Don’t Trust My Ratings

I’ve decided to finally come clean. At long last, it’s time to let all of you know that I am a fraud. If you’re ever browsing through Goodreads and see that I gave a book a certain starred rating, I’m going to be the first to inform you that you shouldn’t trust it.

I see that a lot of bloggers post things that explain their rating systems. They post what exactly each starred rating means to them as a sort of baseline so that people can instinctively know what said blogger felt about a book based on the presented rating. I’m here to tell you that that sort of logic simply won’t work for any of the books I’ve rated.

I don’t really have a good explanation as to why, but the simplest explanation is that I am incredibly whimsical with my ratings. I give a nonsensical rating sometimes based on absolutely nothing. I’ve had books I absolutely despised that received 3 stars, while books I would sacrifice my soul for only got a 4. One reason for this is because I was a really weird 13-year-old. When I was 13 I first started giving ratings on Goodreads, and for some weird reason I convinced myself that no book was allowed to get a 5-star rating because “nothing is perfect”.

All the early 2010 books to me when I gave them bad ratings

Don’t worry, I hate 13-year-old me too. I don’t really know what I was thinking to have come up with such a skewed system, but it was what it was. It was only about a year or two ago that I finally started rating books ‘normally’ again. But even though I do allow myself to give 5-star ratings, there are still some weird little quirks that happen when I rate things.

I find it hard to give a concrete rating to books that I read because every time I look back on the book my experience with it is a little bit different in my head. I sometimes look back on books I gave 4 stars and wonder why I didn’t give them 5 stars. The little annoyance that stopped me from giving it the perfect rating after I first finished the book has vanished from my mind, and I no longer see a reason why it doesn’t deserve the 5 stars.

There are also times where it doesn’t really matter if the book was good or not, it matters what kind of mood I’m in. Am I in a 5-star mood? Or am I in a 3.75 rounded down to 3-star mood?

Generally, my thought process before rating a book goes something like this.

I think it was ok! 4 Stars!

It was fun to read! 5 Stars!

I really enjoyed it!  3 Stars!

This was super creative! 4 Stars!

Would reread! 4 Stars!

I decided to scroll through my Goodreads to give some examples of books like these. And I am finding SO MANY books that I absolutely adored and have been recommending to people that I gave 3 stars! 

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And then there are some books I gave 4 stars too that I wouldn’t necessarily recommend, and don’t really remember enjoying that much?

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Essentially what I’m saying is that I really cannot be trusted. And that even from what I read a year ago, I can tell that the way I rate books has drastically changed. In areas where I used to be more discerning, I’m really not anymore. I also have to come clean about the fact that I do sometimes let the reviews of fellow bloggers influence the way I’m going to rate a book. If I read a book and I’m really on the fence between 3 and 4 stars, and I see that bloggers whose reviews I trust gave it 5 stars, I may end up giving it a 4 just because of that. 

The only true tell of my thoughts on a book is if the rating I give is under 3 stars. If it’s under 3 stars you know that it has to be reallll bad, since I give a lot of unenjoyable reads 3-star ratings. But don’t take that to mean that I don’t like books that I rate 3 stars! I have some books that I really liked that I gave 3 stars!

I want to be clear and point out that when I do post a full review for a book, I usually take some more time to think about the book’s ratings. I weigh the pros and cons, what made it an enjoyable (or not enjoyable) book. But when it comes to Goodreads ratings, it’s more of a quick thing. I usually make an unconscious decision about 30% through a book about what type of rating it’s going to receive.

There are some books that start out a bit slower than others though, so it’s not a rule that’s set in stone. But it just so happens that I can pretty much decide if I’m enjoying a book or not when I’m at that 30% mark. However, I do always finish the book and consider the last 70% into my final rating. Just the other day a book that I thought was going to be 5 stars was downgraded to 4 stars because I didn’t quite like how it all tied up at the end.

I guess my point after all this rambling is that whenever you see a starred rating of mine, whether it’s in one of our wrap-ups or on Goodreads, take it with a grain of salt. If you really want to know what I thought of a book the best thing to do is to discuss it! I’m always open to ranting about all types of books (on Twitter and on Instagram), no matter what rating I gave them.

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Hi everyone! As you may have noticed Malka and I are alive! We’re really sorry for dropping off the grid (again), but it seems to be a yearly trend now, so why mess with tradition? Regardless, we’re (sorta) back now, and are going to do our best to stay active AND reply to neglected comments from 4 months ago!

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How do you go about rating your books? Are you always consistent?

39 thoughts on “Don’t Trust My Ratings

  1. My star ratings come from my gut. I do view 3 as good, 4 as great, and 5 as fantastic, but what ratings I give to a book are situational. I don’t judge the grammar of the writing quality, but rather, how it made me feel. My mental health, the weather, and other things going on in my life can really impact how I receive a book. I could also read it after something that rocked my world, and then it doesn’t seem as good to me at that time, though it could very well be. Like you, though, anything under 3 would be not great. Though, I don’t tend to finish books that earn less than 3 stars.

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    1. Same! I always find it interesting to go back and look at the ratings I gave a book because sometimes it’s very obvious that the rating is influenced by my mental health and other things going on in my life at the time of reading. I usually end up finishing books that are under 3 stars out of spite 😂 Also just so that I can confidently post a bad rating because the optimist in me is always like “Wait, it might get better!”

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  2. Rating books is hard for me! I have a horrible time trying to be consistent. I rate by the way I feel about the book at the time of finishing it but I do tweak the rating if I review it and I feel differently after doing so. I have a general “idea” of how I rate though
    1 star = why did i read this? Not worth the time
    2 star = ok nothing special but I didn’t hate it.
    3 star = good probably wouldn’t rec to anyone
    4 stars = great book liked alot but something is holding me back from giving the last star.
    5 star = Amazing! Hit me in the feels
    But I am a mood reader and I’m sure my mental state and experience can influence my rating its changed over the years for sure I’ve had a goodreads account for a long time so I know that my reading taste and ratings are a hot mess.

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    1. Consistency in ratings is SO HARD! Especially since there are so many different types of books out there, like my 5-star rating for an adorable romance is not the same as a 5-star rating for some thought-provoking classic.

      I am also a total mood reader, which is unfortunate in some cases because I’ll start a series that *everyone* says is amazing and just because I’m not vibing with it at the time I’ll end up blacklisting it forever 😅

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  3. OOF I FEEL THIS IN MY SOUL 😂😅 I try/tried to make my ratings make sense, like docking points for certain content, or making it a certain rating/adding a point if it made me feel a certain way (eg., at one point it was one docked star for language above d***, and it was an automatic 5 stars if it made me cry). And then I realized that was too much effort, and now my ratings for books are just..how it makes me feel within my soul 😂😂😂. #oops. But all that to say, I RELATE SO HARD and I’ve just accepted it as who I am now, haha!

    Hanne

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    1. Yesss! I used to try and weigh like writing style, and creativity of plot, etc then I came to terms with the fact that reviewing a book is not like a book report and that it has to come from within 😂

      It’s waaaay too much effort to come up with some complex algorithm to rate books, so now it’s just 100% based off of feeling 🤷‍♀️ Which I think works out pretty well, because usually if content I don’t like is in a book, I won’t feel good about it. Or if there’s good representation it’ll make me feel happy etc

      Point is our ratings might be a *little* skewed but they’re on point for us 😉

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  4. I can’t tell you how much past me relates to this post!! When I first started reviewing book, it’s like I lost the ability to rate them properly. I’d finish a book, and I genuinely would have ZERO clue what to rate it. There was one time wherein I rated a book 4.5 stars, then 4, then 3.5, and finally, 3. My rating system (and myself) were a whole ass MESS. I think this happened because I would feel guilty about rating a hyped book or a book with good rep 3 or 4 stars.Thankfully, I perfected my rating system in the latter half of 2019, and I’ve never been happier with the way I rate books than I am now! amazing discussion as always 💜

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    1. The same thing happens to me! I’ll often feel guilty about rating a book with good rep by an Ownvoices author less than 4 stars, but there are just so many times that different things factor into my general rating of the book. I’ll also sometimes lower a rating or increase it the more I just dwell on it. So now I like just going for the instinctive rating without second-guessing myself too much.

      I think I have to sit down and create a rating system that makes sense without factoring *too* much into it. I feel like if I start factoring in every small potential detail I’m going to have an even more confusing rating system than I have now 😂

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  5. This is so true! When I look back at my Goodreads shelf, I don’t even remember why I gave those 5-star reads such a high score, while those books that I keep on recommending only receive a 3.5/4 star rating. I guess I was usually influenced by the ending of the book. So if the ending’s satisfactory, I may still give it a high rating despite its previous plot being predictable or boring. And since I don’t really write reviews for most of the books I read, I often end up forgetting what rating I gave for them. Maybe I should stop giving star ratings for a bit before I come up with a better idea… Anyway, great discussion post!

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    1. It definitely has something to do with the ending! I think that after the fact I tend to think about the whole book more and realize that if I enjoy it enough to recommend it to others that means it must deserve a higher rating.

      When I was writing this post I was so confused looking back at the ratings I gave some books. Maybe I could start considering each rating as if it were part of a review? I’m not really sure what will make my ratings make more sense, but I should definitely factor in the recommendation factor. Thank you!! ❤❤

      Liked by 1 person

  6. So glad you guys are back! Also this is the truest post I have ever read 😂 Like I basically feel called out because YEP. Funny enough, I rated Obsidio a 3 and call it a disappointment so there you have it. And SAME with the Salt and whatever one, I rated it 4 too and am like… meh. The worst part is, I DO weigh all the crap out and still come up with… Idk, nonsense!

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    1. So happy to be back! 😁 Ughh, rating books is so hard!! I was discussing Salt and Sorrows with a friend just the other day and I was like oh I’m pretty sure I didn’t like it, and then I had to stop for a second and actually think about why I gave it 4 stars instead of 3 😂

      I think that the general consensus is that most of us have no clue why we give the ratings that we do. And I guess that’s fine since it’s worked for us so far 🤷‍♀️

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  7. I was reading this post just nodding along like, yep that’s me. My only difference is that whilst 13 year old you was trying to be super critical, 13 year old me was giving all of the 5 star ratings. I still do. The majority of my ratings are 4 stars and I give a lot of 5 stars for books which I should probably rate lower. I just have no middle ground when I like stuff I’m all in even when I like book on a book 6 months later and can’t remember a thing about it I still don’t regret my high ratings. I think that’s why I find reviewing a book so important because that’s where you really get my thoughts and folks probably read my reviews and think ‘girl, your rating don’t match your thoughts, sort yourself out’ but that’s ok.

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    1. For me, there seems to be absolutely no middle ground either! Rating wise I will still give a book that I didn’t like 3 stars though, so I feel like it might look like I have some sort of middle ground? Ratings are weird and so often when I do write out full reviews my star rating does not match my thoughts at all 😅😂

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  8. *laughs super nervously* I relate so much, and now I want to confess as well. My ratings are more uniform I think, but I do have those moments where I have no idea how to rate a book, or where I come back and am super shocked that Old Me gave a book 4 stars and New Me thinks it deserves only 3. It’s a struggle. I mean sometimes the book is just meh (like really meh) and somehow I still rate it a 4 😐 And okay, the hype and other reviewers ratings also kind of influence my own ratings sometimes as well 😅 I guess, no one’s perfect, and what really matters is your review? Because ratings absolutely can not accurately explain your thoughts and how you feel about a book. And those moments when you don’t know if it’s a 3 or 4, and you have to pick one, the review is what is most important.

    So yeah. It’s definitely not just you. Ratings are generally just not really trustworthy 🙂 ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Exactly! It kind of makes me want to make my new year’s resolution to write more full reviews, but I probably won’t keep to it so we’re not going to make it official. Reviews are also great because sometimes I’ll read through a whole review, convinced that the rating will be one thing and then be totally surprised when it ends up being something else 😅

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  9. Hahahaha! Thanks for warning us not to trust you! I definitely look back at my ratings sometimes and feel this way too. Like you wonder what in the heck you were thinking when you gave the rating. SInce ratings are so subjective and there are so many factors that go into them: How soon after I read the book did I rate it? Was there a twist I loved or hated? Was I distracted when I read it? I could go on and on. We can’t trust ourselves!!

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    1. It’s crazy how many times I’ll look back on a book and be surprised at the rating I gave it! I usually keep the rating the same, since I trust past me and all that, but I sometimes wonder if I should change it to reflect my current feelings? I have done it for a few books in the past, but going back and changing the bulk of my ratings would be way too much work 😂

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    1. Definitely. Nowadays, I think I’m more sensitive about certain issues that might come up in books, and I weigh it a lot more when I’m deciding on my overall rating. Though I still do give high ratings to books that might have some issues now, but those are the kinds of books that I feel are best accompanied by a review 😃

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  10. Omg, this post is so great and I RELATE SO HARD. I’ve been trying to rate books as highly as I do lately because my go-to rating is 4 stars and I feel some of my 4 stars are more 3 stars haha. But I also struggle between 4.5 and 4 so AHHH.

    I have a distinct 5-star feeling and I just KNOW I can’t give the book less than that rating.

    OMG WHY IS THIS SUCH A STRUGGLE

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  11. LOL I feel ya! I do define my ratings, but again it’s different from others. DNF books get a 1-star on GR but are marked DNF on my blog. 3 stars is the mid/meh/okay reads. 2 stars are those I hated but actually finished. 4 stars is for books I love and 5 books are reserved for ones that made me cry. Bonus points for ugly crying. 😂 but I’m a mood rater (and a mood reader) so it literally depends on my mood after I read the book which I base my initial ratings for. Sometimes after a reread, I upgrade or downgrade a rating 🤷🏻‍♀️

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    1. 😂😂 I love your rating scale!! Ugly crying books for the win! Yesss, I’m also a bit of a mood reader so it totally depends on what my mood is, or even what the weather is 😅 I also upgrade (or downgrade) ratings after a reread! I think that rereads give a fresh perspective, and I love seeing how my thoughts on the book may have changed.

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  12. I’m kind of unreliable in my ratings too, but in a different way. I pretty much just rate everything 4 stars, and there’s a really wide spectrum in there of books I thought were OK, and ones I loved, but I didn’t quite think were good enough for 5 stars.
    I just feel mean giving low scores, even if a book was totally forgettable!

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  13. Ah this is such an interesting discussion, I love it so much. I feel like my ratings can’t be trusted either, I mean… I know a book I read years ago could mean something different now and I might enjoy it way less. I know I’m definitely influenced in rating some books higher, because everyone in the community is praising them, I know I certainly did that ever since I started blogging, unconsciously or consciously, I’m not certain of that ahah.
    I know I tend to rate books a whole lot of the time 4 stars, and I wonder if that makes me… unreliable, in a way. Really, it’s just because I know what I love and tend to pick up a lot of books I really enjoy, but well… I wonder hahaha. Rating is SO complicated sometimes!

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    1. Thank you Marie!! Yeah, that makes sense! Whenever I read a book that’s in a genre that I know I like, I usually rate it 4 stars too. I do sometimes randomly take out books from the library without really checking what they’re about, and they tend to usually be 2-3 star reads because of that.

      Yesss, rating books is soo hard! Especially when it’s a book that I don’t feel super strongly about either way. Like if I loved a book, obviously 4-5 stars, and if I hated it, it’s the other end of the spectrum. It is nice to see that I’m not alone in the rating struggle 😅😁

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  14. Okay. Sounds unusual but hey, you do you! I’m personally VERY critical in my ratings, and over the years I’ve refined it and fine tuned it. But I’m getting so refined that I’m thinking I should go from a 5 star scale to a 10 star scale because I’ve read books that need like 4.75 stars or 4.25 stars and I can’t find a graphic for 1/4 or 3/4 stars!

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    1. Ooh, a ten star scale sounds interesting! The first review I posted while blogging I actually used a 10 star scale, and I feel like it’s so much easier to express ratings that way? I then saw that the majority of bloggers use a five star scale, so I just switched to that.

      And yes! Half or quarter ratings are SO annoying, especially with Goodreads! I always have to round up or down with something like a 3.5, and it kind of feels like I’m not being true to the rating.

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