Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Discussion Post: My Thoughts On How Rating Books is Hard and Opinions

I had been mulling over this topic for about a week now and in light of some recent drama this weekend I considered not posting it because it kind of relates. I may be overreacting a little but, it's a stretch to connect the two, but I think what happened has made us all a little worried about what we say and do, and that's not right. I usually try not to get involved with such situations within the community. But I don't at all agree with the behavior of the person in question and I did not want to let their abhorrent actions, their consequent bragging about it, and the fitting response from many people in this community stop me from expressing my opinion about something just because it kind of relates to the sticky situation. Plus I feel like it is even more important to be said. So here it is, my thoughts on some of the challenges of rating and reviewing books.

Book blogging, book reviewing, and rating books is hard! Knowing what to say is not easy, especially when it comes to books you may not have liked or had some problems with. Of course it's not easy to rate and review a book that you did love. I still can't write a review of The Hero of Ages by Brandon Sanderson because feels threaten to overtake me, even now, but it's much less complicated. When you can gush about a book and talk about it's fabulousness it's a much more enjoyable review to write and to read. There won't be hurt feelings and everyone reading it will be encouraged to pick it up because you just raved about it.

But what about those books that we didn't like? Lately I've been trying not to review books that I truly hated. Mostly because I've tried to stop reading (aka DNF) those books before I grow to forever resent them (I still hold a grudge against a certain witch book I read about a year and a half ago and when I saw a friend was starting it on Goodreads I seriously considered telling her to stop immediately). There are too many books out there in the world to not read something I enjoy. But what about those middle of the road books? You know, the ones that were just okay. The ones that were enjoyable but you had some issues with.

Because reviewing and rating books is so difficult I find that it's natural to compare them to other books. As a book reviewer and blogger I try to be open-minded and impartial but when it comes right down to it, that's really hard. Pitting books against each other is probably not a good idea but relating them to other books you have read recently is so common. It's kind of one of the downfalls of doing themed months here. I compare all the fantasies I'm reading and then it's not a fair fight. I was just saying on twitter yesterday that I probably disliked a book because I read it at the same time as The Grisha trilogy and A Song of Ice and Fire. And comparing these books doesn't give you the most honest feelings usually. Like in September I had a stellar reading month. I read some truly mind-blowing fantasy that I just loved. But so far this month I have been let down by some books that I really thought I would enjoy. So was I tougher on a book in September (like Winterspell) because everything was amazing and easier on a book in October (like Blackbird) because I hadn't read something I really enjoyed in awhile. I wish I could say no, but the answer is yes. I will judge and compare books against my most recent reads especially if they are similar.  So if I'm having a reading slump I may be tougher on a book than I mean to be and vice versa. So then how do you qualify and quantify your feelings on a book?

The most common way to express your thoughts on a book is to offer a rating of it. On Goodreads this is a star rating from 1-5. You may have noticed that I use a 10 star rating. For me I think this offers up much more flexibility. On Goodreads 5 stars means you loved a book. And I have loved books that I thought could use some improvements. Whether they had plot issues, the pacing was a bit inconsistent, or I didn't like the characters, my enjoyment of the book is often not greatly affected by these criticisms. Very few things are perfect. And as far as I'm concerned I often criticize the things I love and I don't like being hard on those who can't handle it. Seriously, I can be incredibly mean to some of my best friends. But it comes from a place of love. And by criticizing a book I am not saying it is bad, I am just expressing my opinion.

Plus these posts are nothing more than my opinion anyway. I mean it's right there in the name of my blog, My "Thoughts" not My "Facts," it's just one amateurs opinion on something. And with all opinions you should take it with a grain of salt. I would never begrudge a person their opinion, nor would I get mad at them for expressing it. But know this, we all have different experiences and tastes. I can think something very different about a book than you did and neither of us are right or wrong. I see it all the time, people loving a book that I hated and vice versa. All I really try to do is make my posts as honest as possible and express my feelings about the book to the best of my ability, so that anyone reading can make an educated decision about whether they want to pick up a book or not. Or if you have already read the book to have a dialogue. Aren't we all here to connect with one another? To share? If you read one of my reviews and it starts a conversation or you are convinced to read or not read a book then my work her is done. And while I would love this to be a dialogue between me and you, it's really just a way for me to express those feelings.

So here is one of my feelings. You are all fantastic! About a year I decided to blog more consistently and that is when I found this community and it has been truly amazing. I have met and spoken with some lovely, intelligent, and hilarious people. I can't say that I have regretted a single interaction I have had with a blogger and author. You have introduced me to some amazing books that have become some favorites, some authors that are now auto-buys, and have allowed me to talk about books with you. It still boggles my mind that people actually read my reviews. Even when I am feeling like so small a part of this community I realize that I am still a part of it. Thank you all for indulging me in this hobby to express my opinions on something that we all love... Books. Thanks for reading my reviews, commenting, and following! And of course HAPPY READING!

Oh but wait, I almost forgot. What do you think? Leave me a comment about your thoughts on rating and reviewing books. What are some of the challenges you have? And seriously... GROUP HUG!


  1. Great post! I find it very hard to write negative reviews so as not to offend anyone, but at the same time I also want to express my opinions, while trying to be as polite as I can be, because when I review books I keep it strictly about the book, and try to not compare it to any other books unless it's written by the same author. I don't like addressing the author directly or saying anything rude about their writing skills. Instead, I just write my honest opinions of the book and what I felt was wrong and could have been fixed as nicely as I can, so that it's more of a constructive criticism than an outright ranting of how bad the book was. I have read books before that I just so very strongly disliked that I didn't even bother to write a review for it, because I knew that I started I would go on a rant, and waste my time just stating every bad thing I found in the book, and because I don't like to hurt anyone's feelings, I just decided to not post a review at all. I still sometimes do that if I know for a fact that my review might be a little too harsh, and frankly I just don't like to waste my time discussing a book that I never want to read again. I don't have a problem expressing my opinions on books that I read which I don't really like, but like I said, I always try to be as polite as possible, because as much as I may dislike the book, I hate making people feel bad or offending them, even accidentally. But seriously though, I don't think one person's opinion on something should affect anyone that much, because it's just an opinion, and everyone has different opinions which they should be able to share without having to worry about someone coming after them for it. It is really saddening to hear something like this, and worse yet hear other people actually supporting such actions. But I am very glad to see that there are still so many others who are standing up against it, and showing their support. I totally agree with you- this book community is very amazing and despite some unwanted things, I still love being a part of this community and am proud to be in it!

    I loved reading your post! Oh, and before I leave, I just want to apologize for this huge rant- I know it's very long but I just had to get all my thoughts out. : )

  2. Such a thoughtful post, Cassi. I don't really think much about rating and reviewing books (more like avoiding that topic since everyone has different opinions and I'd be long death before everyone is on the same page). Some will say I rate too easily (a lot of 5 stars) and how I can give it the same rating as Jane Austen's books or Shakespeare's plays for that matter. For me, I rate books based on my feelings right after reading them because I might think/feel different about that same book some time later. And if I do change my rating whenever my feelings decide to change then I don't see the ending of it. Twilight saga for example, I gave it a higher rating because that series made me fall in love with the young adult. If I didn't read it back then and read it now, I think I'd DNF it or give it a lower rating.

    Also if it's for a literature class then it'll be a different story. I'll be harsh, break down the use of words, sentences, theme etc. Like you said, I also believe in the timing. I might love that book to death if I read it at different time/ phase of my life. High fantasy is my love but reading HF after HF will bore me to death. And that contemp book I read right after I've enough with HF might have a higher rating than that HF book even though it's no way one is better than the other.

    I love the book community but I really dislike all those dramas (ARCs, books rating, or those who say you're too old to read young adult).

    Wow I didn't think I'd write such a long comment since at the beginning I said I didn't think much about it. Yes, I better go now before I go into ranting.