The Struggles of Rating and Reviewing Books // Thursday Ramblings


Hello bookworms and welcome back to another Thursday Ramblings post! I’m excited to be sharing this discussion with you, as it came completely on a whim and I feel as though this is a good topic to address, especially for us book bloggers and readers who share our thoughts on books, whether through things like Goodreads or Instagram or Twitter or on a blog of our own! 

Part of being a reader and book blogger (for me, and many of you), is reviewing books and giving them a rating out of 5 stars – or however you like to rate your books. We do it to express our thoughts, impressions, and reactions, we do it to further our connections with authors and publishers, and to give and share our  honest opinions about upcoming releases – or backlisted books too, of courseRating as reviewing a book, especially in a more professional setting like for those of us who blog, it requires us to take a step back, put our critical-thinking heads on and analyse a book that way.

I find that, for myself, I can easily do this with ARCs I’ve been given or received, for I know that they’ve been given to me for the purpose of presenting a more critical review, to ensure the honest sale of the book. However, when it comes to backlisted books, or books I read for my own entertainment that have been purchased out of my own pocket, it’s much harder to critically rate and review. 

The Struggle

The real struggle in rating and reviewing a book, I think, is trying to separate your personal entertainment experience from the critical view of the elements within a novel. Sometimes, there are books that have been written mediocrely however when reading them, they pull you in and you enjoy it so much that you forget all about the elements of the story and rate it because it was so awesome and you loved it, and you find yourself talking like this:

I am definitely guilty of this! So I definitely think that sometimes, we can be so entertained by a book that we rate it higher than it deserves and in turn, we create a hype that may prove to make the book disappointing for others. As book bloggers, I think it is especially important to know and be aware of this, because the last thing we want to do is lead people to books with false expectations, am I right?

Of course, I am not saying that we should not rate a book 5 stars if it was really enjoyable and gave you all the feels. I believe we should give credit where it is due, and if a book has me totally wrapped up in it, aka The Throne of Glass series, to the point where I could spend days awake, reading the book from start to finish, then it deserves a good high rating.

My point here is, that, knowing this struggle, I think we need to approach the way we rate and review books in a different way. 

A New Approach

Personally, I think that we should split up our book ratings into two sections: a critical rating and an entertainment rating. This way, we can acknowledge both sides of the book and therefore, generate a much more fair and proper rating and review for a book. But how exactly do these two different ratings work? Let me tell you. 

The critical rating:

This rating is determined by the proper elements of the story and the quality to which they are written. This includes things like:

  • plot: plot progression, the execution of the premise, pacing, structure
  • writing: style, readability, world-building, flow
  • characters: development, relatability, construction

Basically, it’s how well all of the novel elements are done. Are there any plot holes in the novel or does it flow seamlessly? Is the pacing off or slightly confusing? Are the characters written in a way that the reader can engage with them in some sort of way and in that, become immersed in the story? Is the writing easy to read, is it poetic and does it match with the theme and the story as a whole? These are questions you’ve got to look to when thinking of your critical rating, in my opinion. 

The entertainment rating:

Alright, so this is where things get a little more abstract, but basically, this rating is how all the elements of the story made you feel. What is the engagement factor in this novel? Books that can evoke raw, powerful emotions and that can keep you engaged from start to finish, could receive a high entertainment rating. Sometimes a book can be written beautifully, but you just can’t seem to enjoy it, because we are all different and we have different tastes. This rating is much more subjective, while the above rating is purely objective

With your entertainment rating, when translated into a review, you’d talk about themes in the book, and how the book made you feel. You’d possibly talk about the characters you loved the most, your OTP, etc. It’s difficult to really distinguish what goes where, but generally, this is what I think it encompasses. 

Why should we use this approach?

Personally, I think this approach would help me review books much more fairly, and it would minimise the risk of over-hyping. Just like a science experiment, you have to have more than one result to get the best outcome, and having two ratings and then bringing them together, would equal a much fairer review and rating all around. This approach might also make it easier for some of you to actually write a review, because I know that sometimes, writing reviews can be a total challenge because – where do you begin? What do you talk about? This could help give you structure to your reviews. 

That is all for this week’s Thursday Ramblings, I hope you enjoyed. For all my book blogger friends out there, and bookworms who read and review/rate books, I hope this helped or gave you something new to think about! 

How do YOU rate and review your books?

Do you have your own system or method?

Do you think you will use this method?

53 thoughts on “The Struggles of Rating and Reviewing Books // Thursday Ramblings

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  4. This makes me think, often book reviewers either lean to the entertainment side of things, or the critical side. I try and incorporate both in my review, although the critical side always comes through. Sometimes books that aren’t written that well are still enjoyable (like Falling Kingdoms). Awesome discussion Josie!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, exactly! I’m one of those people who sometimes only addresses one side to the book, I will admit. That’s why I wrote this, to remind myself AND others that we should try and address both sides of the story, you know?
      Thanks Jeann!


  5. I love this post! Doing two ratings – one critical and one for the enjoyment factor – and then averaging them together is so, so smart. Definitely going to have to try that out. Thanks for sharing and, as always, fabulous post! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

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  7. Interesting, you’re right in some ways…sometimes how much we enjoy a book can affect objective critique on the book’s quality.
    But here’s a thought. Entertainment isn’t completely removed from the quality,and much less from the experience. I mean if you’re talking about a reader who has a deep understanding and appreciation for literature perhaps like yourself, wouldn’t you subconsciously pick up plot/character/style along the way that contributes to how much you enjoy a novel?
    Whether the catharsis is contrived or well thought out, or whether the character is well conceived or just one-dimensional,or whether the style flows well or is jarring…it all adds up to how we feel about the book. So the entertainment factor has all of these and more…its kind of intangible. But I doubt its removed from the quality of a book.
    Great site btw 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Cool! Sometimes the fact that we like a book more for its entertainment factor can affect our judgement of the actual quality of the book.
    But here’s a thought, if a book keeps you extremely entertained,hasn’t it already succeeded. Given that you’re a book critic, or for me a movie critic, we already subconsciously pick up things which can make us like or dislike the film. The fact that a book leaves you entertained, I think, is another aspect that is an untangible aspect, which could be an integral part of judging it in its entirety.
    It’s also sorta the make-up of the other elements as well, like a good/bad characterization or well crafted/contrived catharsis or smooth/jarring style all affect our overall mood and ‘entertainment’ which then affects how we judge.

    Nice blog Josie, I look forward to more of your posts :))

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s an excellent point! And you’re definitely right in that. If a book keeps me extremely entertained, to the point where I’m so invested in the world and the story and the characters, I could say that it’s definitely done its job. For that IS the purpose of a book after all.
      Thank you for such an awesome point! 😆

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I like the idea of reviewing this way. In fact, these past few reviews have been harder than most because I didn’t really know how to put my thoughts into words that would make sense. So I started changing up the format of my reviews to see if it made it any easier. While it did, it was still a little hard, so I think I might try it this way from now on? Great discussion post, as always!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. YUP I HEAR YA. XD But to be honest, my review is where I go critical? And my rating is for the entertainment. hehe. So I cover all bases that way, but otherwise it is hard to figure out the rating when your brain is saying “lookee, mistakes” and your heart is saying “DON’T TALK I’M FLAILING”. 😂 I struggle with that all the time. hehe

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oooh, that’s interesting! That’s a cool way to do it too, definitely.
      Oh yes, our heart and our head definitely conflict with each other when it comes to our books – TOO MANY EMOTIONS.


  11. I’m all about trying to reach an objective medium while subjectively criticizing. This is why I never give “perfect” or “DNF or 1-star” ratings as all books will hold merit to someone out there. Moreover, it’s also why I appreciate 3-star reviews over glowing perfect ratings of flailing that don’t really tell me anything contextually about the story other than the fact that the reader a) had lots of feels, b) enjoyed the romance, c) had a “unique” world/premise (which is the broadest thing ever tbh). But how I rate is my burden to bear as I can’t be someone that policies how other people want to talk about their thoughts (as subjective as it may be).

    I think there’s too much layover between entertainment and critical acknowledgement that one will always tie into the other. What are the rare chances that a book would be highly acclaimed but boring as shit to read? I can see the inverse happening but this example? Mmm, not so much.

    But you know, I’m the king of negativity and giving everything 3-stars (I’m at like a 3.2 average on Goodreads lol) so what do I know.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh yes, I know you and your reviews! You definitely are the king of 3-star ratings.
      I must admit, I am very guilty of reviewing a book, basically by flailing around and shouting out my feels rather than being a bit more technical and informative.. oops.
      That’s true, It’s hard to say a book is written great if we can’t even engage or be entertained at all by it. It’s such a struggle! Argh!


  12. Great post Josie ❤ I usually give a critical star rating as well as an entertainment star rating to make sure I am more fair when it comes to reviewing books. I really hate reading hyped books and feeling disappointed, so I make sure I don't do the same thing to others.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I recently switched to using the more critical review system to be honest! That was just because I HAD NO IDEA HOW TO ORGANISE MY THOUGHTS and I figured out that plot, character and writing style were the three most important things to me, and I could elaborate off them!
    I think the entertainment review is also very important – it can just be a bit hard to write about it coherently at times xD Very good discussion, Josie~!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you! Yes, I think those three are the most important too.
      Oh you’re right, expressing the entertainment side can sometimes be a tangle of incoherent feels, I know what you mean!
      I’m glad you enjoyed it. 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  14. That’s absolutely how reviews should be approached YES THANK YOU! I separate my reviews into plot, writing, characters, and rate each one then total it in my final rating. I sort of balance entertainment and criticalness in each section—so how well the plot was developed and then hoe much I enjoyed it. They’re both very important to me, you can’t have one without the other. Though I’m very guilty of overrating books because of my emotions!

    Liked by 1 person

    • YOU’RE WELCOME! It’s awesome to see someone else who actually does it this way!
      Oh I like that – balancing the entertainment and critical for each element! I like it very much.
      Both definitely need to play a part.
      Oh, you’re not the only one! *raises hand*

      Liked by 1 person

  15. When I review books I basically just put my thoughts into writing immediately after finishing a book. Then I try to make sense of it all so that it doesn’t just seem like random ramblings. I find that if I don’t write my thoughts down immediately after reading I struggle to review it.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Great post! 🙂
    I am always looking for new ways to improve my reviews. Right now I currently don’t have a certain method I use. I just say what I liked and didn’t like. I don’t go too in depth with my reviews. Mostly because I am always scared I am going to give something away and ruin the book for someone, haha. I would hate to do that!

    Liked by 1 person

  17. The struggle is real with rating books! I find myself having this exact same problem with most of the books read and have to write reviews for. It’s so hard trying to find that balance between rating a book higher because it was truly well-written, even though I disliked everything else about it; I try to give well-written books 4 stars, and the one that blow my socks off 5 stars, but it is still really difficult to weigh all of the elements of a book and just average it without explaining or looking at whether something that was good/bad in it.
    I liked how you broke down the rating system, and I think in the future I will start doing that to be fair to a book and to make rating easier for me.
    I loved your thoughts on this struggle that most bloggers deal with! 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  18. I think this is really interesting, but I question whether this is an emphasis we need. If a book doesn’t evoke feeling, was it really that good?

    I also have to disagree that the “critical” review is objective–the only part that could be is grammar, and even that is subjectI’ve in the way style guides are subjected to the preferences of the ones creating and using them. One person can see a character as incredibly well rounded with an amazing arc, while another reader says the flat character had a flat arc. Hence, not objective–reading is not an objective experience. It can’t be because we all experience things differently based on our experiences, attitudes, beliefs, etc.

    For me, it’s about attributing an emotional response to textual evidence–essentially backing up your argument with evidence from the text(s). That, to me, is also more useful in reviews than an attempt to separate a supposedly “critical” reading from an emotional one–I feel we should have both, and apply critical thinking to the emotion, rather than presenting them or applying them separately. I find the question “why did you feel that way?” far more useful than either “did you omg love it so much?” (which I’ve been asked) or “Was the plot solid?” because neither of the latter questions tell me whether I will enjoy the book, and that, to me, is what reviews are for.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You make a great point there, that someone else pointed out. I suppose our ‘critical’ rating is also influenced on our own knowledge and opinions, so it is quite subjective still. Yep, that sounds about right!
      Ah, yes I totally understand what you mean! Now that you say it, I think I can agree with your stance. Because the way things are written in a novel is written to appeal to the emotions of an audience after all!
      Thank you for your comment!

      Liked by 1 person

  19. I kind of feel like you described how I review books to be honest haha. My reviews have been divided by a critically section and an emotionally section since January 2015. The overall rating I share on a book is for my emotions toward it but in the critical section I give separate star ratings to the plot, writing style, and character elements that don’t have anything to do with the overall rating. I feel like it’s a much easier way to push me to review critically as well as be able to Fangirl about a book

    Liked by 1 person

  20. That’s a very good idea! Especially when it comes to your favorite book or series that generally gets mixed reviews from everyone else.

    I tend to be more critical with books that I didn’t necessarily like rather then the books that were good or fantastic. Something I need to work on haha

    Liked by 1 person

  21. At first I thought you were talking about having two ratingings for a single book but you’re talking about two factors (or seprate ratings) that go into the overall rating, right? If so, then this is how I rate my book! I take into account the plot, writing, characters and then how it I felt about it overall.
    Though i think the critical view point gives your thoughts more structure, I believe that both view points (the critical and entertainment) are subjective. When you’re rating it based on entertainment you’re basically fangirling so thats hands down subjective. When you’re analysing the plot, characters and writing your opinions won’t always match others, because what you thought (for example) was a slow burning plot that could’ve been cut shorter, someone else might’ve thought it was perfectly paced and engaging. And that’s why I think the critical views are also subjective.
    Great post! I think it’s an important thing to put the fangirling on puase (just for a bit) and actually take a step back to think: How is the plot development? Character depth? Does the story seem familiar? And other questions along those lines.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well, technically, it is two ratings but they blend together for the overall rating, yes.
      You make a good point – the way we judge elements within a novel is different depending on the person, so I suppose in that sense, it definitely is subjective. What I meant by objective was mainly, that we don’t use our emotions as much to judge the elements of the story, you know? But yes, you do make an extremely excellent point and I can totally agree with that!

      I’m glad you enjoyed it. As much as fangirling is fabulous and all of that, sometimes it’s good to take that little step back and judge the book in a little more depth!

      Thank you for stopping by! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  22. I loved reading this. I used to be totally guilty of the whole OMG! *Inserts An Endless Supply Of Screaming Gifs* However, now I try to cater to both sides. There is no book that is flawless or perfect and by really trying to dig in deep with the book I’m reviewing, I usually can find something I don’t like. Often, that’s what I do. I talk about both the flaws and the positives but I have never ever rated a book 10/10! Great Post!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m glad you liked it! Trust me, I’m exactly the same! I fangirl so quickly and tend to lose all sight of my review because I’m fangirling so hard.
      That’s very true, if we really analyse the book, we’ll be able to tell the small things that we might have originally drowned out because we loved the book so much.
      I like that you rate a book out of 10 – I rate out of 5 stars, and I’ve given many books full stars! I vow to be more critical this year, though!

      Liked by 1 person

  23. This was such a great discussion to read, once again 🙂 I have to admit, rating and reviewing books can be a struggle, even if, for me, it’s much more of a struggle when I review ARCs, because I want to be the most objective I can, in order not to create a false hype or something. I really like your rating system! I always try and think about both sides, when I’m writing my review, but it’s true that sometimes you can miss out on some things, or not be completely objective when you loved a book so, so much. Rating a book is SO hard, I always try to say why I loved/hate it, and warn people that they could like/hate it for the same reasons 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Marie! Yeah, at times I find that reviewing ARCs can be tough, because there’s a bit more pressure to be objective and really give the most honest, proper review and rating that you can.
      I’m glad you like my system!
      Rating is very difficult, I agree! Thank you for stopping by. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  24. I can definitely see where you are coming from with this new rating system. For example when I read Red Queen, I was so entertained and loved the plot twists that I gave it a really high rating, yet I also knew that it wasn’t the most original concept and that the writing was average as well. I personally don’t have two separate writings, however, I do try to address all the critical points you’ve mentioned nonetheless. I have such a hard time coming up with one rating sometimes that I don’t think I can handle two.
    In general, every book starts out as a three star read for me. Then as I progress the book gets more stars if I enjoy it and less if not. So, if it’s a really average book, it will probably just remain at 3. I often end up giving a rating that my gut tells me to. It’s strange because I often change my mind later on or after a certain period of time.
    Lastly, I think it’s funny that you said it’s easier for you to review arcs. For me it’s the other way around hahaha As always, great discussion post, Josie! Sorry for the long comment!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yep, I was exactly the same with Red Queen! I liked it, and so I gave it a high rating, but my rating was almost purely based on my entertainment of the book.
      Really? I always thought if you have more ratings, it makes it easier to rate, because you’ll be rating different aspects and you’ll be separating each side to the book, you know?
      I’ve also found that sometimes I look back at my previous ratings and I change them because they don’t look right anymore.
      Oh really? I always thought ARCs were easier to review! Granted, I find some ARCs a little more difficult than others sometimes.
      Don’t apologize, I really appreciate your comment! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • I think I have difficulties with more than one rating because I am not sure how to separate it all. Maybe I am thinking too complicated sometimes, because that does tend to happen hahaha
        I don’t know why ARCs are difficult for me, but I feel more pressured when I read them. Also, I feel like I shouldn’t be too harsh, even though I am never harsh at all, while I can rate books that I bought on my own accord however I want. I know that I shouldn’t feel this way, but I feel so bad when I don’t like ARCs…

        Liked by 1 person

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