Star ratings, books and polls!

Those star ratings again!

I have searched for ages to find out how both Amazon and Goodreads define their star ratings but nowhere is it on their websites. NB Am and GR, please sort. Pronto.

A quick search on ’tInties tells me to hover over the stars. Well either Halpad just doesn’t want to play or the techies haven’t taken Halpads and Halphones into account because I still can’t make that work.

No matter, as there are helpful peeps out there who helpfully explain the difference for ignoramuses like me who have gaily been allocating stars according to my own rating.

Here is how the two big book sites define their star rating, according to other sites, seeing as I can’t find it myself on Am and GR.

    5 Stars: Amazon: ‘I love it’
    4 Stars: Amazon: ‘I like it’
    3 Stars: Amazon: ‘It’s okay’
    2 Stars: Amazon: ‘I don’t like it’
    1 Star: Amazon: ‘I hate it’

    5 Stars: Goodreads: ‘it was amazing’
    4 Stars: Goodreads: ‘really like it”
    3 Stars: Goodreads: ‘liked it’
    2 Stars: Goodreads: ‘it was ok’
    1 Star: Goodreads: ‘did not like it’

How crazy is that? Especially given that Amazon bought GR back in 2013.

Perhaps the biggest difference is between the three middle ratings of like/really like, okay/like and don’t like/okay. And who goes round saying they hated a book? It might be rubbish, badly written, total tosh, whatever, but ‘hated it’?

This is why stars are silly and subjective.

But here is how roughseas applies the stars for indie books. I’m not the only one who ignores the Am/GR contradictions as I’ve seen other people set out their criteria.

Note, I don’t need to like a book to give it four or five stars if it’s well written, and that’s what I’m looking for.

Five stars
This is a (very) good book. This can be for a number of reasons: good use of prose, pacing, tension (where appropriate), evocative descriptions, credible characters and dialogue, character development. Bonus points for imagination and originality. It should be well edited in terms of both prose and proofreading.

Four stars
Two main categories:
1) As above, but it may need a tightening up on the editing. Otherwise it would be five stars.
2) A good story, well edited, but lacking that extra something to make it five.

Three stars
Average. Not outstanding but not appalling. Nothing to get excited about, apart from the number of errors.

Two stars
Poor. In any or all of the following: plot, prose, sentence structure, spelling, punctuation and grammatical errors.

Probably also includes terrible dialogue tags plus adverbs (he chuckled cheerfully – how else would he chuckle? gloomily?), repetition, starting consecutive sentences with secondary clauses that include participles (Running away from the dragon in terror, Miles collided with a tree and fell down … Bearing down upon him, the dragon snarled and breathed ferocious hot plumes of fire … etc), and, cliches, in fact using cliches like hot cakes.

One star
I don’t think I’ve given an indie one star.

So I seem to combine the two sets of ratings. Five and four sound like GR, whereas three and two are more Amazon. I try to be fair to indie authors, and often send an email whether it’s a four star or a potential two. If the potential two replies nicely, I don’t post the review. If they are bad-tempered and defensive …

Probably my biggest problem with the GR ratings is saying an okay book is only two stars. That seems harsh to me given that on a scale of from one to five, three is in the middle. Not good enough to get four or five, not poor enough to drop to one or two.

So most books I review get four or three stars, which I think is acceptable.

Anyways. Here’s a book due out tomorrow (25 Oct 2016):

Caboodle cover
Caboodle cover

Caboodle & The Whole Kit by Kevin Cooper

Blurb: Caboodle is filled with relaxing episodes of life, family, love & romance, faith, and even the odd, inadvertent run-ins with some quite unsavoury characters.

The wonderful collection of short stories, poetry, and songs has been grouped together to bring a variety of tales, some of which are based upon true events, people can easily relate to.

The whole kit is designed to ignite a mixture of emotions to bring smile, laughter, and moisture to the eyes.

There is something for everyone in Caboodle & The Whole Kit!


This is indeed a diverse collection of writings with my favourites being the interviews with fictional characters, and some of the poetry, especially the haikus. An entertaining and easy read.

Blog polls

Another author, Paul Handover, is joining in NaNoWriMo next month. He was planning to write a sequel to his book Learning from Dogs but hasn’t had time to do the research so friends suggested he write a memoir instead.

Learning from Dogs cover
Learning from Dogs cover

Reading his post reminded me that some time ago I carried out a poll to see what books people preferred, and memoirs was one of the top categories. As I have new readers and some have dropped off the end I thought I would run another one. The wording is changed from last time, so there are different options. It’s still a multi-choice poll so you can tick as many as you want, and add to the ‘other’ option. And, I lied. There are two polls. I’ll also add the results from the one nearly two years ago when I summarise these.

Many thanks for completing as it does inform what books I review on here.

93 comments on “Star ratings, books and polls!

  1. I haven’t been reading anything new recently as we have been unpacking the boxes of books and shelving them….with the inevitable result that my bedside table has a high pile of books awaiting a re read.
    I find rating book difficult…well written and interesting to me would get a five, but below that I flounder about while books I can’t stand are put down rapidly so wouldn’t have a review in any case.


    • The lack of a standard is the problem. ‘I like this’ is pretty useless. In the scheme of things.
      Because we get a lot of books given to us, I look at some and chuck them in the recycler. Better use of paper and time.
      What puzzles me is mediocre books landing contracts with big publishing companies when they are the tritest drivel available. I (generously) gave one a three star review on GR which someone immediately liked! I assume going by the GR criteria I should have given it a 2 or a 1. It was sort of Woman’s Own meets Mills and Boon with a bit of DV added.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I was looking in Waterstones when in England and found very little that I wanted to read…so much trite formulaic fiction and non fiction tomes obviously commissioned for various historic annniversaries: I’ve caught up with one of those living the dream in France blogs where books with a French link are reviewed – and was hooked – in horror – at the tripe that gets published! And reviewed!

        Liked by 1 person

          • Paris, Provence and items of bakery featured large….handsome Frenchmen too – so I know that’s a lie – with much mention of champagne and foie gras…

            The reviews were uniformly grippingly unctuous. Goodness, what sort of mentality WANTS a copy of such trash?

            i suppose if we put our joint minds to it we could write a pastiche of such stuff – no one would recognise it as such unless we forgot to edit out all the words with more than two syllables…

            How Green was my Macaron…
            Croissants at Dawn
            The Old(er) Rich Man and the Tart…

            Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, but who’s going to plough through endless reviews saying ‘I loved this’ or retelling the story, to find a decent review? I just look at the critical ones, much more informative. That’s also why I like reviewing on the blog, we can take a different approach.

      I think ‘Great book, I loved it’ reviews should be banned! Useless. WHY was it great? Because you are family/friend? Or ‘Terrible. Couldn’t even finish it.’ So, again, why was it terrible?

      Liked by 2 people

      • I’m grateful for the random two-word “great read” reviews, since lots of readers don’t take the time to review at all. However, you’re right that the critical reviews, taken with a grain of salt too, are much more telling. The “whys” in both cases make the best reviews without a doubt.

        Liked by 1 person

        • ‘Great read’ feeds the ego. Don’t we all like that? Blog post or novel. But I would honestly prefer ‘great read … because’

          I do wonder what the people who recount the story in hundreds of words have to do with their time though. Read one today. Loads of summarising the story and a tiny little par of review. That’s the bit I wanted to read!

          Liked by 1 person

  2. Interesting to see the difference between the two sites, and to find out exactly what the ratings mean. I’m always hugely grateful to anyone who leaves a written review, because they’ve taken the time to think about the book and offer some (hopefully) constructive criticism, or (even more hopefully) praise. I tend not to leave reviews under three stars for indies, simply because we have so few reviews compared to the bigger titles that even one or two negative ones can seriously affect our overall rating and, just because I didn’t like the story, doesn’t mean that someone else might. I do find it slightly suspicious when people have only positive reviews, though – no book is good enough to appeal to everyone who reads it!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Nobody liked it before so I dropped it. Well most of my readers aren’t teens. Stupid categories anyway: NA; YA; and something else that I forget. Don’t agree with that. Where is Old Person Fiction. Old Sex/Romance. Old Adventure/Fantasy/what I would I have done if only I knew now.


      • I am not a fan of the term either.
        Pratchett used to refer to his children’s books as being suitable for children of all ages, which appeals to me.

        NA? What’s that?

        When I was a kid fiction was simply divided into Childrens’ and , once you got past Enid Blyton etc, everything else.
        I was reading novels such as Cruel Sea when I was 12.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. An eye-opening and insightful post, K. I liked answering your poll, as it forced me to think about the books I’ve read in the last year, and the ones I keep returning to. Now, what is Steampunk?


  4. Hi Rs.
    You have seen my ratings. I rate 5 stars for books that impress me and 2 stars that left me feeling like why did I pick this book. In between it’s grey.
    Great post.


  5. I agree completely about star rating as you probably knew I would lol. That’s why I developed my own… makes it easier and more understandable for those who can be bothered to read my review policy. Thanks for the review on Caboodle btw. :)


  6. I have to really like a book to review it on Goodreads, so invariably it would be 4/5 stars. I find the process tedious and who cares about my opinion anyway? Life’s too short :) I did your polls but am clueless what LGBT represents? However, I could tell Cynthia about Steampunk.


  7. I like your star system. Makes sense. But judging a book is of course very subjective and I sometimes ok often get the idea that readers are so used to rubbish that they give Mills and Boone four stars. I am stingy with stars because I believe it has to be earned. If I don’t finish a book I give it one just to say… try again or rather I must make a note to delete this book from my Kindle. It takes up space😊


    • Remind me never to ask you to review my books!!

      But yes, people do give tosh four stars. Problem is, is that book good within a set genre? Just cos you and I might not like M&B (and prob most of my readers) is it unfair not to say that some are good within that? If they add something extra, eg I read one book of that ilk that involved researching dead towns in Arizona. The history aspect notched it up. It wasn’t all rough cowboy hits on city woman. I think we have to compare like with like for the most part.

      If you don’t finish one and give it a single star you will be an evil person :D


  8. I think there should be a modification of wording on that last option. I’ll read ALMOST anything if it’s good.
    Also, I have hated two books that I can remember. One is The Snits, by Roald Dahl, and the other is one I cannot remember. I am apparently the only person alive who didn’t like The Snits. I am pretty confident that there were a few others who didn’t like the other book.
    What surprised me most in your post is the news that stars can mean such vastly different things! (I don’t often rate things with stars, but if I do, I never think to look for their values)


    • oh — and “classic fantasy” was a bit of a challenge for me, since I loved the Narnia Chronicles, but not the Ring trilogy


    • Those polls are a pain to edit though. I’ll take your comment into account when I summarise the results :)
      I didn’t like The Borrowers. Or Mill on the Floss. Or Pride and Prejudice (most of Austen although S and S was tolerable). I never finished Grapes of Wrath and both Lorna Doone and Tristram Shandy needed numerous attacks before completion.
      I’ve looked for the info before and never found it, but it was only when gipsika published my GR review of Nix Romipen (sixth solar wind book) with an ‘I really liked this’ at the top that I made the effort to look again. And discovered the crazy discrepancy.


  9. You rating system make more sense. I glance, but rarely take seriously the star ratings on book sites – it’s the internet: people/trolls who think they are experts or have too much time on their hands.
    When reading a book, it always starts out as a 3 or C/average level with me, then goes up or down similar to your criteria. I find it difficult to read anything that has grammatical errors, bad spelling, or predictable dialogue. It would seem that 3/C/average should be a perfectly acceptable, non-insulting rating as, well, so much is just average.
    Perhaps the YA and all the categories now are a result of big data and attempts to maximize marketing using data as an indication of what writers for money should target or publishers looking for profit should focus attention on? YA and all the categories tend to neatly shove books into slots/customer bases when so many books have a broader appeal if now narrowly defined?
    Anyway, books make good gifts, so solid reviews are welcomed this time of year.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes. Agree. Although I read others who say that stars should be an automatic default five and only get stars deleted for serious faults. I think not. But you know, we live in an era of whingey whiney moaners. People should be looking at the reviews and listening to honest critique. Not asking friends and family for five stars. When I write four star reviews *most* people are pleased. Hell, I would be. Three is good, four is v good, five is brill.
      And … so much of life is average these days.


  10. odd the discrepancy of the stars on Amazon & GR. Up until recently I didn’t consider the stars much at all, but enjoyed reading the reviews. thanks for defining your star ratings.
    Grammar issues and typo’s are very distracting for me, and writing style can be too.
    I remember picking up a promising whodunnit novel by an author i had never heard of, and got stuck after the first couple of pages. Somehow the author seemed bored and very dispassionate about the characters. they were flat and cliché, and sentences were so pat and unimaginative… Never considered myself a picky reader before, but the writing style prevented me from being able to enjoy the plot. So it was put aside for awhile, and then a few months later I tried it again, as I had forgotten why I hadn’t read it in the first place, and within the first few paragraphs I knew that it was a hopeless cause.
    To me it matters if an author appears to have enjoyed writing the book, and bringing the characters to life, even if I cannot relate to them. I am quite a John Grisham fan, and I remember ‘The Brethren’ (if I remember the title correctly), and there was not one character with qualities that I found endearing. Yet the story was told so well and the characters were so believable, that I read the whole thing without hesitation.
    Love Narnia, and have read the whole series many times, including during an end of term/papers due and final exam time during my university days. It was such a great stress reliever. or is that called denial? :) I also got into the Hobbit/Lord of the Rings through my bro. i sometimes read some of his required readings – he was three years ahead of me in school.
    And I have to thank a rather old-looking and somewhat eccentric second year English professor/instructor for instilling in me a love of Jane Austen’s books. Incidentally, hadn’t thought of this professor in years but was just prompted to google her name and found her obit. Turns out she was 74 when I sat in her class. i remember her wearing long black boots and a black cape to class. quite a character.
    P&P was a required reading, and I remember in one of her asides, she told of her experience during WWII, and how it was just so delightful to escape into Austen’s world when everything else in the real world was so grim and bleak. She also made Austen’s humour and irony come alive, and while I have found that some books have been treated grimly and flogged and disssected unnecessarily in classes over the years, I fell in love with P&P in that class and managed to read most of Austen’s other books that year, too. probably some more denial going on, when in fact i probably should have been writing papers or preparing for exams
    and that’s quite long enough – maybe tmi?. almost forgot that this is not my blog :)


    • I can see why you are suddenly interested! But the difference between the two is silly. Just, silly.

      One of the aspects of serious reviewing is to say why something falls flat/is boring. I have struggled with a number of books. If it’s tat and mdern, I tend to skim read.

      I loved Narnia too. I was there. Absolutely there. And that was Lewis’s skill. He took us all through the wardrobe. Tolkien is/was more complex, but I so love Gollum. Fantastic character.

      I did some Austen for main school exams, maybe P and P and Persuasion? Bored the hell out of me. Your teacher’s escapades sound more interesting. Me and Austen just never got on. But Bröntes …

      Liked by 1 person

      • i know what you mean about Narnia. it was possible to forget everyone and everything and escape to Narnia. everytime i have read it. such perfectly told tales.
        however i could never get into any Bronte books. it’s been a long time since i tried to read one. maybe will have to have another go one day :)
        anyhow, getting to be time to call it a day…


  11. The ratings system is confusing. I do smile when someone gives a one star rating and then writes: awesome book!

    I wasn’t sure how to answer your poll, since I read just about anything depending on my mood.


    • I’ve seen that as well, or sme two star reviews on the same lines. Yet, four and five star ones have criticism in them as well. It’s totally loopy.

      It was a multi choice poll, and did include an ‘other’ option :)


  12. Interesting post and I hadn’t realised there was so much discrepancies between the rating system. Grr…frustrating. I seem to have my own internal rating system but in the end the actual review counts for so much and the first few sentences really have to pull the reader in.


    • Sorry Annika. Missed this. I think it’s silly that Amazon owns GR yet the ratings are different. Something to do with sales maybe?
      There are some good reviews out there although I normally read the low star ones, usually more interesting.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. The whole star rating system means nothing to me in terms of what I choose to read. I very much dislike the work of a famous (traditionally published) author because I dislike the style and stories. Means nothing to people who love his work, so why should anyone else pay attention to me? (They don’t.)

    I’ve filled out your survey but I’m way past the date that it’s probably useful – fun for me to think about.


    • Well, people do pay attention to me, which may be good or may be bad if they don’t like my recommends. But, c’est la vie.

      Can’t remember if I ever summarised the results or not. I know I meant to …


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