Friday, May 26, 2023

What's In A Star Rating: A Look at How I Rate Books


Photo Credit: Freepik

Can I make a confession?

When it comes to book reviews, I'm really not a big fan of star ratings. In fact, you may have noticed that the reviews I share here on A Modern Day Fairy Tale don't have star ratings at all. I would much rather just give you my thoughts on a book-- what I liked and what I did not like-- and let readers decide for themselves. 

The thing with star ratings is that they can be very subjective. For some, a three-star rating is their baseline. If a book is good, it starts at three and goes up from there. For other readers (myself included), three is reserved for books they didn't care for. Some readers give out five-star ratings to any book they enjoy, whereas others reserve them for favorites only. Do you see where that can get a bit confusing? 

As a reader, I always look at the actual content of reviews rather than the star rating. Many times I find that the reason for their ratings is super helpful to consider too. With Christian books, I often see one and two-star reviews given because they didn't realize it was a Christian book. Or on the opposite side, they wanted more Christian content. When I'm looking at closed-door romance reviews, it will be a mix of 'too much spice' and 'not enough spice'... all on the same book! What some readers love, others don't. 

While I don't use them here, some retail sites require them and they do help out authors (particularly four and five-star reviews), so I wanted to share a little bit about how I personally rate books. I'm not saying this is the right or the wrong way, but will just give you an idea of what those ratings mean when you read MY reviews. 

5 Star

For a while, I gave five-star reviews very generously. I was one who, if I liked the book, gave it five stars. There is definitely nothing wrong with that. But for me, I realized that if I gave every book five stars, it might not seem quite genuine and so I started to rethink it a little bit. These days, five-star reads are above and beyond my expectations. They are the books that I know I will remember long after the final page. When I'm looking at my favorite books for the month, these are the books that are going to be in the running. 

4 Star 

Four-star is my most commonly given book rating. I'm honestly very easy to please when it comes to books. If I enjoy a book, it's a four-star. It's as easy as that. There are books I would recommend to others without a doubt. 

The websites that I tend to post to don't generally allow half-star ratings, so if there is a book that I am on the fence about whether it would be three or four, I tend to be more generous and round it up to the four, and may even mention that in my actual review as well. 

3 Star

I honestly don't give out many three-star reviews unless I have to. Goodreads actually allows reviews without a star rating, so if I am going to leave a three (or lower), I generally leave off the star rating and just share my thoughts instead. This isn't always possible with sites like Netgalley and Barnes and Noble where a star rating is required to leave a review. Three-star reads for me are books that I just didn't really enjoy. This isn't always a reflection on the writing, but just not being my personal cup of tea. Even when I don't love a book though, I always seek to find something positive or constructive to say about it. My three-star could be someone else's five-star, so I try to consider what type of reader might enjoy it more than I did and share that in my review. 

2 & 1 Star

I am actually not certain I have ever given anything lower than a three-star review. More often than not, I feel like the books that I don't care for aren't bad books, they're just not books for me. If I were to give a rating this low, it would likely have to be really bad ethically or very poorly written... though I honestly couldn't imagine anything that would be bad enough to warrant this low.

This leads me to...

Content and Star Ratings

The books that I read are generally either Christian fiction or closed-door romance/otherwise clean reads. Every once in a while, a book that doesn't fit those categories sneaks in and surprises me. 

I'll soon be sharing more about the spice/language level of closed-door romances in more detail, but for now, I'll just say... it varies. Particularly the language aspect. Most that I have personally read are either free from language or very minimal. Because I don't hold non-Christian books to the same standard as I do Christian books, I don't specifically take off stars for content that goes against my personal standards. Now, if a book is using the f-word every other word, chances are that's definitely going to affect my enjoyment of the story and as such end up with a lower rating. Because I am very mindful about the books I choose, that's not something that I've come across often. The language in those I read tends to be mild and fairly minimal, so if the story is good, it doesn't affect my rating. One of my favorite five-star reads this year is actually one that had more language than most-still mild language (no f-words, no use of God's name in vain, etc, and still less than its open-door counterparts), but the story was so good I enjoyed it anyway. Now, IF this same amount of language was used in a book that was marketed as Christian? Well, that might be a different story because again, the standard and the expectation for those books is different... but again that's not something I've personally come across myself. As for those non-clean reads that sneak their way in, well, it really just varies from book to book. If the content is very minimal and can easily be skipped over, I may still rate it with the above standards. More often than not though, I'm just not going to finish or rate it.  I do try to note all of these content issues though, as I believe it's important for us as readers to know before we open a book what to expect to decide if it's for us or not. 

So there you have it... a look at what my ratings on Goodreads and other retailers mean! How do you feel about star ratings? When rating books, what does your system look like? 


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