“The whole mess began in a courtroom in Vsila, the capital of Nuryevet, where I was being put on trial for something stupid.”First line in A Conspircary of Truths by Alexandra Rowland
Ratings. Something that seems to always be up for debate in some capacity in the bookish community so this post is me adding my two cents on the controversial topic.
Before I get into details about what I mean by each rating, I wanna talk about ratings overall. They are something I use a lot and it never occurred to me to not use ratings on my blog when I review. It might just be me, but I’m not able to describe the subtle differences between a 3-star read and a 3.5-star read by only using words. I need that number to give weight to what I say. And I usually love it when other bloggers do the same because again, I can’t actually tell how much you loved it if there isn’t a number. I don’t only use ratings when I decide whether or not to read a book but I also don’t necessarily want to read reviews of books so I’m usually only interested in knowing how much a blogger loved/hated a book, which is easily told through a rating. And just to be clear, this is not me telling you how to blog, I’m just explaining which blogs I prefer following.
But to talk about how I rate books, I know I through the title claimed there is logic behind it, however, if you want to claim the opposite after we’re done here, that’s totally fair. You see, I rate a lot based on a gut feeling. I’m not someone who needs to think about a rating long after finishing a book because I sort of keep track as I read. I can do that because it’s got a lot to do with how a book makes me feel during the time I read it. Am I bored from start to finish? Maybe I’m excited for the first 95% of a book and only hate the last 5% (some would say the most important 5%). Then it will still get a rather high rating because the experience was great overall. What? The logic is gone already? Damn.
I should say that I do make an exception when it comes to YA books and judge them more leniently. Like, the reason a YA book isn’t giving me that amazing reading experience might very well be because it wasn’t written for me and I try to be aware of that.
The rest of the post is going to be me explaining the more detailed thoughts behind each of my ratings starting from the bottom.
The one-star rating is of course only given to the worst of the worst. It’s the books that make me angry for being so utterly terrible that they can only be described as a waste of time. They simply do everything wrong whether it be characters, plot, pacing or writing. I put most emphasis on characters and writing though, so if I feel like those are one-star worthy, it most often doesn’t matter if the plot was 2 or 3 stars. The overall experience is still 1.
I do a lot to avoid DNF’ing books so the 1-star rating does happen occasionally, but I’ve only really started giving that rating in recent years. Creating this blog actually provoked more 1-star ratings although I can’t explain why. Still, I’ve given this questionable honor to 15 books, some of which can be seen below.
1.5 stars is a very rare rating for me because when I dislike a book this much, it has usually made me so mad that I don’t care if it did one little thing right; the one little thing that merits half a star. On Goodreads, they will always get a 1-star rating anyway. My reasons for giving that half star extra are usually pretty stupid, too. It could be because a character had potential and therefore didn’t deserve to be in such a bad book. Then the half star is for them. I will most likely hate everyone else in the book so if some of them die, the book could also get a half star for that.
We’re still in bad-book territory but I hate my life a little less when reading 2-star books. They will still be a chore to get through because there won’t be anything about them I truly love. The characters and the writing will probably be in the slightly-worse-than-mediocre range but won’t make me want to toss the book across the room.
However, a book can also get two stars from me if I was just bored. There might be nothing at all wrong with the book on a technical level but if I don’t connect with the characters or the plot, I’m not giving it a high rating just because it won a Pulitzer.
If I gave a book 2.5 stars, then it means it pissed me off just a little. Catch me on a bad day and I will rant about such a book. But we’re also getting to the books that didn’t do much wrong except be uninteresting. During my reading experience, I might think of it as a 3-star read but then one thing about the plot or the character development will be a no-go for me so I bump it down to 2.5. What I rate it on Goodreads depends on different things such as how annoying that no-go element was, how popular the book is (very popular means I don’t mind rating it 2 stars), and if it’s a book in the middle of a series (ratings don’t really matter there).
There seems to be a constant debate about whether 3 stars is a good or a bad rating. To me, it’s a bad one although the book could, obviously, be worse. 3 stars means the book failed to elicit any sort of emotion from me, good or bad. It was just bland, neutral and wholly forgettable. Those aren’t positive traits in my head. From a blogging perspective, I also tend to forget more about 3-star reads than any of my other reads so it gets very difficult to use them in posts months after finishing them, which adds to it being a negative rating. I mean, if I love or hate a book, I’ll be able to tell you exactly why even if it’s years later.
3.5 stars marks the first positive rating I can give a book and these are the ones I’ll recommend on my blog. There probably won’t be anything about these books that I absolutely detest but they could still be on the forgettable side. Among the .5-ratings, this is my most common one and I’ve noticed that a lot of romance books end up here. Apparently, I like giving this rating to those easy but enjoyable reads that don’t require me to think very much, either while or after reading it.
Ah, 4 stars, my by far most common rating so that’s nice, right? I don’t give 5 stars to just anything so a lot of books end up in the 4-star category, not because there’s anything inherently wrong with them but because they lack that final mysterious element that pushes them to 5 stars. I might have something to criticize about them but it’s just as often because the feeling just isn’t there. I will still talk very fondly about these books because it’s not their fault I’m so uncharitable about my 5 stars.
I should give this rating more often than I do but I often just convince myself a book is only 4-star worthy so I don’t have to make the decision on whether to round up or down on Goodreads. Like, if it’s not 5 stars then I don’t want to give 5 stars on Goodreads. Please excuse me for being very weird about this.
Anyway, if I can’t avoid this rating, it usually means that a lot of that 5-star feeling is actually there but there might be a little technical thing I can’t ignore in how the book is written.
Here we are, the coveted 5 stars! So what does it take to get such a rating from me? Well, I don’t know. I’ve talked about that 5-star feeling and I do primarily give this rating based on how I felt while reading. Was I thinking about the book constantly when I wasn’t reading? Would it make me prioritize reading over anything else? Do I feel the characters are some I’ll remember forever? Basically, did the book become my entire personality?
What makes me feel like this is different each time and I have no way of knowing before reading a book whether this will be the one (you might have seen my many abysmal attempts at predicting my 5-star reads). I usually have around ten of these each year, although I’m currently only at one (1) in 2023.
I should say that The Feeling trumps everything so my 5-star books are very likely to not be perfect. They will have faults but I’m just willing to ignore them (yes, the logic is long gone).
I’m really not sure whether my rating system or opinions on ratings are controversial or not so please share your thoughts in the comments. Do you use ratings? Do you think they have any value? What does it take for a book to get 5 stars from you?
3 thoughts on “Explaining My Rating Logic Because I’ve Never Done That Before”
This was super interesting! I thought I’d had your rating system figured out by now and viewed it as pretty much identical to mine, but there were still a few nuances that surprised me 🤓 Like, I think our general tendency to rate mostly on gut feeling is very similar – although I do try to also include objectivity in that and will never give something one star if I think it at least has redeemable qualities from a literary perspective, no matter how awfully the characters were developed – but after reading this, I think you might be just a tad stricter than me with your middle ratings 🤔 For example, three stars is more of a “good” than “bad” rating for me. Three-star books are ones I enjoyed reading, even if I had some smaller issues with them, and, although I might already have forgotten the characters’ names a month later, I had fun with them and don’t see them as a waste of time – in contrast to the 2.5-star books. It’s very difficult to explain what exactly the difference to 3.5 stars is, then, but, you know, gut feelings! 😁 3.5. stars means it was somewhere between a bland-but-fun 3-star and an excellent-but-not-new-favorite 4-star book. My .5 categories aren’t really that set in stone, I always use the full star ratings as reference points 😇 Which is why I only explain the reasoning behind those on my blog – you have to fill in the rest of my totally not completely logical logic yourselves 😂
I also loved that you included sample books for these! Although Fool’s Fate broke my heart, seeing The Last Magician, The Gilded Wolves, and Rule of Wolves so low was very satisfying! And I obviously loved seeing some of my own favorites so high up! 🥰
Finally, though – it’s interesting what you said about prefering blogs that have ratings because I’m not sure it matters to me. I do like knowing whether someone liked a book or not, but a sentence like “I loved/enjoyed/hated it” is usually enough for me, and I’ve actually thought about getting rid of star rating system from time to time because a) when looking at my old ratings, I don’t always find myself agreeing and b) I feel like constantly thinking about what rating category a book falls into makes me enjoy the reading experience a bit less because, you know, I’m not just reading the book for enjoyment but I’m simultaneously being a literary critic and dissecting it 😅 I still like the ratings as a baseline of my thoughts for when I first read a book, though, enjoy the consistency, and feel like I need my opinion to be reflected in that overall goodreads rating (😎), so for now, my system is here to stay. But no guarantees you might not end up hating my blog in the future, I guess! 😂
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Maybe I’m pretentious but I just feel confident that if a book has “objectively redeemable qualities from a literary perspective”, well, then I wouldn’t hate it enough to give it 1 star anyway. It doesn’t feel like something I need to take into consideration like that if that makes sense 🤔
And yeah, your 3 stars sounds more like my 3.5 😅 But yes, I also use full stars as reference points but that’s primarily because Goodreads is so annoying with its missing half stars 😤 I do try to rate books full stars as often as I can to avoid having to decide whether to go up or down on that site.
I would have taught someone like you would prefer numbers over simple words in reviews 😉 I just find that “loved/enjoyed/ hated” don’t convey enough. Like, I would say I hated a book if it was in the 1 to 2.5 stars range and I think that’s such a big difference. I would feel forced to read the review to know what they actually mean and that’s just annoying. But oh well, I’m already reading so few blog posts because people are getting rid of star ratings that I guess I could find the time to read yours even if you decide to follow the trend 😉😅
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Well, the general awfulness and the literary awfulness do usually coincide for me as well – so I guess I just like having an objective-sounding reason to complain about those books 😁 I have had two exceptions, though: I hated Absalom, Absalom! and A Pilgrim’s Progress at least as much as some of my one-star reads, but did find them interesting enough literarily to bump their ratings up a bit… Yes, I’m weird 😂
And I guess I don’t care about the ratings that much because I always feel forced to read the whole review anyway 😅 As soon as I’m invested enough to read a person’s rating, I’m going to want to know why they rated it that way, so I’m inevitably reading everything. And if I’m not interested, I’ll probably just scroll past, glance at the cover of the book, but ignore the rating, too 🙃
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