The Value of Stars


I read a great post recently on Peter Germany’s blog where he talked about the star system used to review books. I often do reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, but I haven’t really analysed what the stars really mean to me, and I guess everyone’s interpretation is different. So here’s what I’m thinking when I give a book a star:

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5 stars ***** I loved it…unputdownable.

4 stars **** Really enjoyed it, but….(I’m probably just being picky but there was at least one thing that annoyed me, I found a bit unbelievable or didn’t like etc).

3 stars *** It was ok but I’m disappointed. I had a major problem with a particular aspect, but for some unknown reason decided to read to the end lol

2 stars ** Hmmmm, not for me. It really didn’t work or was just plain boring.

1 star * Well, that’s a part of my life I’ll never get back! Hated it!

So how many stars would I give a book that I hadn’t been able to finish? And why would I want to spend my time reading a book that I didn’t like? I don’t think I’ve ever given a 1 or 2 star review on Amazon or Goodreads, because if it was that bad I would have chucked the book across the room by page 100 lol

Go check out Anne R Allens excellent guide to leaving a review on Amazon and also a brillant post from Lisa Jewell reviewing her reviews.

So my question to you dear reader is….. do you ever give 1 or 2 star reviews? And if so, how do you decide what constitutes a 1 star and why would you continue reading a book if you thought it was that bad?

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48 thoughts on “The Value of Stars

  1. I’ve given 2 stars to one thing. A short story that had juvenile characters. It was short enough to finish and I paid money so I felt it was okay to review. I made my criticism as constructive as possible and the author contacted me after for discussion. Usually I never give less than a 3, and that’s because it was just okay with decent writing.

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  2. Thought provoking Viki. I ascribe to the Thumper philosophy ..if ya can’t say somethin’ nice, don’t say nothin’ at all. I only ever leave 5 stars for books I’ve enjoyed all the way through or no stars at all. Oh sure, I’ll stop reading if it’s a bad book for a variety of reasons. There have been a few where I couldn’t get past the first chapter! That doesn’t make it a bad book, it just makes it a bad book for me. Writing is art and all artwork is beautiful in the eye of the beholder. Because of that, I never leave a lesser rating. I’ll just figure it’s abstract art that I don’t get the meaning of and walk away.

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    • Thanks Rose πŸ™‚

      Thats very true! Perhaps i should alter what i mean by a “bad book”….its very subjective.

      I too have adopted the Thumper philosophy, and wouldnt hesitate to do so again, especially if it was someone i knew πŸ™‚

      xx

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  3. Whilst also ascribing to the theory of saying nothing if it cant be nice I would actually review a book down to a three star rating if I were able to give a fully constructive reason for doing so but offering encouragement to the writer to carry on writing or to edit the book in question. Anything less than a three in my mind and I just wouldn’t review at all based on the fact that someone may have worked their heart and soul into their writing and I might just disparage something that appealed to others.
    At the end of the day a review is only an opinion but a bad one may affect someone so badly they stop writing altogether which means they could never improve and I’d be depriving readers of something they may enjoy.

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  4. If I hate a book and couldn’t finish it I’m not going to give it any more time by writing a review. I’m also aware that its only my taste and it could be a really great book so again, I wouldn’t give it 1 or 2 stars I’d just not review it. Personal choice, but I hate seeing those bitter twisted snipey reviews.

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  5. Another great post Vikki… x I agree with RoseAnderson. If I can’t find anything good, or positive, to say about a book I don’t review it. I would never give a bad review. I know how much work it takes to write a novel. I could never hurt anyone who has laboured (with love) often for years. Must tell you…. A close friend of mine gave me a great written review, after reading Foxden Acres, but only gave it 4 stars. I thanked her, saying it was the best review to date. Later I asked her why she gave it four stars. She said she ever gives anyone five stars, because they can always do better. Of course she’s right, we can always do better. But I’m glad most other people who reviewed FA gave it 5 stars .

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  6. Sometimes bad reviews say more about the reviewer than the book – certainly true on Amazon. Context can be important too. Remember reading a terrible review in a local newspaper about an am dram production, actually he praised the play but singled one poor actress for his venom. I saw it and she wasn’t brilliant but she didn’t ruin it or forget her lines and it was amateur stuff not West End. In that instance I think the reviewer was just showing off all his knowledge and had forgot that a flesh and blood person would be hurt by his words.
    I heard Gore Vidal at Brighton festival a few years ago say that he now never gave bad reviews to living authors and maybe that’s not a bad plan.
    By the way, I read somewhere that Amazon don’t “count” three star reviews….anyone know if that’s true? (By count I think it means assessing a book’s popularity….but not entirely sure)

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    • Definitely Bridget…..I’m always a bit wary of the 1 or 2 star reviews.

      Oh thats shocking! *shakes head*

      Wise words from Vidal πŸ™‚

      Really? Wow…I’ve not heard that….hope someone replies who knows more.

      Thanks honey xx

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  7. I never review books I haven’t enjoyed in some way – and don’t give less than 3 stars. As others have said, someone slogged their guts out over that piece of work and it may simply have not been to my taste or may have got my writerly hackles up grammar-wise or something! I’ve hated books that others have loved – just look at Fifty Shades of Grey…

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    • He he he, thanks Linda πŸ™‚

      I HATED Gatsby but was too embarrassed to put my terrible review on Amazon lol….was great recently meeting someone who thought it was boring too. Damn, I’ve just gone public with that haven’t i lol

      xx

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  8. I’ve never been a fan of the 5 star thing, unless you’re allowed to do half stars — I think in terms of 10 (e.g., 7/10), so forcing my mind into a 5-star system is really annoying. There’s a book I’m reading right now that I really want to give a 3.5/5, because it’s not good enough for a 4, and not bad enough for a 3, but most websites don’t have half stars. Ack!

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  9. I like you star “definitions”. Usually I ignore star review ratings because it’s so vague and you don’t have to defend/justify them
    People shouldn’t leave reviews if they don’t bother to read the entire book (How about a black star rating: just gave up and couldn’t finish for whatever reason?)
    Used to drag through every single book – but more recently, just put that one back and grab another. Don’t leave “poor” ratings – just walk away…silent

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    • Thanks honey πŸ™‚

      i TOTALLY agree! If you haven’t read the bloody book why does it deserve a 1 star rating? GRRRRR!

      Yep, im the same….i use the 100 page rule. If i still hate it at page 100 i give it away and start something else. I only have so many hours left of my life πŸ˜‰

      xx

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  10. I don’t do reviews, but I think the star rating is good only if the reviewer gives a reason for the amount of stars. I find it frustrating when someone gives a star rating and doesn’t explain how they reached that decision.

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      • I don’t do reviews because I’m not good at it. My son does books and music reviews for newspapers and I’m in awe of his skills. I think you have to have specific skills to be a good reviewer and I’m certainly lacking in that area! πŸ˜‰

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  11. There’s only one book I can think of that I’ve ever given one star, and I gave it one star because I couldn’t finish it. If I’m able to finish a book, it gets a minimum of two stars from me, and the reason I continue reading those books is because I like to analyze what it is I don’t like about it so I can avoid those things in my own writing.

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  12. I have given 1 and 2 star reviews, but I reserve them only for books I couldn’t finish (because they are so bad) or books where I had issues with the writing. I gave a 1 star review to Shattered by Sophia Sharp because it was riddled with grammar and spelling errors. I found that inexcusable for an e-book I paid to read.

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  13. Reblogged this on magdalena vandenberg and commented:
    Vikki from The View Outside poses a very fair question regarding giving 1 or 2 star reviews.
    I’m in the camp of not going down the lowly digits road, by either choosing not to finish reading the book, or by not posting a review. I’m not convinced 1 * or 2 stars ** benefit anyone.
    At the end of the book, I always remember how much work, guts, determination…and love with a pinch of frustration went into every single word.

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  14. I’ve awarded 2 stars twice, on both occasions for novels written by public figures, successful in their high-profile careers (one a politician and another a security service’s chief), who should have left writing to real writers. They had too many characters in their opening chapters, and none of them memorable, so I kept having to look back to remind myself who they were. Life is far too short to waste it reading boring novels, when there are so many good ones out there.

    On average, I award 4 stars. A few very special novels, such as Music and Silence by Rose Tremain, The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey, Advent by James Tredwell, and The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory have achieved 5 stars, as they so totally bewitched me, even now I think about them.

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    • So would you think twice about giving a 2 star review if you knew the writer was an Indie self published author Sarah? Just curious πŸ™‚

      Now, did you HAVE to mention specific books? lol…i can feel my wish list increasing lol πŸ˜‰

      Thanks honey xx

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  15. As an author, I’ve made a decision to be super-careful before giving a 1 or 2 star review. If a book is terrible, enough other people will probably say so, without me needing to weigh in.
    That said, I thought Fifty Shades was just awful, but it was so popular by the time I read it that I didn’t feel bad giving it 2 stars. πŸ˜‰

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    • Thats a good point Pauline….i have heard of authors who will then retaliate with an equally low star review if they see that the review has been written by a fellow author. I also know people who use a different name for reviewing.

      xx

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  16. Great question! I do give one or two stars, but infrequently. I think a single one star review in the 18 months or so I’ve been blogging. I’ve also only had one DNF though, because I like to finish what I start. I just make sure to remember when I’m writing 1 or 2 star reviews that the author is a person too and focus on giving my readers a useful response while avoiding putting in any of the snarky things I might have thought while reading πŸ™‚

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  17. I don’t do a lot of reviews, mainly because I don’t have the time! But I decided that when I do a review, I would only review books which I think are worth reading and passing on to another interested reader. If I read a book that’s not very good I won’t review it. I just don’t think I can hurt someone’s reputation in that way. I’m not a professional reviewer, so my opinion really isn’t based on anything but my personal tastes. The same argument can be said of good reviews, but at least my personal tastes aren’t hurting anyone with a good review.

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