When Five Stars Aren’t Enough


Rating books is such a difficult thing to do. More difficult than the review, often. Unless you know it is one of your all time favorites and will be getting five stars, it seems there is always room for debate. I have read lots of posts about how a blogger’s ratings can change over time, and I completely agree. A book I read three years ago would likely get a very different rating today, just based on the sheer number of books I have read. Sure, other things come into play too, like evolving tastes, being more critical after writing so many reviews, and just having read even better books along the way. But that isn’t my problem today. No, my problem is in the actual five stars. I am sorry, but I am going to need a sixth. No, I can’t? But… you don’t understand. Five. Isn’t. Enough. 91073-I-want-more-gif-little-mermaid-Z8w1

Basically, heres is my tale of five-star woe: Last week, I was trying to rate The Young Elites by Marie Lu. It was an okay book. I ended up giving it three stars. But. I think it deserved more, probably more like 3.5. However, I thought of some books I had given the 3.5 rating to, and I did not like it as much as those. It left me in a conundrum. If I had say, six stars, then it would work out nicely. Sure, I could do a ten star system, but then I would have to convert it every time I wanted to post to Goodreads, Amazon, even sites like Netgalley or Edelweiss. And I don’t have time for that, since it would just bring me back to my initial problem. tumblr_me0pgkjJQT1qcwgrvo1_500

Why do I put so much thought into it? Well, simply put, the numbers kind of matter! We all like to think they don’t, that the content of our reviews are more significant, and to some readers that is certainly true. But I will fully admit that when I am going to purchase a book, I look at the rating. I look at the numbers. I may read a few reviews from trusted bloggers if applicable, but numbers do mean something when I am going to read a book. Be honest: Are you picking up some book with a Goodreads average of 1.8 out of hundreds of reviews? Nope. So I feel this obligation to be as fair as possible when leaving that star rating, never rating too low as to steer someone away unnecessarily, but also never inflating to give readers a false impression. It is such a fine line, and I am tormented by my lack of wiggle room. tumblr_inline_n1th77vOOu1qi9f18

Okay, maybe this is a bit over the top…

How I rate basically comes down to this: Gut feelings + Comparison = Stars. I do know that they are definitely arbitrary, but I do hold some stock in them.

Now do kindly share: How do you assign ratings? Do you pay attention to them? And do you stress over them like I do? 

Posted December 11, 2014 by Shannon @ It Starts at Midnight in Discussion / 40 Comments


40 responses to “When Five Stars Aren’t Enough

  1. I agree with you, Shannon. Numbers are really important when purchasing a book. Before I’m going to start and pick up the book in the store, I always go first to look at the ratings of the book on sites like Goodreads and Amazon. And if the numbers were low, no matter how intrigued I am, I ended up not buying it. And in the end of the day, before I go to sleep, I’ll think of why I did not consider to read/buy the book for the sake of its ratings? That’s some problem of mine that I really need to fix real soon.

    • Yep, I do the same thing! I mean, you have to know what you are getting into. We are broke enough as it is 😉 But I am right there with you. Now, if it is a newer book, I will give the ratings some leeway, but if it is an established book, and THOUSANDS of people are saying it is just abysmal… I just can’t justify spending the money!

  2. Totally agree with everything you said which is why even though I’ll use the typical five star rating on Goodreads, I use six stars on my blog. I feel like that will give me a little balance.

    And I will check out a rating of a book before I buy it, so the ratings do matter, at least to me.

    • Oh, that is a good idea! I really think 6 stars do feel more balanced, especially because I always come down on one side (either liking or not liking) and I feel like a 3 star rating is almost an easy way out for me.

  3. That is the part of reviewing that hat the most. There are books on my shelves with three stars rating, but thinking about it – some of them are the better than the others.

  4. I rate books mostly based on my gut feeling and approximately how much I enjoyed them. It mostly comes down to giving every book a 4 stars, unless it was really good then the book get’s a 5 star and if it was just okay it get’s a 3 stars. If I didn’t enjoy it, it get’s a 2 stars.
    I believe star rating isn’t perfect and indeed my review is more important in my opinion as that mentions the exact point I did and didn’t like. But like you said people do look at the numbers. And I am less likely to pick up a book when it has an average of 3 stars than an average of 4 stars. When deciding whether to read a book or not I often look at reviews of my friends on goodreads, I often do read them as the see whether it has some things I really can’t stand like bad world building. I gues srating books always will be a difficult issue.

    btw I like your new design, although I almost didn’t recognize your blog at first.

    • Thank you 🙂 And yes, I agree with you, if I am on the fence, I absolutely check out why a trusted reviewer did/didn’t like a book. Often, the issue won’t bug me at all! That is why reviews are so important too, because even if the rating is low, it may be a personal thing.

  5. Five stars isn’t enough. That’s why I use ten. Five, nope that’s impossible, sorry can’t do it. Yeah When I post to other sites I round up or down, but I don’t worry about that much.

    Ratings are so hard and they matter a lot! Mine is more of a personal thing as far as how much I enjoyed the book vs how many things I didn’t like about it. I’ve rated anime for years though so I sort of already have a system down. Though it’s a bit on the low side since I rarely give 8 or 9 star ratings. Or course a I stress over ratings, I stress over everything!

    • I was thinking of you while I wrote this post! I love your 10 star system, but I don’t have it in me to redo it back to 5! Hahah I stress over everything too, don’t worry. We should have a support group 😉

  6. Oh good topic! I definitely stress over ratings, even though it’s kind 50/50 on whether I pay attention to them myself. Unless it’s an incredibly low rating I don’t really pay attention to it when buying books but obsess with it for my reviews!

    Just recently I rated a book 3 stars and I changed the rating half a dozen times before posting it. Sometimes I didn’t enjoy the book for one reason or another but it’s still a really good book so I rate it 4 stars but I’ll spend an hour or more debating whether it should be 4 stars or 3.5. This is a very real problem in the book reviewing world! I feel like Goodreads(and Amaozn/Netgally/the one I can never remember how to spell but starts with an E) should upgrade to a 10 star system… Then again I’d probably still have the same issues! =)

    • I do the same thing! And while I am writing the review, I change the rating so often- because while I am focusing on the positive stuff, I’ll want to boost it, and then during the negative parts, I want to lower it! It’s insane. I would have the same issues with a 10 star system BUT I wouldn’t feel AS worried because I’d feel like I was coming closer, at least.

  7. I actually don’t compare my reads to each other, because I give them those ratings for a specific reason only for that book. Comparing them all would give me an even bigger headache! This whole issue is why I have my special little six star rating – it’s for those books that are my new favorites and I’ll cherish for years. I rarely use half stars, because that causes even more issues, lol.

    • I really like the 6th star idea. Though I fear I would reserve it only for The Hunger Games? And like, Rites of Passage? I created an “Elite Favorite” category on Goodreads, because even my favorites were getting out of hand. Ugh, it is not easy!

  8. I definitely have this same problem. I really hate it when I want to go back and change my rating later because I think, “Well, that 3.5 star book wasn’t as good as this one.” And yes, I’ve been thinking lately about how I could add a 5+ rating for my absolute favorite books!

    • Yes! I am definitely adding an extra special “something” from now on, after reading the comments. I am not sure what, maybe some fancier star. But I think it is a really good idea, so readers know when a book is really extra special!

  9. YEAH! I really hate the fact that my rating system is relative to the books I’ve read around the time I read that specific book, but there’s nothing I can do about that! Usually I do look at books with ratings over 3, and also at blogger reviews! because those are the things that really convince me to buy a book. 😀 😀

    Awesome discussion Shannon!

    • Thanks! And yes, it is so hard, because did I hate that one book just because it wasn’t as good as the last one I read? And so on. Ugh, I guess as long as we are doing our best, that’s all that matters!

  10. I agree that I look on Amazon or Goodreads ratings before purchasing a book. Sometimes before giving a book five states I think about other books that I have given that same rating too. And some books just need more than five stars because they are so good!

  11. Argh, this is complicated, but totally get it. I rate mine when I just finished it, which, most of the time, makes me want to change the rating once I get to the review, which I have done a few times. Cute/fluffy contemporaries are the hardest for me to rate, because they’re mean, and then I start comparing it to say a fantasy and think, “Was Anna and the French Kiss as good as Heir of Fire? No. And yet I gave them both a 5, WHY DID I GIVE THEM BOTH A 5?” Which doesn’t make sense and isn’t fair at all. So I think mine comes down to the same, if I can love a book despite it’s faults that usually would lower the rating, and gave me all the feelings, then it deserves it.

    They are important (which is the worst part) I always look at ratings before buying a book and at least a high rating review and then a low rating review to see if the good outweighs the bad, not so much if I’ve read a previous one from an author, etc, but used to waste so much money on impulse buying that I have a box full of DNF’S.

    • I do the same thing! I like to give a rating as soon as I am done, and then after thinking about it, it usually changes. Not significantly, but a little. Part of my rating involves how much the book sticks with me too. If I’ve forgotten it by the next day, then it probably wasn’t a 5 star after all!

      And I am the same way- I used to buy ALL the books, if they were on sale, or just looked good. Now I have books that everyone I know has basically abhorred, and I am stuck wondering what to do with them!

  12. Five isn’t enough! I mean, I loooooved those books, I did. But some of them just went above and beyond anything I could have imagined and the deserve more than five freaking little stars. Or paw prints, in my case. 😛 And my ratings are basically how I feel about the book. Did I like it, love it, completely hate it? And why? Reviews come into play and I get to sort out my feelings. But sometimes, I just never know WHAT to rate the book! And they do matter; I’ll be honest, ratings of a book are one of the first things I check to see if it’s good or something I will like. They’re very important, and they also give most of us the worst kind of trouble.

    And I will forever complain that Goodreads does not allow us the half stars.

    • I HATE Goodreads’ lack of half stars! It makes my troubles SO much worse. Just for the sake of politeness, I round up. I figure, the author/book shouldn’t be penalized for Goodreads’ nonsense, right? And you are right- I check them out too, which is probably why we feel such pressure to assign a fitting number! I have added a sixth star now too, because I felt compelled after reading all these answers!

  13. First off, I’ve been AWOL around the blogging world as far as checking out everyone else’s blogs the last week due to finals. That being said, I LOVE your new layout! Super cute and simple!

    Second, let me talk to you about my rating system:
    I totally get where you are coming from! COMPLETELY! It’s such a hard choice sometimes! I personally like doing half stars… like 3.5, 2.5, etc. I also feel that there are MAJOR differences in my five star ratings. Some scream, “I NEED MORE OR I WILL DIE!!!!”… other’s just say, “That was a REALLY good book.” I have yet to fix this problem on my blog, just because a lot of changes will be going on this month. But I think on my blog I’m going to start putting a plus (+) sign at the end of five stars to convey to everyone how much I truly loved it if it comes to that. So I will log a five star as a five star on every other platform, but on my blog people will understand what that plus sign means. 🙂

    • Aww thank you! And YES- exactly! I mean, I have five star books that I liked, that WERE great books, that I didn’t even find fault with, but they didn’t captivate me the way an EPIC five star would! I just started using a “plus star” on my most recent review, so I am hoping it helps!

  14. Oh, I completely get where your coming from with this post, Shannon! I think as book bloggers, we all experience this at some stage…since I decided to rate the way I do currently, it hasn’t been as stressful for me however. This is my current rating system:

    I give the following (if applicable) a rating out of 5: characters, romance, plot, setting, writing, pacing and enjoyment. I then add up those ratings and average the number out and voila! The final number is what I rate the book. Obviously, I round to intervals of .5.

    Thanks for a very entertaining post, Shannon. 🙂

    • I do enjoy your system, I find it quite thorough! I tried to rate somewhat similarly when I first started, but I found myself getting mad with the numbers I ended up coming out to; they didn’t quite fit my opinion, so it was back to the drawing board. But I am so glad that your system works for you, as it is quite helpful to your readers!

  15. Gut feelings + Comparison = Stars
    ^^ Thant’s the exact thing I do. Sometimes I feel like I should rate a book 4 stars, but then I look at the other books I rated 4, and I realize this book is not really a 4, so I have to rate it down. Also the problem occurs when I’d like to rate a book a half rating, like 3.5. DO I round it up or down? It’s so frustrating sometimes, but then again, I’m not really a fan of reviews without rating.

    • Yes! These are my exact problems! Ugh, it is so, so hard. But I also agree with you- if there is a review and NO rating system (I am fine with whatever- numbers, words, pictures, just give me SOMETHING!) then I am less likely to read that review, honestlY!

  16. Ooh what a fun topic. I guess I never realized 5 could be a problem since I so rarely ever assign a 5 star rating, that I almost treat 5 like some people treat the “5 star is not enough so I’m assigning 6 stars” rating. I don’t agonize over ratings though, initial reaction and move on heh. But I think there’s nothing wrong with writing details in the review itself on how this is a 5++++ type of book.

    • I tried to do what you do, and reserve 5 star ratings, but I realized that I assigned them too freely before I started blogging, and I didn’t want to go back and like, redo all my ratings, so now I have added an “extra” star. And I am with you, sometimes you just have to flail a bit to get the point across!

  17. I tried using starred reviews for a little while, but I can be VERY indecisive about little things like stars. It was holding my reviews back so much because I felt like I couldn’t even write the review until I had decided how many stars, and the # of stars would then often shape my review *too* much.

    So I decided to switch to a little blurb at the end to describe my feelings, kind of like Jamie @ Perpetual Page Turner ‘s review on a Post-it note. Though I can’t really say how viewers like it, it has relieved the stress on myself *so* much.

    But when I go over to Goodreads, I *do* give it a starred rating. But it simply doesn’t stress me out that much, and I usually do it after writing my review so that it feels more like a wrap-up of how I felt about the book.

    Honestly, I tend to go a bit easy when rating books, so I understand the need for more than 5 stars. Maybe a 5+ stars symbol (instead of a 6 star system) would work? I feel like I’ve seen a few bloggers use that.

    • I know what you mean, and I think that a little blurb is a GREAT alternative! Really, any way to sum up your feelings so that the reader isn’t asking “wait, but did she like it?” works for me! And I agree with you about Goodreads, it doesn’t stress me out nearly as much. Because when in doubt, I always round up on Goodreads. On my own site I wouldn’t do that, but since Goodreads doesn’t use half stars, it is the only fair way to me.

      And I have started a 5+ system actually! Like, an extra star kind of thing, not a full 6 star system, but just a little “more” for a book on my favorites list!

  18. I have been writing my blog for 4 years. And I rate all my books on a scale of 4 (I realize that most bloggers, along with Amazon and Goodreads, use 5, but I’ve always gone with 4). In early 2013, I read The Language of Flowers, by Vanessa Diffenbaugh. It was so good that I realized I couldn’t give it a 4. So, I gave it a 4.5. Then I went back though all of my lists and came up with 12-4.5’s (3/21/13). A year later, on 4/24/14, I posted another list of 4.25’s. Some books are just better than the others!

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