Booktalk: Rating and Book Reviewing

Hello, bookworms! Here is another Booktalk Post for you.
First and foremost, THANK YOU SO MUCH for all your responses and comments! I never thought there would be this many positive responses and thought-provoking, insightful comments when I started this series. I am literally blown away and glad you enjoy reading my humble two cents worth! Thanks so much to you all, you are all amazing!!

Getting back to the subject, today’s topic is a bit tough and actually is a bane of my existence as a fledgling book blogger – ‘ratings and book reviewing.’
Now, this is something that has kept bugging me since I started this book blog a year and a half ago. My reviews were seriously cringe-worthy back then because I knew nothing about writing book reviews, and I actually deleted most of my earlier posts. I am still struggling to best describe/explain my thoughts on books with my own words, but I’ve learned to accept my own ‘voice’ and faults as time went by.
That said though, ‘rating’ has always been tough because I always have to reflect myself and ask myself these questions:

  1. Am I doing a book justice?
  2. Am I objective enough and being fair to the book?
  3. Have I earned enough insight to squarely review a book?
  4. Don’t I lack experience as a book blogger?
  5. Do my insight and instinct make my eligible for reviewing books?

These questions always run through the back of my mind whenever I write book reviews. In particular, #2, #3, and #5 sometime stall me upon expressing my thoughts.

Intellectually, I do know that I can write my honest feelings and thoughts on a book. I have NO REASON to feel intimidated upon expressing my feels and thoughts. It is OUR BRAINS, not anybody else’s that judge a book whether it’s for us or not. I can, and ought to hold my head high and be confident in stating my opinions.
Still, there exists an issue of ‘objectiveness/subjectiveness’ in reading.
For me, reading itself is pure entertainment and I tend to be pretty subjective while I’m reading. I do try to find and latch on good points in a book, I strive to be as objective as I possibly can, but then again, #5, the issue of my potential lack of insight/instinct creeps back in front of my head and makes me struggle to decide how many stars I should give to a book.

In addition to that, since I read books purely and solely for pleasure as I mentioned above, my emotions and impression towards characters in a book tend to affect me upon rating a book.
The perfect example is Morgan Matson’s Since You’ve been Gone that I reviewed about a month ago.
As you might know, that book has gleaned lots of lots of rave reviews and 5 star ratings. But for me, it didn’t work out. I just couldn’t forgive the one behavior that the protagonist, Emily, displayed in the latter part of the book. I took the behavior pretty personally and came to dislike the book so much. Despite all the positive thoughts that I had on Morgan Matson’s beautiful, descriptive solid writing, on-point pacing, and well-executed character developments, that single element threw everything out of the window, and completely ruined the book for me and made me grant only two stars for the book.

Nevertheless, I still wonder if I was being fair to the book. Yes, I did point out the things I loved and appreciated in the book, but didn’t I overreacted to Emily’s behavior and her character arc??? Didn’t I stubbornly stick to the negatives and turn a blind eye to all the positives in that book?

That I didn’t love a book doesn’t necessarily make it worthless to read.
Our liking/disliking isn’t necessarily directly translated into the worth of a book.
And this dilemma leads me to the next question: ratings and our emotions towards a book.

Honestly, I even wonder how reliable star rating itself can be.
Everybody judges a book based on their own perspectives and interpretations. We interprete a book as we please – no one reads a book exactly the same way as others do. From that standpoint, it’s hard to think, at least for me, that there is any ‘absolute fine line’ on book rating unless you are an accomplished book reviewer with thousands of book reviewing experience under your belt. Ultimately, it is your brain that judges a book at the end of the day; irrespective of the rating and accolades a book has gleaned over time, you cannot know whether a book is for you or not until you actually pick it up and read it.

Then, are star ratings pointless?

I know I’m being contradictory, but I don’t think that way, either.
When I debate whether to download a book, I go straight to Goodreads and look at the ratings. I would go for the book if the rating is like 2 to 3, but I probably wouldn’t take a chance on the book if the rating is 1 star. I do rely on star rating system to some extent.
But the problem is, what elements are reflected in the rating.

Did other readers rate the book based on their emotions – whether they liked the book or not?
Or, did they rate the book based on how good or bad it is, excluding the subjective, emotional elements?

Obviously, I haven’t the foggiest idea to these questions, but one thing I know is that I should give a book a try if my gut-instinct tells me I want to read it.
Once again, it is my brain that judges a book. Nobody else’s.
I do trust my trusty fellow bloggers’/bookworms’ recommendations and judgment, but I don’t want to ditch a book I think I want to read just because the rating sends out a red warning.
I think I should give as many books a chance regardless what the rating tells me.

How about you? What is your rating system like?
Do you rate a book based on your emotional experience? Or are you a type of reader who judges a book objectively?

Comment below and let me know!
Thank you so much for reading such a lengthy and kind of messy, ambivalent post.
I’ll talk to you all in my next post!

48 thoughts on “Booktalk: Rating and Book Reviewing

  1. I’m pretty sure this is a hard topic for every reviewer out there!

    I have to start by saying that I think every review is personal though. We all have our own story, history, views and principles. Those are all part of us as a person but also as a reader, so it only makes sense that these change the way we view a book, character, writing style, theme… Subjective reviews? YES! Always! You can’t write an objective review; that’s simply impossible. It would mean stripping your entire personality to nothing and then trying to come up with an opinion, while it’s our personality that makes us form a certain opinion.

    That being said, I get your point on taking out a certain dislike / hate on the rating. If something made you like the book less, than that’s just the way it is. You always have that gut feeling of “no, three stars feels like too much although I did like the writing” and “two stars feels okay” even if you start doubting yourself afterwards. You have to stick to how you feel about a book and not try to think of “but what if..” It’s your opinion, not someone else’s. And as long as you try to explain yourself as clearly as possible, I don’t see why you can’t give certain ratings to books.

    The thing I do wonder about, however, is whether or not people let themselves be influenced by authors in general. Say, author X asked you to review their novel Y and you accepted. You ended up disliking the entire novel, but you know for a fact that X is going to be on the look-out for it and will definitely read it. Would you brighten up your review for that? Would people write a better review than they would’ve otherwise? Simply out of guilt or fear for the author’s reaction? [I’m not like that, but I sometimes come across reviews that just don’t feel as genuine as other reviews by that same person..]

    Okay, you have yourself a great discussion post here, haha!

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thanks for your feedback, Kathy! You have always been so insightful, I totally got your point!
      In actuality, ‘all the reviews are subjective because they are based on our principals, history, etc…’ struck me so hard!! How true is that, I didn’t even realize that! You’ve got an awesome point there, Kathy 🙂

      As for your question, ‘would I dress up my review for the sake of sparing the author or not…’ that’s a tough discussion theme, too! But I would say I wouldn’t. I try not to be overly harsh or scathing. But I don’t think I would brighten up my feelings and say the opposite of what’s in my mind. That’s dishonest. It’s tough to post a negative review especially when you know the author personally or something along those lines, and I probably would back down with writing a review altogether if I didn’t end up liking the book. But hmm… I am curious to know what others think!!

      Liked by 2 people

      • You’re welcome! I love posts like this, although I don’t really think of creating them myself, haha.

        It’s something a lot of people don’t realize or simply don’t really think about until they see it stated somewhere. Glad I could bring it to your attention! 🙂

        Love that you wouldn’t brighten up a review for the sake of pleasing the author in any way! Although I get your point about simply not writing a review as well. I think it would depend on how much I disliked the book and the reasons for it as well. If the writing simply isn’t my cup of tea, I think I would write a review but if the entire novel got on my nerves.. I don’t know.. Guess I’ll find out one day, haha.

        Same! I’m going to keep an eye on this post to see other people’s opinions on this. 😀

        Liked by 1 person

        • I totally agree! Whether or not I would write a review will depend on how strongly I dislike the book lol I mean, if there are only couple of tiny points like the writing style which don’t bother me much, I would definitely write a review and point these things out. But if I hated the book with a burning passion, then I would not write a review, perhaps!

          Liked by 1 person

          • I once had the case with a book that I had my doubts over to begin with. Male POV that looked at women as “meat” – or at least I really got that feeling during the first couple of chapters. The way that book was written rubbed me in all the wrong places because I pretty much started feeling like an object myself. The writing was.. so straight-forward that it became rude? Although other reviews were pretty glowing I just threw it aside and had to send the author a mail that I wouldn’t be writing a review after all. I felt soooo bad when I sent that mail but the author was pretty understanding and admitted that it isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. I got lucky on that part, haha. Ever since I’m a bit more wary of accepting review requests though. :’)

            Liked by 1 person

  2. this is an amazing post noriko! i think everybody of us, is struggling with this at some point.
    for me, i have to say, that i am reviewing a book based on my personal thoughts and feelings. i am not a professional reviewer, i do not do this for a job, where i think you need to be objective. i always compare that to movie critics. they need to be objective. but this is my blog and these are my thoughts. so i put down, how a book influenced me. what did it do to my personal feelings? what did make me think about it? did i enjoy it? these are totally personal things and i am pretty sure, everybody out there would feel differently reading that certain book. so based on my experience, i write down my reviews. these are my thoughts and how the book affected me, not anybody else. i guess, i would sturcture my reviews differently, if i was a professional reviewer. but this is for fun and after i liked a book, i give it a positive review. if i had problems, i write down the problems. that’s the way for me.
    i do not think, that your review for “since you’ve been gone” should be different. that were your thoughts. this book made you feel that way and it’s totally normal, that you write that down and give the book a lower rating. because in the moment you have read it, it was the way it was. you know what i mean?
    i also think, that rereads are best for these kinds of things. because when you reread a book and are in a different personal situation, you might feel different and give the book a different rating.
    my opinion is, that you should judge a book on how it affected you. there are no bad books out there. every books has its readers and a different impact on everybody. just because you didn’t like it, doesn’t mean other’s didn’t like it either. and reviews are a place to write down, why you didn’t like it or why you liked it. it is at least for me 😀

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Great Post, Noriko! And your reviews are always great.
    Obviously subjective, emotional state..! I look for everything possible in the book while I write review. Story, emotions, character’ s behavior, how I felt about the book or whether there was anything missing. Never a review is based on single point but single point can make me cut Stars. I try not to miss out anything good or bad in the book that can make a difference in like or dislike.
    When it comes to choosing a book, I don’t actually focus on overall ratings. I check out reviews that has given 5 stars and specifically the ones that has cut stars and why. If things are not that bothering for me like whiny character, I will go for it.
    One thing does worry me, as a reviewer is, whether everyone likes to read my reviews or not or they would like me to write it differently than current ways! 🤔

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you so much, Yesha! Oh, you got a great point there… yes, a single point can make us cut stars… reading all you guys’ comments, I now understand a lot of you write reviews based on your emotions and how a book affected you!
      Thanks again for your feedback, Yesha!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I rate a book based on my experience as a whole with it, and then I think about how well it was written. For example, I think about whether it held my interest throughout. Did it make me cry or laugh? Was it so good I’d keep it or even read it again? Am I still thinking about the book days after I’ve read it? Does the book cause me to stop and ponder while I’m reading it? If a book happens to hit all of those points it’s a five star read for sure. But I really have to hate a book to give it a bad rating. And if a book is below 3 stars for me, I usually won’t rate it on my blog anymore. I take several other factors into consideration too, like: how is the writing overall? Do my personal opinions about a certain subject matter warrant a negative rating? I struggle with the second one because certain subject matter does matter to me, but it wouldn’t bother others. So I take that into consideration when reviewing a book too.
    Book reviewing is not always an easy task, but it can be a very valuable tool for authors and fellow readers.
    Thanks for making me think about my experience rating books. ( :

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’re welcome, thank YOU for your feedback! Your comment is really inspiring. I am really glad to have made this post (scared was I about what response I would get though), it’s so much fun to learn how others rate/review books!!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. This is such a great topic. I’d be willing to bet that many readers have some of these same thoughts. I know I do! I question myself all the time and I do feel that I’m a high rater because of it. I’ve even deleted entire reviews before because of my uncertainty.

    To me it’s all subjective. If a book is rated so badly by tons of people, I probably won’t try it, but if it’s just a few friends that didn’t like it, I might. We are all so different and I respect all reviews unless it’s someone trashing a book because of something they heard and didn’t read–like with The Black Witch.

    I try to rate as a whole and look for the positive aspects as well, to be fair always, because rating low makes me feel horrible. Here’s someone who just wrote an entire book which took much time and effort and who am I to crash it? That’s what I think a lot.

    Thanks for bringing up such an awesome topic, Noriko! It’s very thought-provoking. 💜💖

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mischenko, your thoughts are probably the closest to mine – it’s not that I tend to change my opinions toward a book and dress up my ratings, but I want to be fair to books and rate them accordingly. I know reading is a subjective experience thus my rating should follow my gut-instinct, but I want to raise good points as well rather than critically lash out at negatives.
      Thank you so much for your feedback, it’s been great to know your thoughts ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Wonderful post!! I love all the viewpoints you consider. For me, I really go with my gut instinct when rating and reviewing. There are books I’ve rated 4 stars that I love more than books I’ve rated 5 stars, perhaps because the 4 star book was a bit messier than the 5 star one, but I loved the characters more. There are so many things that factor into it, I could never definitively define my rating system. There are genres I’ll rate more harshly than others- I tend to be picky with my historical fiction because I know and enjoy historical fiction better than other genres, whereas if I don’t like a sci-fi book, I may point out that my lower rating is due to the fact that sci-fi is really not my genre. To me, those are important things to point out in reviewing a book. But it depends on so many things, it’s fascinating to me!!

    I love seeing the way everyone reviews books and the things that are important to them in what they read. It’s so interesting how a 3 star rating can be a terribly low rating for some people, but not all that bad for others. I think getting to know people and learning how they review helps me a lot in deciding whether to add a book to my TBR or not.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Steph! It’s all been quite inspiring and interesting to know everybody’s opinion – some I totally agree with, and others I ponder on and which makes me think.
      While I tend to follow my gut-instinct and emotions/emotional experience, there’s another part of me screaming and wanting to be fair to a book whenever I attempt to write my book reviews.

      Again, it’s been quite pleasant to witness everyone’s perspectives. Thank you for your comment, Steph ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Nel says:

    You pretty much know how I review and how I am in general. I will review a book based on how I felt. There are genres I read more than others, sure, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that I can and will read any book in any genre and either I’ll like it or dislike it. Has nothing to do with what genre it’s in and everything to do with how I felt while I was reading the story.

    That being said, I review for a couple of authors and I wouldn’t brighten a review for them because they chose me to review their book. It wouldn’t make me feel good for one, and it’d be misleading to anyone else that reads my reviews (the few people that do). I’m pretty positive all authors want to think every book they write is the star on the Christmas tree but sometimes it’s just an ornament on the bottom. Every book can’t be highly rated. I think that’s impossible, personally. I’m a fan of flow. If a book flows well and it makes sense and engages me enough, chances are, it will be rated highly. If it’s inconsistent, grammatically terrifying, or just outright boring, then it’s probably going to be rated low. That’s just the way it is as some of your other followers said above me.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, Nel. Your thoughts are all clear to me 🙂
      and I totally agree with you on not dressing up your reviews just for the sake to make you look nice. I wouldn’t do the same.
      And it’s quite interesting that you pointed out everybody could be rating books based on different perspective, what they lay emphasis on, as in your case, the flow and such.

      Thank you so much for your thoughts, Nel. Appreciated ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Dear Noriko! I’m so glad you brought this topic up, and I love the way you expressed your feelings about ratings. It can be a very difficult thing to do, really, as you said – are we being objective enough, are we too influenced by one thing we loved/hated when rating and ignoring the technical brilliancy or lack thereof when giving ratings?

    While I share you worries about ratings and it can take me sometimes a few days to decide upon one or another, I think it’s quite clear that there is NO way to do a purely objective rating… I mean, if I think a book was absolutely wonderful in its execution of a topic, masterfully written, complex and unique characters and all… if I didn’t enjoy it, I still will give it a low or mediocre rating! At the end of the day, it matters if the book reached to you as a reader, as a person, I think. Is this book brilliant? Ok, sure, maybe it is. But if it didn’t speak to me, if I didn’t enjoy it, then I will not give it a good rating, that would be lying to myself…

    So my stand on this matter is: ratings will be subjective no matter what, so what should be important is whether the rating describes how you felt about the book, rather than how objectively good it is.

    Once again, thanks for talking about this, it’s such an interesting topic!!

    Liked by 2 people

    • You’re welcome, Naty! You voice is loud and clear – and it is interesting; this might be the very first thing we don’t see eye to eye – only ever slightly. (yes, teeny bit) but I totally understand your thoughts and agree with you.
      It’s a different issue whether I get to reinvent my way of seeing books and such, but it is inspiring to see/read everybody’s opinions!!
      Thank you so much for your thoughts, Naty. YOUR feedback is thought-provoking!!

      Liked by 1 person

      • I completely understand why you’d aim for a more objective rating, and I think that is great! I think for me it’s just that I think more emotionally, so it wouldn’t work so well to do that. But it gives different information to the reader when people give their ratings from a different place (emotion vs. analysis) and I think it’s great – the reader can decide from very different perspectives!

        Thanks ❤ ❤ I'll go read other answers to this, it's so interesting!

        Liked by 1 person

        • Thank you again, Naty! And you should definitely check out Abbey@Three Cats and a Girl’s comment; she has a fantastic idea for ratings where she thinks there should be rating for the writing, ratings for plot/story-line, and characters etc… don’t you think it’ll make ratings a lot easier?

          Liked by 1 person

          • I just read her answer! I think the idea is very interesting, but I’m not sure how helpful it would be vs. how much more difficult it would make reviewing a book. I do agree it’d make for a more objective and clearer way of expressing your view. Maybe I’ll try rating my next reviews and then trying Abbey’s method and seeing how different/similar the results are! In any case it’s a very interesting idea!

            Liked by 1 person

  9. AJ says:

    I think that as long as you’re honest with your response, you’re good to rate and review. It’s the differences in our opinions about books that makes life and reading interesting:)

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thank you so much for your comment, AJ! Yes, honesty should come first no matter what – I wouldn’t alter my thoughts just for the sake of being nice or making myself look nice lol
      You know what, the book that I mentioned in my post, – Morgan Matson’s book still remains with 2 stars… I could have gone for 1 star, but it was the best I could do to be fair and I have no intention to change my rating lol I could go for 2.5 stars, but not quite 3 stars lol

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Great post Noriko!! And like so many have said I think we have all had to deal with this issue at some point or another. For me personally I rate/review books on how much I enjoy them while I was reading them. If it really draws me in or if I’m bored etc. If I like a book I’m going to rate it highly and have a glowing review. The same goes for if I didn’t enjoy the book. I strive to be honest with my followers so if a book is or isn’t for me I will let them know why. Yes I hate to be negative about something an author has worked on but most authors know that there books aren’t going to be for everybody so they know there are going to be negative reviews out there. Basically I’m just trying to say whether or not you liked a book you have every right to voice your opinion just do it in a nice professional way. Don’t just be like oh this is utter crap.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Misty! Ohhhh, I ABSOLUTELY HATE to call a book crap without giving any good reason. It’s just mean and grossly unfair to the book lol
      I hear everything you said – and I could tell while you stated that you follow your emotions, you also point out the things that you love/hate in the book. Fair enough 🙂
      Thank you so much, Misty. It’s been really great to know all you guys’ thoughts!!

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Ooooh good Booktalk topic!! I totally get what you are saying about reviewing books. I look at everyone else’s reviews and then at mine. Mine are always so small and not very detailed. But I don’t think that’s a problem. I try not to compare my reviews with other’s because I am different than them first off. Second, I don’t read to review. I read for enjoyment and then write what I thought of it.
    I actually never look at ratings!! If I want to read it, I do. and vice versa. Ratings are tough though. I think there should be categories for ratings instead of just one rating. i.e. ratings for Writing Style, Characters, Plot, Speed of Book, Ease of Reading, etc. I think this would help us out a lot more!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Great topic Noriko 🙂 I was having a lot of problems with rating the books then I check different blogs and check their rating systems and I created my own criteria which is based on how the book made me feel and probability of me to re-read the book.

    When picking a book if the average rating is low, I usually read couple of high rated and couple of low rated reviews and decide. But again it all comes to how much the synopsis and the cover picked my interest. If I really liked it I will give it a shot even though the ratings are low.

    At the end rating a book is really personal and comes down to preferences, someone’s 5 star book can be 2 star for you or vice versa. I think the most important point is if you are writing a review for a low rated book, you need to clearly explain why you didn’t like it and do it respectfully. As for me I will not write a review if my rating is below 3.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Mia for your feedback! Your criteria which is based on probability of re-reading sounds quite helpful!! And I also found it interesting that you don’t write a review if your rating is below 3 🙂
      Again, thank you so much for your feedback, it’s been such a pleasure to read everyone’s comments and views on this 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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