Recently, I had one of my best friends call me out for my recent string of five star reviews. Basically, she teased me for posting nothing but five star reviews. Let’s be honest, I give out stars like candy. I know I do it but I can’t help it.
Rating books is an extremely complex process. Everyone does it differently. In fact, I used to be very harsh in my ratings. Looking back at some of my GoodReads ratings, I noticed I gave a book in one of my favorite series a two star rating. What?! I couldn’t believe it. I love those books. I love those characters. Why did I give it such a poor rating? I can’t quite explain my thinking at the time, but maybe my standards were different then, which led me to ask: when did my standards change?
As someone with a Journalism degree, writing unbiased, balanced reviews with integrity and credibility is important to me. Maybe more so than other bloggers out there. When I first started this blog, I didn’t want to use star ratings because I felt it took away from what I was trying to say. Like people would just glance at the number of stars and then assume what I thought and move on before finishing my review. Over time, I added the star rating to my reviews because GoodReads forced me to have an opinion anyway and let’s face it, everyone’s doing it.
Now, I’m a bit of a hypocrite because when I read reviews, one of the first things I look for is a star rating. If the book has less than three stars, I won’t read the review unless it’s a book I’ve read and loved and I want to hear the reasoning for the rating. With such a large and ever-growing to-be-read pile, I’ve become even more strict; only adding five-star reviewed books to my to-read list because who has time to read bad books?
In my self-reflection process to find out why I give such high ratings, I went through a variety of emotions. Maybe the books were just that good? Maybe I never post reviews of bad books because I don’t have the time to waste on them? Maybe I’m on such a book high when I write a review that I automatically give it five stars? My mind was reeling with possibilities when it hit me.
The moment I changed my standards began the moment I met an author in the flesh.
If you follow my blog, you know I attended a writer/book conference last year (UtopYA) and I had the BEST time. I got to meet so many authors and attend sessions that described in detail the process of writing a book, publishing a book and the pressure to keep writing and publishing. I was blown away. I never realized how complex it was. I knew it wasn’t easy but I never thought it would be that hard.
You see, authors pour their heart and soul into their books. They give each reader a gift by allowing us into their special world and readers often crash through like a bull in a china shop all over their personal masterpiece. As a reader, I know the high of an amazingly crafted book and the low of a disjointed, confusing ball of words. However, someone took time out of their life to write those words, edit those words, send off those words, re-edit those words until it magically appears on the bookshelf.
I guess what I’m saying is, to me, authors are people, not imaginary scribes that I can bash on the internet. Now, if a book is truly atrocious, I will say so with honesty but also with kindness. My words are way more impactful than a rating. Just like I won’t read a book without a five star rating, I’m sure there are others out there that feel the same. If I’ve spent hours of my busy life (which I should have spent doing work, homework, dishes etc.) and I enjoyed it, why not give it a high rating? I’ve heard authors complain about reviewers who state how much they love a book and then give it a measly three stars. I found myself asking the same question. Sure it’s not the best book of all time, but it was a great way to spend my time. When you add the difference between genres, it’s almost impossible to balance your ratings if you look at it as whether a book is the best or not. It’s all about personal preferences anyway.
I prefer to give high ratings for books that I truly enjoy, where the rating is based on if it was worth my time, not if it’s the best book in the world. Sure it may be a little bias, but for the most part I know what I’m getting myself into when I read books (I always read other reviews.) and usually I’m reading my favorite authors. Overall, I want to support the authors that share their stories and, to me, five stars means read it. Anything less than that means don’t bother.