How Many Stars – How Do You Rate A Book?

img_1986When I post a review here on my blog I don’t give the book a star rating but when I share the reviews with Amazon and Goodreads I do.

Of course without star ratings on a huge site like Amazon it would be very difficult (or next to impossible)  for readers who are browsing for their next book to find something quickly. Without being able to see the general consensus through star ratings they would have to trawl through thousands of reviews. Clearly that couldn’t work.

Yet I am still a little at odds with myself over the awarding of stars. Quite often I have seen a book with great reviews get a one star for reasons that, to me at least, are unreasonable. Sometimes it seems to have been a technical difficulty with the download or, just as bad, because the reader didn’t agree with the outcome. Whilst, as a reader, I have a dislike of what I would judge as unlikely or rushed endings, and would make that point within a review I would never mark a review down because the main character dies in the end or doesn’t get the girl even if I personally  thought that would have been a better conclusion. After all it’s the author’s story and as long it is well executed, that is how the ending is, as far as I’m concerned. Their decision.

So, here is the thing I am getting to. I read a book last week that I thought img_1985was perfectly written, good characterisation, a clever plot and a satisfying, clever and unexpected conclusion but, guess what? I really didn’t enjoy it. It wasn’t the ending, it wasn’t the middle, it was all of it.  (I should add here that a quick scan of reviews shows I am vastly in the minority)

Although I do try to read widely, I am wary of some genres, foe example, Science Fiction as there is a good chance the book won’t appeal to me, (although The Martian was one of my top reads last year). But when I picked up a book on Audible I thought I was onto a  sure thing. A small town, lots of secrets, a disagreement that leads to murder. Perfect.

I don’t want to actually review the book here, that will come later, but I do want to say that the story revolves around a nursery school, the children, the mother’s and the minutiae of their lives. There are important issues, domestic violence, broken families but there are also outfits, shoes, money and the absolutely endless  politics surrounding school life. I couldn’t bear these characters,  their self importance and their duplicity anymore than I could in real life.

Now I ask myself, what is a fair star rating for this book as far as my reading experience of it goes? I have no doubt at all of the author’s talent. The book has a strong storyline and fast, witty dialogue. I know other readers loved this book.

I am giving it a three. I couldn’t give it less because the book doesn’t deserve it and I can’t give it more because I couldn’t enjoy it.

Is that fair?

 

Advertisements

26 thoughts on “How Many Stars – How Do You Rate A Book?

  1. Stephanie Jane

    I’d go with a three too and had a similar situation recently with a psychological thriller that just didn’t thrill me. Perfectly well written and an interesting enough storyline that I kept reading to the end, but I loathed the main character and not in a love-to-hate way.
    Three stars does often feel as though I am avoiding making a decision. Some books are just like that!

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. wendyunsworth Post author

      I felt like that too! I guess we must all come across books that others rave about but just don’t work for us. My problem was the characters too. There were a few and I disliked them all and their values. I just ended up feeling like, ‘What am I doing spending so much time with these people?’
      Thanks for your comment, good to hear you agree!

      Like

      Reply
  2. Donna Florack

    Yes. I usually try to say it was well-written but explain why it didn’t appeal to me. It’s hard, though. I’m reading one now that the author asked me to read, and I cannot tolerate the heroine. I’m 85% done and have set it aside. I know it has a happy ending, but I want to skip through the nonsense to get to the HEA. What do you do in that case?

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. wendyunsworth Post author

      Hi Donna, yes even harder if you have accepted a copy for review. I have had that too and have become much tougher in such cases as I was beginning to find myself being less than totally honest.
      Now, if I have been asked to review a book, I say that I will honestly review three stars and above or give private feedback. I like to think of my reviews as recommendations and if I couldn’t recommend the book to anyone I would rather leave it unreviewed.
      The book I am talking about in the post definitely appeals to lots of people but, when I do review it I want to be honest about why I couldn’t rate it above 3 even though technically it’s great.
      I really do hate it when I just want a book to be over, after all, if it’s fiction, it should be for some kind of enjoyment. Like you, with the book you are struggling to finish, I feel that I should keep going to the end and read all the author has to say but it can get tempting to skim!

      Liked by 2 people

      Reply
  3. Jacqui Murray

    Well-thought out. I do takes stars seriously, especially since my book has gone live on Kindle. I have gotten emotional one-stars I objected to, well-thought-out three-stars with not a bad word in them, and my favorites–five stars. When I review, I always consider whether I’m seeing it through my personal lens, or a straw, and wonder if that accounts for my lack of interest in what otherwise is a well-written book.

    It’s tough, isn’t it?

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. wendyunsworth Post author

      Hi Jacqui, yes you are right , it is tough! Being fair is important to me, knowing how much work goes into the writing of a book. I just still can’t make up my mind how much my own personal enjoyment should influence the star rating. As writers though, a good mix of stars is, I think, of great value and so a less than shiny five star review also probably contributes to the success of a worthy book.

      Like

      Reply
  4. Jo

    I find rating books to be really difficult, although I do always add a rating when I’ve reviewed a book. I read a lot of 4* books, but award very few books 5*. I can’t honestly explain in any simple terms say what makes a book a 5 rather than a 4 – it’s usually a book that I absolutely adored it, rather than just really, really liking it. I do wonder if I’m overly harsh, but it’s my system. From the way you’ve described the book, that would be a 3 for me.

    Liked by 2 people

    Reply
    1. wendyunsworth Post author

      Hi Jo, actually your system seems close to mine. I too seem to do a lot of 4* and tend to award this for books I have really enjoyed. There has to be something else for 5 stars – as you say, something special. Thanks for your comment!

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
  5. Cozynookbks

    That sounds reasonable to me. I’m struggling to review a book now by an author of a series that, until now, I’ve been thrilled with her books. This last one, not so much. It was just okay so I’ll probably go with 3 stars. This pains me because she said to tell her how I liked it and I’m not sure how to honestly convey my thoughts, especially when I really enjoyed the other 4 books I’ve read in the series.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
  6. wendyunsworth Post author

    That’s a difficult one! As you have enjoyed her books so much in the past it makes it harder but I think she would want to know. Writers need total honesty though it sometimes hurts. But it’s always easier to receive from a contientious and considerate reviewer.

    Like

    Reply
    1. wendyunsworth Post author

      Yep, that is a very useful breakdown, Sheila. The bottom line with the book I refer to is that, while I admired the skill involved in writing it, I wasn’t entertained and that’s your number one on the list. I feel a responsibility when I review and when a book doesn’t click with me the job is even harder! Thank you!

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
      1. Sheila M. Good, Author

        Absolutely, working on a novel requires a lot of time, energy, and imagination. I too, believe having read another’s work, I should give them a thoughtful and honest review. Sometimes it’s easy, sometimes not, but I try. Glad you found it helpful!

        Liked by 1 person

  7. hilarycustancegreen

    I’m with you and this is one reason I rarely review on Amazon or Goodreads. We are supposed to give one rating but, as you point out, our reactions are on several fronts. No amount of good writing will make me love, or even like, a story where there is no character I want to root for, or the tone is unrelieved gloom. I like Lorna McInnes’s 4 Ps system https://lornamcinnes.com/the-4-ps/

    Like

    Reply
  8. franklparker

    Hi Wendy. Just popped in to thank you for the follow. On the question you raise here, I think it’s your opinion, your judgement. No-one else can tell you to like a book you don’t like. I’ve read books by award winning writers (I’m talking Booker/Costa/Orange here!) that I wouldn’t rate above 3 stars and Indie books that are genuinely 5 star material. But it’s only MHO. I read widely across a range of genres including lots of ‘literary’ novels.

    Like

    Reply
    1. wendyunsworth Post author

      Hi Frank, thanks so much for getting back to me. Yep, it’s tricky isn’t it but we can only like what we actually like! My point with this book (Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty) was that I felt it was very accomplished as a piece of writing but, hating what the characters stood for in every way, it just wasn’t something I could enjoy!

      Like

      Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s