Saturday, April 26, 2014

My Personal Book Rating System

I have been doing an awful lot of thinking lately about the way I do reviews, about the way I rate the books I read ... about The Gal in the first place.  When I first began The Gal, I came up with a definition for my rating system and posted it here on my blog.  But, for some reason (a reason I can't honestly tell you because I have no idea), I never actually posted my ratings on here.  Maybe I wanted people to read the reviews and make their own decisions.  *shrugs* I really don't know.

A couple of days ago, I had a conversation with a friend of mine.  After that, I knew I had to re-think my rating system.  This friend told me that he always takes a star away from any of my ratings and that if I give something a 3, he'll run for the hills.  Why?  Because I'm really nice.

I am.  Too nice.

I came back to my blog and looked at what my rating system was.  And I realized that I have not stuck to what I originally came up with.

Lately this is how I feel:  

There are some books I read that I wish I could give a 6 star rating to.  That tells me I hand out 5 star ratings too easily.  

3 stars to me are a neutral - it was okay, but somebody else may love it.  But I didn't, for whatever reason, so why am I rating a book on what others MIGHT think?

With some books, I like the story, but when I sit down to write the review, I can't think of anything to say about it.  I mean, a complete blank.  Shouldn't that be a lower rating then?  If it doesn't thrill me enough to be able to write about it, then it doesn't matter if I merely liked the story, it wasn't something that stuck with me, and should be receiving a 3 or lower.

I am not as hard on YA writers for their writing.  Shouldn't I be?  I mean, yeah, they ARE written for the younger generations, but they should still write it well.  My friend made a good point - we should be harder on these people because writers like that are showing the younger ones that bad writing is okay and it most certainly is not.

I feel like I have let others down - like I have let myself down - and I am disappointed in myself, especially now that I have had this conversation.  (Note: He was not rude in any way and I am very glad that he brought this to my attention.)  I have taken things that were just "satisfying" and believed they were "enjoyable," only to realize later that I was wrong.  "Satisfying" is nice at the time, but it is not lasting, it does not stay with me.  If I can't tell you what the book is about a couple of weeks after I read it, it definitely did not stay with me.

It is time to remember WHY I write these reviews - to tell people HONESTLY what I think of the book that I just read.  THAT is why people read my reviews.

If you read my reviews, please take a moment to check out my Rating System under my Review Policy.  And know that, from now on, my friend - he won't have to remove a star from every rating.  (Except cookbooks - you can ALWAYS trust those ratings haha.)


Debbie said...

Well, I know my own ratings really mean "as compared with others in same genre" no matter how I define the stars. I don't think you are wrong to treat YA differently.

How I determine a star rating for a nonfiction book I am reading to study for a test or research, a cookbook, a romance, a Young Adult, a hard science science fiction or a fantasy book all will have different reasons and impressions leading to a 3-star rating. For starters, nonfiction books hardly have me caring about the characters, non-romance novels don't make me care about the heat between a couple, etc.

Then again, if I read a YA without an egregious love triangle or wispy TSTL heroine that book automatically gets a star added …

Meghan H said...

Hi, Debbie. *waves* Thanks for stopping by and sharing your opinion with me. :)

I guess it depends on what the nonfiction book is about. I mean, if I'm reading a book about, say, a real life crime, a biography, etc, you do have a character to care about (or not care about). It is true that rating a nonfiction is different than rating a fiction. I love cookbooks - if it includes pictures and tips, recipes that make me want to immediately go out and make them, and notes on the recipes (especially if it's the history behind the recipe or something personal), they will get rated higher than a cookbook that does not include these. (Just like a collection of short stories will get a higher rating from me if they include an introduction or notes on the individual stories that explain a little more, like why the author chose to write the stories, etc.)

Some YA is just badly written. I have a lot of YAs that I absolutely love - the are fun and engaging, great characters, keep your attention - but some of these are poorly written and I shouldn't say " is a YA" because even if it is for a middle school child, for example, it still should be written well.

So, you don't like love triangles either? hahaha I hate those and I also hate books that are written about high school children and yet have sex in them. I just don't think it's the right kind of message to put across. (But that could just be me.)

Andrew Leon said...

Sometimes the rating is more difficult than the review and often takes looking at what the "stars" on the site itself mean. I like that Amazon's system tells you what the star means as you click on it. And, actually, Amazon has a generous system where I feel it is okay to give 4-stars relatively freely. I mean, if your response was "yeah, I liked it" then a four is a good rating. Also, Amazon is friendly to 2, although almost no one uses 2s (since we tend to be very love it or hate it).

Meghan H said...

This is all true. And it's even more difficult when different sites have different meanings for their ratings. I, personally, pay more attention to the actual reviews than the star ratings, but some people look at those stars and nothing more.

Thank you, Andrew, for sharing your insight once again on The Gal :)

Laura said...

Meghan - I've been struggling if I should assign stars to my reviews. I have a hard time like you if I like a story, but I can't remember it, was it really that good? And if I didn't like a certain part of the novel does that mean it was good? I think you can almost break your opinion down into two ratings, your opinion and then your opinion/recommendation for the audience the novel was intended.

Meghan H said...

I've actually been thinking about breaking it down into different star categories for the reviews on my blog, star categories like: quality of writing, pace, plot development, characters, enjoyability, ease of reading, etc. I mean, they are MY reviews on MY blog and the reason I write reviews is to tell people what I think of books so hopefully they'll find a book they hadn't heard of (or weren't sure about) and that my review helps them decide to read it or not read it. I want my review to begin conversations about books and make people think. Sound like a good idea? Or am I just thinking I can change the world again? :p

Andrew Leon said...

I've seen a lot of people who review that way: multiple categories with a rating assigned to each category. The problem with that is that, in the end, all anyone wants to know is whether you liked it (and how much). I only sometimes rate (grade) books in the reviews on my blog. The ratings are reserved for goodreads and Amazon.

Meghan H said...

That's not necessarily true. I write reviews the way I want to read reviews and I want to know if they liked it and why, but if they don't like it, I still want to know why. How much is a good thing to know - that's why I have considered using the star rating over here as well - but when I read a review, I want to know what they liked about it, what they disliked about it, what it meant to them ... because I may end up liking a book they disliked and those things can tell me if I should give it a try or not, and vice versa.

Andrew Leon said...

Um, yes, why or why not did you like something is good, but that is only after you have liked it or not.

What I'm saying is, when you have 10 categories of things you're looking at in a book and ratings for each of those things, people tend to just gloss over all of those things and just want to know "did you like it?" They don't care if you gave it a
7 in characterization
and a
8 in world building
and a
3 in readability.
They just want to know: Did you like it?

Meghan H said...

You may be right. I follow a couple of book blogs that do it that way and I read through everything, but I guess not everyone is like me. Thanks for your feedback, Andrew.