Book Reviews / On a personal note...

Starred reviews: Do you trust them?


It’s challenging to navigate the world of literature when you rely on the reviews of other people. People have different tastes in this world and it is no different for the bookish type looking for their next good read.

So, unless you have friends that have the same tastes in reading and recommend books they think you will like, where do you go for guidance? I am fortunate that I have a few friends who have the same tastes in stories as I do and we are able to bounce book recs back and forth off one another. But when that list gets smaller, who do you trust?

Amazon recently bought Goodreads and I noticed that their starred review options vary. Amazon’s break down of starred reviews goes as follows:

* = “I hate it”

** = “I don’t like it”

*** = “It’s ok”

**** = “I like it”

***** = “I love it”

Compare that to Goodreads:

* = “Did not like it”

** = “It was ok”

*** = “I liked it”

**** = “Really liked it”

***** = “It was amazing”

See the discrepancy? Something I “liked” on Amazon garners a four star rating but a three star on Goodreads. As a reader I enjoy most books, otherwise I wouldn’t mention them here on this book review blog or add them to my shelf on Goodreads. I have read a number of books that I didn’t like or couldn’t finish, yet keep them off my lists. I just have a very difficult time putting negative thoughts out there for the world to see as well as the author. I try to follow the motto “If you have nothing nice to say…” as Flower mentioned in the movie Bambi. I keep those negative ramblings to myself and only share them with close friends as a outlet to vent. But maybe that is a mistake. Maybe readers deserve more honest reviews if something was not their “cup of tea”. Maybe authors would appreciate some honest feedback. Maybe not.

Case in point: I recently bought a book via Amazon that got amazing reviews. It got an average of 4.5 on Goodreads and mostly 5 stars on Amazon. The reviews people gave were: “outstanding”, “best work yet”, “I highlighted almost all the pages in this book”, “well crafted”, “absolute perfection”, “amazing writing”…you get the gist. The raving reviews were followed by cute gifs showing joy and photos of actors/models these readers would cast if the story came to life on the big screen. There were a few, and I mean very few, negative reviews but in the minority. So I did something that I normally do not do. I told my friend, Ms. You-Know-Who-You-Are to buy it also and we could read it together, sight unseen, and experience this stellar book together. We have extremely similar tastes in books and 99.9% of the time, we agree on books. This was a new author to us both and looked forward to experience her work.

So I was like this:

Then the texts started…..

Me: “Am I crazy or is the writing weird?”

Ms. YKWYA: “I know! Maybe it will get better.”

Me (after a few more chapters): “Does it seem like the author is repeating the same line over and over? The language is awkward. And the convos??? Does it get any better?”

Ms. YKWYA: “It’s not getting better. This writing!”

Move ahead to four days later and half of the book complete (and that half was a struggle to get through)…

Me: “I have to jump ship and take a break. It is terrible. I have to read something else. I want my money back. UGH! Sorry for the rec!”

Ms. YKWYA: “I agree. I’m out!”

Left me feeling like:

We were both dumbfounded by how terribly written the book was. I am by no means a grammar expert, but I do read a lot and have a teaching background, so I know a few things about sentence structure, grammar and language. How in the heck did this book pass editing move to publishing and earn so many rave reviews? I would quote lines from the book to prove my point, but I don’t want to do that to the author or anger fans.

I am tempted, however, to go onto The Daily Dosage’s Goodreads list and remove all the stars from every book I have read. But does that mean a zero rating? I have seen some readers do this and write written reviews only. I understand why they do this. Stars really mean nothing because a reader’s 5 star review means something different to each person. How do you measure the “love” for something with stars. It’s very confusing. But then again, using a star review system is also important for other consumers to assess what their money will buy. I frequent Amazon almost daily to see product reviews before purchasing. I value their opinions and want my hard earned money spent on something of quality.

Has this happened to you as a reader? Are you also confused by the star rating system? If you are a book blogger, do you use a starred rating system on your blog? Do you leave negative reviews of books you have read and are you concerned with the backlash if you do? Who do you trust?

I hope when the companies merge they rectify their rating system to be more cohesive. Until then, buyer beware.

2 thoughts on “Starred reviews: Do you trust them?

  1. I use star ratings for myself as much as for anyone else. And when looking at others’ ratings I take them with a grain of salt, because I’m sure not everyone pays attention to what the stars “should” mean on one site or another. Personally I love the GR system because it gives me a bigger range to describe books I enjoyed to varying degrees… it makes more sense to me, even if others see my 3-star rating and assume the book was a mediocre one.

    I think reviews (even short ones) are much more helpful than ratings alone.

    • I agree completely Charleen. I actually prefer Goodreads as well and think a three star rating is a positive “score” . Five stars to me is that “WOW” book that I can’t get out of my head and stands out from others I have read before. Again, it’s all personal opinion. Written reviews are also why I choose certain books. Thanks for sharing!

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