The Art of the Rate

Maybe it’s no art.

I think some arrogance may be attached to book blogging and reviewing. We read a novel and review it, give it some numerical rating that means: I loved it or I hated it or somewhere in between.

Today I discovered a highly regarded reviewer on Goodreads whose highest rating that I saw after just looking at three pages of her reviews was a three. Most were twos or ones, on novels I rated 3s and 4s.

Which makes me sad.

Before I started blogging and writing intensely, I was probably scroogier with my ratings. Now, I understand.

Just to write a novel earns you a one. I don’t care if you misspelled every other word and changed John to Victor midway through. You get a one for having written the thing. Do you know how many people say: oh, that’s easy, but never do it, or they try, realize just how hard it it, but never tell us that they failed and that maybe writing a novel isn’t as easy as it seems?

Yep. You get a one just for having done it.

For a two, there has to be some heart. Maybe you don’t know that logically bears hibernate in winter and can’t attack your TSTL heroine. But you write well and you got me to finish your novel. You get a two.

Three? Everything is working, but there’s something missing, that certain je ne sais quoi, that means I will always remember this work. It’s average, but extremely readable.

Four? You’ve got me in your clutches ,and I am liking what I’m reading

Five. Yes! Tiny feet dancing, hallelujah chorus, what have you.

Ratings are subjective. I get that. But I think we also need to acknowledge the work it takes to complete a novel.

Or maybe I’m wrong. Am I?

Do I feel compassion for the writer who has slaved away for hours they can never get back and factor that in, when it may be undeserved? It’s possible I do that.

How do you rate a well-written novel when you just hate one aspect of it? You think maybe the heroine should be gutsier? The setting less…wet? The prose less flowery?

Should we rate novels at all? Should we pay attention to highly regarded reviewers on Goodreads when maybe they rate on quantity over quality?

When it comes down to it, how do you evaluate books and the people/reviewers who rate them.

I wanna know.

Addendum: I look at reviews on Goodreads much as I look at reviews on Amazon. If I think I might want to take on an ARC, I will look at the lowest review on Goodreads and then evaluate the reviewer, which is how I discovered today’s subject. Some reviewers are curmudgeonly regardless of their age, and this needs to be factored in. Likewise, some reviewers love everything…or say they do. However, I don’t let this review process prejudice my reading.

7 thoughts on “The Art of the Rate

  1. I may read reviews, but I don’t take them as gospel because everyone’s different, and even if someone else hated something about it, that may be the thing I enjoy, so I’ll read it. However, I do always (now that there are e-intro’s for most books) read the first few pages. That’s often enough to tell me if I will last all the way to the end. If I get to the end of the preview without realising … that’s a good story.
    When I’ve rated books, if it doesn’t intrigue me, if it’s not interesting in some way, if the writer is telling me everything and leaving nothing to my imagination, I can’t give it a good review, or a high number.
    A four (and five) needs to keep me tuned to the needs of the character/s – I want to feel part of the story, involved in a deeply satisfying way, and in that world. That will get the story a high number (and a recommendation on BookBub). I can forgive a lot of things, but a lack of connection to the characters in the story will lose me very fast (very few writers can do the external narrator well; Sir Terry Pratchett was one, Agatha Christie another – both maintained a separation from the deep connection, and yet …).
    In the end, it’s subjective, like a conversation, and I’m not going to believe everything everyone tells me …

    1. Very thoughtful! I agree with what you’ve said. Yes, at the end of the day, we are basing our like or dislike on personal reasons that someone else may or may not share.
      Geez, I have never read Terry Pratchett. I so have to rectify that.
      Thank you for your comment! 🙂

  2. It’s early in the morning to be thinking about this. I generally don’t rate/review books unless they are so good, I just have to rave about them. I keep negative comments to myself. (As Mom said, if you can’t say something nice…) In the old days, I would go into a book store, look at covers, read a few pages, and buy it or not, which worked out fine most of the time. Now, I might read a few of the reviews, but I disregard the truly negative because I know these are the readers who have never written a book, let alone had one published or even tried to get one published. Anyone who has achieved this monumental feat deserves 3 stars. And even the most prolific writers can’t hit a home run every time. That said, I know many readers do look at reviews, especially if the author is unfamiliar to them–they rely on bloggers and reviewers to push them toward the purchase. In that regard I am extremely grateful to reviewers such as you, Sascha, who spend time reading books and then write thoughtful and in-depth reviews (that alone is an art). It’s a tough job, but someone has to do it.

  3. i never want to rate a book harshly and poorly, like you i believe the writing is the important part. as you said easier to say you can do it than actually do it. i would rate a book on how the story touches me, language of course is important, i must be able to understand the story, if i need to keep referring to a dictionary or its too much jargon i can get put off. but we should honour the writer’s effort, a 2 or 3 rating is very snobbish to me. I would not judge a book by the rating it gets, word of mouth recommendations hold more sway. i enjoy your reviews very much because you are honest about how it affects you.

    1. I once read a blogger suggest that ratings themselves are wrong, and I may probably agree, but on Goodreads and Netgalley, we’re not given much choice. They want a rating.
      I think our words should do. I write my opinion about a book and perhaps you share my viewpoint and will enjoy or dislike the book. What does the rating mean?
      I have seen people give all 2 and other people all 5 star reviews. Meh.
      Thanks, Gina. I think you and I agree on a lot and I probably just preached to the choir as we say.

      1. yes we do agree on quite a few of these important things, maybe it is our perspective as a reading writer? I am very interested to hear your views even though they may be similar to mine, it reinforces and validates. the rating does not mean much the author, I do think most writers appreciate feedback on their work and people like me who read reviews want thoughts from other readers to know how a book has affected them, may not sway my choice but it’s interesting to see how others view the same book.

  4. An interesting read, Sascha. I’m giving it abs(sqrt(pi)/e^(zeta(1+j))). I find it difficult to interpret ratings because I don’t know if the reviewers have tastes anything like my own. For example, for me, Chapman & Cowling, The Mathematical Theory of Non-uniform Gases, sets the standard: a real heartbreaker, a page turner, an emotional rollercoaster, and I still have the copy I stole from the library even though silverfish have eaten some sections.

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