One of the things I struggled with when starting this blog was whether or not to star my reviews. This is something I’m sure every book blogger thinks about at some point or another. Back in March, Renay pondered review styles over at Ladybusiness. Less recently, I recall Shaheen of Speculating on Spec Fic mention at Conflux last year that she had initially started out not including stars but had subsequently changed her mind.
Indeed, the book blogs I read are fairly evenly split on this issue. Along with Speculating on Spec Fic, a few starred blogs I read include Book Gannet, The Book Smugglers and Tsana’s Reads and Reviews. A sample of the non-starred blogs include Estella’s Revenge, Lady Business, Stephanie Gunn and In the Forest of Stories (though I note the latter still has ratings included in the tags at the bottom of posts).
As a reader, I tend to be less interested in the rating than in the details of the review: why did the reviewer like or dislike the book? That’s what determines whether or not I will track down the book. It also establishes or confirms for me where the reviewer is in relation to my tastes. Do we match up or do our tastes lie elsewhere? Where is the overlap?
Having said that, once I have a feel for the reviewer, starred reviews can occasionally be a bit more useful. If I’m looking for a decent romance and can’t find any on Mt TBR, I might hop over to Book Gannet and take a look at the five-star reviews. However, given the state of Mt TBR, this doesn’t happen to me too often.
As a reviewer, I don’t like writing starred reviews. How does one quantify something that’s so subjective? Sometimes I know immediately how I am going to rate a book, while at other times I agonise over it. I should note that even though I don’t like writing starred reviews, I still do it–over at Goodreads. Then once I decide on a rating, it feels like it’s set in stone. What if I change my mind? That’s easier to do on Goodreads or in my personal spreadsheets than it is here on the blog. However, if I’m already doing it on Goodreads, why not here as well?
Another thing I struggle with is a ratings system. Five stars is fairly standard. However, I hardly ever use the full spectrum. A book has to be pretty terrible for me to consider rating it two stars or near perfect for me to give it five. That doesn’t give a lot of range. It’s something I’ve been working on. I actually find it easier to rate something out of ten and then halve it for a five-star system.
I’d be really interested in hearing some thoughts on this issue. Reviewers, do you use a rating system? Readers, do you find rating systems useful? Would you like to see one here?