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A Short Rant About One Of My Own Ratings


It was my decision to assign ratings to my reviews, and this is something I’ve been doing since I first started this blog. I know many people don’t use them but for me it works to link my reviews with a number. Before I write the text of my review, I’ve already given the book a number, and in many ways this helps me when it comes to the tone the review should take. I have a basic idea of what amounts to the different numbers; it’s nothing concrete but it’s a foundation of sorts and I’ve been using the ‘out of 5’ rating since I started creating websites – over a dozen years now.

In general I like it. I can say why I gave a book the rating I did in the context of all the other reviews. But one rating often stumps me.


For me, 3.5/5 is a book that is just slightly above average. Perhaps it’s average but the heroine is well-written, or the author improves the story by the end, or there’s a sub-theme that is amazing – these sorts of books will earn the 3.5. By comparison, 3 out of 5 is a very average book. Not surprisingly, when I’m reading an average book the rating I’ll give it swings back and forth between those two.

3/5 reviews are difficult to write, but nothing is harder than 3.5. It tends to be those reviews I procrastinate on the most because there tends to be little to say in any extreme. I can’t say how bad the book is; I can’t say how good it is. Every now and then I’ll manage a long, thorough review, but those days are few and far between. (You might wonder, if I’m using .5, why I don’t just go ahead and mark out of 10. It’s difficult to explain but I find 10 far more difficult to use as it’s an even number. There is no strict middle to work with. Yes, even though in reality 2.5 is the middle.)

I suppose you could sum this post up by saying I find it hard writing reviews of average books, but it is specifically that 3.5 rating.

If you rate books by number, is there one that you find more difficult than others? If you don’t rate, which ‘type’ of reviews do you find hardest to write?


Tanya Patrice

March 28, 2014, 3:48 am

I don’t rate books on my blog, but I do give them a rating on Goodreads. I think 5 is the hardest for me – because I can love a book with flaws, which I guess shouldn’t be assigned a “5”.

Margaret @ BooksPlease

March 28, 2014, 7:31 am

I used to rate books on my blog, but don’t at the moment, although I do on Goodreads – where you can’t give a rating of .5. I like the .5 and give many of my books a 3.5 – to me that is a good score. I often dither between a 4.5 and and 5, because like Tanya I can love a book even though it may have faults – it’s the overall feeling that counts for me.

It is the average book that is the hardest to review, the OK book that there is not much to write about.

Margaret @ BooksPlease

March 28, 2014, 7:32 am

I should have added – that is the ‘3s’ are the hardest to review.


March 28, 2014, 8:22 am

Interesting post, Charlie! I don’t rate books on my blog, but do so on Goodreads. Normally I write long reviews on books that I like (ratings 4 or 5) and short reviews for books which are average or which I don’t like. But there is no hard-and-fast rule here. Sometimes my favourite books also get short reviews.


March 28, 2014, 8:54 am

I use star ratings but with a slightly different logic – 5* is a book I’d buy, 4* a must-read but not necessarily a re-read so a ‘borrow from the library book’, 3* good, read it if you’ve got time, 2* generally over-hyped books that don’t live up to expectation, 1* don’t waste your time! Hardest decision is the gap between 3 and 4, especially as I don’t expect everyone’s idea of a must-read to coincide with mine.


March 28, 2014, 10:36 am

I do rate books on my blog and Goodreads at the moment but I have swapped between rating and not rating many times over the years. I totally agree that 3 and 3.5 are generally quite difficult to write reviews for. Ratings are so subjective. Most of the time it is just a total gut feeling of what to rate a book, especially when you are looking at the difference between a 4, a 4.5 and a 5 rating.

Jackie (Farm Lane Books)

March 28, 2014, 11:53 am

For me it really depends why I’ve given it that middle rating. Some books are enjoyable reads, but with nothing that particularly stands out. I think these are the ones you are struggling with and I agree – I find them hard too. I’ve started doing mini reviews of these kinds of books as I find I can do a smaller summary quite easily.

I have other books that also fall into that middle area. Ones that have amazing writing, but major plot flaws. Or fantastic plot and poor writing. These are the easiest for me to review – I normally have so much to say about them and can produce a review really quickly.


March 28, 2014, 12:36 pm

I don’t use ratings, but I completely agree that it’s the average books that pose the greatest challenge re: reviews. Something about explaining ambivalence… always weird and confusing.

Katie @ Doing Dewey

March 28, 2014, 1:14 pm

I used to find books I loved the most the hardest to review and I still do sometimes. I always want to make sure I’m doing them justice and I’m not a really gushy person, so I struggle to make sure my love for these books comes across. I’ve gotten better at identifying the technical aspects of writing that can really make a book wow me (I think) so it’s definitely gotten easier, but this is still a type of review I can struggle with. I agree that average books can be difficult to review too! Those often end up being short reviews for me.


March 28, 2014, 2:35 pm

I don’t grade, but when I do, I write the review first. Writing out what I felt and thought helps me decide if the book really is average or above average and such.

Christine @Buckling Bookshelves

March 28, 2014, 2:57 pm

It really is hardest to write about the middle of the road stuff! I try not to use .5’s and stick to straight 1-5 stars, but will on occasion throw in a .5 when I am really and truly torn between two ratings. I find it easier if I make sure to make .5 reviews the exception rather than the rule.


March 29, 2014, 12:17 am

I don’t do ratings on my blog, but like many others I use the ratings on Goodreads. I decided to rate the book by how much I enjoyed it rather than by its quality and that makes it easier for me to assign a number.
I find that it is harder to write about books I’ve loved because I have so much to say and don’t want to gush. It’s hard to know when to stop.

Laurie C

March 29, 2014, 6:03 pm

I use 1-5 ratings on LibraryThing, but hardly ever rate anything lower than 3. Like Katie @ Doing Dewey and Anbolyn, I find it hard to review the ones I really love. I often end up not reviewing them at all (if I’m not committed to write one), or waiting until some of the desire to gush has died down. I find a bad review the hardest to write because the author put time and effort into writing a book, which is usually an accomplishment in itself. On the other hand, I don’t want to recommend it if it’s not good. Usually I try to figure out what type of reader might like the book even if I didn’t, and that can be tricky because you don’t want to sound snobby!


March 29, 2014, 9:26 pm

I prefer it when people use the /5 rather than /10. I’m not sure why, probably for a similar reason to you – it just feels right.

It’s so frustrating writing about an average book, or a slightly better than average book. There just isn’t that surge of feeling one way or another that can drive a review.


March 30, 2014, 5:21 pm

I think in my case the most difficult reviews are both 1/5 and 5/5. The 1/5 because I would only write “don’t read this shit of a book”, and that’s that, but well, I’m suppose to review in another way, you know. And in the 5/5 all I want to write is “what are you doing with your life that you still haven’t read this book?” and that’s that… again :))

Literary Feline

March 31, 2014, 7:24 pm

My rating system is more for me than for others. I went back and forth for awhile on whether to share my rating system on my blog. Ratings get so confusing to others–not everyone’s threes mean the same thing (like in yours and my cases). And I would hate for someone to assume I thought a book was average just because I rated it a three (which is good by my system).

My husband says I undermine my rating system by using halves (in part because I don’t clearly define them). He’s probably right–but so often I feel that books fall in between. A book is better than just good, but not quite great . . .

The books I find hardest to review are the threes and three and a halves because I don’t often have a lot to say about them. I liked the books, but I didn’t love them. What more is there to say?



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