Reader/Writer Confessions: Being a Harsh Reviewer

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Judging from some of the reviews I’ve read in my time, I’m willing to bet I’m not the only one like this.

I like — no, love — a lot of books, however I’m not the sort of reader who’s going to hand out four or five stars to a book just because I can. I reserve my four and five stars for books I honestly think  deserve it. (Though really, every book deserves five stars for effort, if you ask me.) But here’s why I’m a harsh reviewer:

Books are extremely subjective.

Just because I didn’t like it, or it wasn’t my cup of tea, does it mean that it’s bad. All it means was that it wasn’t for me. Of course, I might have thought that there were technique issues with it — but at the end of the day, there are going to be people out there who are going to love it. After all — this book was published. There must have been someone out there who had faith in it! Whether that’s the writer themself, an editor, and agent, or a publisher — people are going to have different opinions on things. That’s life.

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I consider every review I write carefully before I post them. My review posts are one of the few posts I will actually re-read multiple times before it’s scheduled to post, just in case I’ve missed something I wanted to mention. Honesty — in reviews especially — is an important. I don’t let other people’s opinion — whether that be real people I know, what the media says, or things I’ve read on the blogs I stalk follow — sway my opinion. I may be influenced to read a book because of them, but that is all.

Sometimes I used to rate books higher because of friends, or even the popularity of the book would make me change my rating, to perhaps one star more, because I thought I should have liked the novel more. Stupid, yes?

Sometimes I just gotta vent.

I’m not particularly ranty in my reviews; I tend to find those rather off putting. In fact, my book reviews lean on the shorter side of the scale, which is fine, I believe — but when there’s a book that’s made me feel a particular emotion, I like to write about it. (Whether that’s a good emotion or bad emotion depends completely on the book.) I mean, I’m a writer after all, right?? I’m never mean or cruel in my reviews, nor do I attack or insult the author personally, but there are just some books which don’t sit right with me. Whether it’s the writings style, the characters, the plot — all of that varies. So that’s another reason why I can be a harsh reviewer: it gets my feelings out.

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At the moment, my Goodreads average rating is 3.09.

That’s actually not too bad when you think about it. That pretty much means that I’ll enjoy most of the books I read.

For a comparison, I thought it would be an interesting idea to compare the amount of books I’ve given one stars with five stars. (These are books I’ve read this year only.)

Five Stars:

A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin

A Dance with Dragons by George R.R. Martin

The Assassin’s Blade by Sarah J. Maas

So, um, you might notice two things here. One: I’m a massive George R.R. Martin fan. Two: I love high fantasy. My like/dislike of a genre is most likely going to influence my decision on the rating — unless it’s really spectacular.

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One Star:

Skylark by Meagan Spooner (Also, on my point about book subjectivity, These Broken Stars, co-authored by Meagan Spooner earned four stars in comparison. Goes to show, hey?)

The Lost Boys by Lilian Carmine

Enmity by E.J. Andrews

John Dreamer by Elise Celine

Drawn by Cecilia Gray

The Curious Incident of the Dog In the Night-time by Mark Haddon (Don’t judge, okay?? I know everyone loves this book. Just not my thing. Also the fact that I had to study it for my HSC did nothing to up the rating… You try writing essay after essay on this…)

Accession by Terah Edun

As you can clearly see, I’ve rated many more books one star than I have five stars. And yeah, I kind of do feel horrible knowing all the amazing effort, marketing, and money spent of creating these projects — but most of these books just were not for me. Also, I noticed as I was going thought the books I’ve read this year, most of them rage around the 2 — 3 star rating. Interesting.

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How do you feel about rating books — and more specifically, about low star ratings? Which do you have more of this year: five stars or one stars? I’d love to know!


17 thoughts on “Reader/Writer Confessions: Being a Harsh Reviewer

  1. I’ve read some very good books recently, the best being Trial By Fire by Josephine Angelini (I recently reviewed this book) and I would recommend that because it’s amazing! Another good book I read was Let’s Get Lost by Adi Alsaid.

  2. I totally agree with you! Honestly for me though, my ratings depend on the genre of the book as well. I guess that’s for everyone though since everyone has preferences and genres that they expect more out of. Most of my ratings are 2/3 stars, and I’m pretty sure the one book that I’ve given 5 stars this year so far has been Cress by Marissa Meyer. Every other book I’ve managed to find something that didn’t settle well with me.

    Great post! Very thought provoking.

    Tori @ Bookish Affairs

    • I think the genre has a very big part of the rating for a lot of readers! Especially for me, if the novel is in a genre I don’t like that much (eg, contemporary) then the novel has to reach and exceed all my expectations to get a good star rating.

  3. I have noticed on Goodreads, actually, that you commonly rate books lower than my other Goodreads friends :P and there’s nothing wrong with that. Mel from YA Midnight Reads is also a pretty harsh reviewer, I think, but it definitely depends on the person. My average is like three point eight something, which is REALLY high, but that includes all the childhood books I’ve rated 5 stars haha. I’m not the biggest fan of high fantasy – and given those kinds of series are the ones every seems to LOVE, I usually get disappointed. But luckily I loved Crown of Midnight :D

  4. My average rating is about 3.6…which isn’t bad! I do read a lot of books I love though, mostly because I know writing is DANG HARD WORK. Heh. So I’m never ever going to say “that book is so rubbish and shouldn’t have been published”. It makes me sick when people say that. :| People are different! Books are different! Not one is going to appeal to every. single. person, right?!! I consider myself not an extremely harsh reviewer…buuuut…I can get a little snarky. I try to be humourous about it but honestly? It’s really hard not to rant sometimes.

  5. I love how we all review books differently! I honestly don’t think I have any 1 star books at all. Unless you count my DNFs. I don’t have many 5 stars but I have a lot of 4.5 stars which I tend to round up for Goodreads. :3

  6. I’ve actually gotten lucky this year to be able to read so many 4-5 star reads, which means my goodreads rating is actually quite generous. I don’t tend to rate a lot of books 1 star, unless they offended me in some way or really, really deserved it. Great post though Kara!

  7. Hmm, interesting post! Whilst I have only rated 5 books this year with a 5 star rating, I have only rated 2 either 1/2 stars, and the rest of the books fall into the 3/4 star books. So whilst it takes that something more to get 5 stars from me, I think I am not quite harsh enough to label a book 1/2 stars if I only mildly like it, or I am just quite good at judging the books I will like. Great post.

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