a certain book before won't be motivated to look it up after my review). And it's not what I meant. I just meant it didn't wowed me, or it had a few issues, but it also had a few merits, and you might even like it more than me, and anyway I don't REGRET reading it.

So...I was do you rate your books? do you rate books 5 stars even if they're not perfect because they speak to your soul? are 3 - 3.5 stars too few for you to pick a book? and...DO YOU FUSS OVER RATINGS AT ALL?


  1. I feel like this post could be addressed to me, because yeah, (like you saw it when I commented on your review of Nine Candles of Deepest Black) I definitely pay attention to ratings. I know I might be missing out on some books when I consider a 3 or 3.5 rating 'negative', but I'd rather do that, then have 500+ titles on my tbr like I used to have. I wasn't only unable to manage that, but I didn't even remember 1/4 of those titles & wasn't interested anymore in half of them.

    Of course, when I really, truly want to read a book, I won't care about the rating. Heck, some of my faves have the average of 3.3 on GR & I never even thought about not picking them up, because I was really excited about them and that was that. But when I'm not totally convinced I'd like to read something - e.g. Nine Candles of Deepest Black - I'll look up the ratings AND the reviews and if I feel like I wouldn't enjoy it, I'm not going to add it to my tbr.

    I think this might be because how I rate a novel depends on a lot of things, including my current mood, but I choose not to take my ratings that seriously. I guess that sounds strange, so let me explain - I don't use half ratings, so that means I can only choose from five ratings, so obviously, not every 5-star-rated, 4-star-rated etc. novel is going to be equally good. But I don't much mind that, because I'd hate to become one of those people who needs total perfection in a novel to give out a 5 star rating & nearly the same for a 4 star. Yeah, I review books, but I STILL read for the fun of it - being overly critical would only ruin that fun. (I'm not judging anyone who does this, though! I just don't think that'd be good for me.) What you mentioned about giving a 5-star-rating to novels that weren't perfect, but spoke to your soul is what reading is ALL about for me.

    I rarely change ratings. Mostly when I go back & reread an old favorite OR a novel that I didn't enjoy THAT much, but I have the feeling that it was more because of my mood than the actual story. Without rereading, I think it'd unfair to the book to change my rating - well, there ARE exceptions, e. g. if you realize how problematic the novel was or what you mentioned about adding that half even though you knew the book didn't deserve it, but you felt bad (happenned to every blogger, imo).

    But mostly, I feel it's unfair to rerate books I read years ago, without going back & rereading them. What I remember of a book could be altered by others' opinions I've heard/read or simply by book-amnesia. And there are also those books that were my absolute favorites back when I was 12. They still have 5 star ratings, though I'm sure I'd hate them now. Changing them would feel like a betrayal to my old-self - the fact that now I can see that they weren't magical and amazing (cough Twilight cough) doesn't take away from how mesmerized I was by them back then.

    Amazing discussion, Roby! :DD

    Oh my god, I just wrote the longest freaking comment ever. SORRY.

    Veronika @ The Regal Critiques

    1. Re: "longest freaking comment ever": that's why I love you LOL.

      You did motivate me to write this post after your Nine Candles comment, though by coincidence, I was struggling with my ratings in the same days, so the two things sort of came together. And I do agree that it wouldn't be fair to rerate a book without rereading it. The ones I changed my ratings for where books I had read at least twice, and whose ratings had bugged me from the I basically just went back and did what I should have done the first/second time I read them. Having said so, I don't plan on going back and change ratings anymore from now on. I feel that it ruins a blogger's integrity/ I mean to avoid any chance of finding myself in a dire spot with books in the future - e.g., directly contacting authors. The ones I have a closer relationship with can handle the truth, in case I don't like one of their future books as much as the past ones.

      Being more laid back about ratings isn't a bad thing. I believe there are even authors who don't necessarily take a 3 or 3.5 star rating as a downer, if the review is fair enough. I am sort-of-friends with a few (I mean that we talk on a semi-regular basis and/or they have asked me for advice occasionally). I guess that I fret about ratings too much, but then again, I fret about EVERYTHING ;D. I might learn a thing or two from you!

  2. I just came peeping here to see what you have to say about ratings and just about had a coronary seeing Vera's looooooooong comment LOL :D I mostly agree with you what you have to say about ratings and how it affects/doesn't affect the books I pick up, but regarding changing older ratings, well, I'm more like Vera that way. I'm pretty sure if I were to reread some of my childhood favorites, or even books I read just last year, my opinion would vastly differ from what I thought back then. That's bound to happen since I'm changing as a person everyday, and learning new things, talking to more people, reading more reviews and stuff like that. So going back and changing the ratings would be kind of unfair on my part. But then, unlike you, they don't really bother me much, so I don't really think about changing them anyway! I don't know if I made any sense, but the bottom line is that ratings don't really mean all that much to me when picking up my next read. Excellent discussion, Roby! Loved it!

    Ruzaika @ The Regal Critiques

    1. Haha, Vera sure poured her heart and soul into it ;D.

      I agree on what the two of you say about going back and changing ratings - it makes sense. As a matter of fact - like I said - the only reason why I changed a few of my ratings at all is that they didn't feel right to me to begin with. I sure don't plan on doing a round of reratings now and then ;). Not anymore! And sure as hell I have NEVER changed the content of my reviews, and never will.

      Thank you hon!

  3. I never change my ratings for a book but I do see why you did. I think your original rating was more because it became personal. The new rating reflects your actual thoughts of the book.

    I kind of went through that when I felt guilty about saying no to anyone and started reading books I wasn't loving out of obligation (which is what led me to my form request latter that I just posted about). I don't know that I gave them a better rating but maybe wasn't as harsh in my review as I would have been.

    Now I try to point out both pros and cons so that the review not only reflects my thoughts but directs it to the RIGHT reader. Even if that wasn't me.

    I don't do ratings on my blog anymore but I do on Goodreads because it's there lol

    I don't worry about ratings all that much when choosing to read a book. I understand that they mean something different for each reader (and even vary in meaning from site to site). I go more for what they say and usually start with the 3 stars. 5 stars are probably the least likely to get me to read a book. The reviews usually don't say much and unless I know the reviewer there's little context.

    I give a 5 if a book makes me FEEL. It doesn't need to be perfect. In fact I hate reviewing those books because then I'll see all the ways that it wasn't but making me euphoric when I hit the last page is all it takes.

    Kevin doesn't believe in 5 star books. He says no book is perfect. lol

    Karen @For What It's Worth

    1. Wow, a peek into Kevin's mind LOL. He's not wrong, after all. I guess nothing is truly perfect. But a certain thing can be perfect for us!

      I really like your approach to reviews. Though I'm convinced that there are a number of really bad books out there, most of the time it's just a case of matching the right book with the right reader, and reviewers should always keep that in mind and help that match.

  4. I RELATE TO THIS POST SO MUCH. I've been thinking about changing some ratings too, just by half a star, because I guess my rating methods have changed a bit, and I don't know, I look back at some ratings and feel like they're just not... right. And so I do the same thing, I read a new book, and I'm like, hmm, what should I rate this one? It feels kinda like 3.5 stars. But then I gave XYZ book 3.5 stars, and this was better than that one... But I gave ABC book 4 stars, and it wasn't as good as that one. And the problem is that XYZ really should be 3 stars. And it seems unfair to give two books the same rating when one is better? RATING IS SO HARD. But I also feel kinda weird about changing my ratings once they're up unless I do a re-read since maybe that really was how I felt about it at the time and my opinion just changed later on?

    Like you, I rely on reviews more than ratings. I never decide to read a book or not based on the average rating or anything like that because ratings are so subjective, and everyone has different taste. But I know some people do take ratings super seriously, and so I worry about getting them right for that reason too.

    Oh, and I also hate that situation of asking an author for a book and then not loving it. It does make me feel guilty. And it is so much worse if you've actually talked to the author beyond just asking for the book. But I just try to remind myself that it's all subjective, and as an author they should be able to understand that we have no way of KNOWING if we'll like a book or not before reading it. And we never promise GOOD reviews, just honest ones. As long as our reviews are fair, we're not doing anything wrong. It's still tough though.

    1. Absolutely! Especially when - like you said - we have specifically asked for a book, but it turned out less captivating than we thought.

      I'm glad I'm not the only one still reading reviews LOL. Sometimes it sounds like it's out of fashion to do so ;).


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