Throwing Around Some Stars OR How I Randomly Rate Books

I’ve read ALOT of books lately, and when I read a ton, it makes me think about my ratings. Why? Because I have to do this rating thing on Goodreads, and give it some stars. And probably write a coherent sounding review explaining why or why not it is has 5 or so stars.

Figuring out ratings is HARD work. It might make my head hurt sometimes. and make me ignore opening Goodreads until I need to write a wrap-up, and have to sort out my monthly reads. Or I just write a Review to Come in the rating spot and wait 6 months (or never) to actually write that review.

This isn’t a How-to-Blog post but reviewing and rating books is part of book blogging. SO, maybe it does fit into my how-to posts? I don’t know. We’ll see what you guys think!

What Automatically Takes Away Stars

First, there are always things that can force me to knock a rating down automatically. It might even make me DNF a book. Opps.

Bigotry or Racism

I tried to read an ARC in September that was just too biased. It was an Aladdin retelling and portrayed the Islamic culture in a horrible light. Not only was I unable to finish this ARC, but I gave it one star. (it was also terribly tropey, with incredibly flat character. But the racism and bigotry killed it for me.

me to writers who decide to be bigoted 

Any hint of racism or bigotry will take away stars. It might make me rate it with an angry one star. lesson to writers – don’t be horrible people. 

Awfulness Rewarded

This can be hard to explain but I will try. If a character is just terrible – misogynist or racist, and they just get away with it, that makes me mad.
I will take away stars. People can have prejudices, but it’s important that characters grow. Don’t let it just happen in a story without some sort of consequence.

Example of a character who grows from their prejudice – Mr. Darcy. (you knew I was going to use him, right???) Anyway, Darcy is kind of terrible. He insults the Bennetts and looks down his nose at anyone who happens to not have money. (that’s like everyone, right?)

But by the end of the story, he’s totally realized how bad he is. He listens to Lizzy, and befriends her dad. He tries to be nice to her mom. He apologizes for being an awful jerk. And he even goes out of his way to help people that he would have normally just ignored.

I mean, just look how earnest he is? #adorable

Some other characters who improve and grow that I just LOVE

Emma from Emma 🙂 (I just love my Austen people) 

Will Herondale from The Infernal Devices

Monty from The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue

Carswell Thorne from the Lunar Chronicles

Helene from A Ember in the Ashes series

Using Pain Lightly 

Life is hard. I don’t expect books to be clean or perfect. But I don’t want to read stories where pain is used trivially. People do go through horrible, horrible things. 1 in 3 women are assaulted. Genocide is a cruel part of history. Trans kids are kicked out of their homes. Systematic racism hurts people of color.

We don’t need to sugarcoat pain but when a writer uses pain as just as tool and makes it tropey, ugh, I just can’t.

When people of color are killed on page to motivate a white character to act, I want to throw the book across the room. When a woman is raped, just to give her a more powerful voice, I want to scream. People’s pain should not be used just to motivate characters who come from privilege. 

Books should elevate the voices of those who are personally affected by pain. People’s pain should not be stolen and used to further your own story.

me, to writers using the white savior narrative

I am criticizing the white savior complex in stories. Stories that I have read – the Nazi prison commander who feels bad for the beautiful Jewish woman and feels guilty for killing people. Um, what? Stories of colonizers feeling guilty and trying to save the colonized. Um, what??? Fictional Stories of white people intervening and saving the lives of people of color. Um, what????

Yes, there have been people in power throughout history who have stood up for the oppressed. But as often as there was a person of privilege acting, there were also the oppressed fighting for themselves. Too often, we ignore their stories for stories of the privileged savior. Maybe because it makes us – I speak of the privileged – feel better.

When I read a writer who consistently uses the white savior narrative in their books, it turns me away. I will either not continue reading their work, or I will give it lower ratings. 


Alright, those are really negative reasons I give books lower ratings?

And those reasons are kind of ranty? Opps, I didn’t mean to rant. Whelp. Here’s some other reasons, that aren’t so harsh, that make me lower ratings.

Unconnected Characters

If I read an entire book, I better connect with the character. But sometimes, I just don’t. Maybe I can figure out why – their personality, the writing, a tropey character.

Or maybe I can’t figure out why.

I just know that I don’t connect with this character. I don’t understand the decisions they make. Or worse, I honestly don’t care if they live or die.
That’s reaaalllllylyyy bad. If this character died, and I just shrugged, this is bad news for this book. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Readers should connect with characters! I want to see myself as this character or their friend, or something. And if I just can’t, the book will loose a star.

How I might treat some book characters

World Building, or Weird History, or I Don’t Get It

This is the most intensively weird part of ratings. Because some people can love a book world, and other people just don’t. It’s very much up to you.

And I love world building. So if a book is just missing it, and the history just isn’t working, I am very annoyed. To me, it’s a sign of lazy writing/editing/lack of question asking.

For example, a book I recently read was set in the Roman Republic. But it had the Caesars? And the historical figure lived before a certain roman family took control of Rome? And yet I’m supposed to believe this guy lived at the same time in this book world? Also that volcano erupted nearly 200 years after this historical figure died?

OKAY, the history in Blood and Sand just DID NOT MAKE SENSE. Sorry, #notsorry. I’m a  history nerd. if it’s weird history and leaves me VERY confused, the book looses stars. That’s just how the game is played.

Ahem, yes, me and history are double checking every book that has any sort in it. #historynerd

Tropes, Rushed Plot, Unfinished, TERRIBLE CLIFFHANGERS

I’m going to put this all under the same category, because I’VE ALRADY WRITTEN SO MANY WORDS IN THIS POST. Sorry, guys, I didn’t realize I had so much to say about rating books?

Just be advised against writing tropes – because that makes me throw out a star or two. If I can guess the plot, BAD. Sorry, but don’t make ANYTHING predictable. We, I mean readers, love the unpredictable cool plot twists. (right, readers?)

Also, in a hurry to finish that manuscript? Don’t rush it! I don’t want to feel like I’m running to get to the end of this book. NOR do I want the book to feel unfinished, like you’ve skipped over certain details and plots to FINISH IT UP ALREADY.

And be careful of cliffhangers. A certain book, ahem, Lord of Shadows, might have had too big of a cliffhanger. Sorry, but too much of a cliffhanger can lower a star rating. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Well, guys that a LOT OF INFO about my star ratings. Maybe too much? I don’t know, but I had NO IDEA what to publish this weekend. Because school has been HOMEWORK, HOMEWORK, HOMEWORK, and I had no time to draft something this week.

So, I had this title drafted. And lo and behold, I was able to write this in less than half an hour? Maybe because figuring out star rating is HARD work, so I had lots of opinions on the subjects. hehehehehehe.

lets chat

Do you struggle figuring out giving out stars to books? What makes you automatically drop stars? Do you think some cliffhangers can be TOO much? What’s something personal to you that writers do that just ANNOYS you to no end? (for me, it’s probably weird history) 

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13 Comments

  1. CG @ Paper Fury
    October 22, 2018 / 4:58 am

    Ooh I agree with a lot of these too! Although I mean, no book can exist WITHOUT tropes.😂It’s kind of impossible. But it’s the super cliche or problematic ones that just have me going “ew gross” and taking off stars. I also feel like I have such a low tolerance for problematic things these days (which is very good tbh) and I’m WAY more aware of them and will call them out. I actually love cliffhangers!😂(OMG THE LORD OF SHADOWS ONE WRECKED ME THOUGH HOW DARE IT.) But I definitely make a book lose stars for being too slow or the characters aren’t doing anything for me. And omg agreeeed about not rewarding horrible people. Like call them out on it!! Books should have flawed characters, but they DO need to apologise!!

    • Elizabeth
      Author
      October 23, 2018 / 1:28 pm

      Yes, for getting rid of all the problematic tropes! i’m so glad bloggers and readers are becoming more aware of hurtful elements in books and calling them out! I think it definitely improves the writing and reading community.
      LORD OF SHADOWS is the worst. Or the best. That cliffhanger is STILL killing me.
      Apologies are so great! We all need to learn that it’s okay to mess up and truthfully apologize.

  2. October 22, 2018 / 11:45 am

    Great post!! I am a complete mood reader and my ratings tend to reflect that. If I enjoyed reading it I will rate it higher. But that being said a lot of what you pointed out makes the reading less enjoyable and therefore lowers the rating, but I am not that analytical about it 😂😂 But one of my biggest pet peeves is big cliffhangers! I HATE when writers do this and it will almost result in a lower rating!!!

    • Elizabeth
      Author
      October 23, 2018 / 1:29 pm

      That makes sense! And i’m glad to know i’m not the only one who is majorly annoyed by cliffhangers.

  3. October 23, 2018 / 12:08 am

    I agree so much with these! Bigotry and racism and any kind of problematic content is met with low tolerance from me (though sometimes I just enjoy the rest of the book so much I let it slide but still recognize it’s there, if that makes sense? like with The Foxhole Court lmao). But I definitely rate books lower if I can’t connect to characters as much, since they’re the most important part of a book to me and I NEED to somehow connect (whether it be just care about what happens to them or actually deeply relate to them) in order to enjoy the book!

    • Elizabeth
      Author
      October 23, 2018 / 1:30 pm

      So much truth! I mean, what’s the point of reading a book if you just can’t connect to the characters?

  4. October 23, 2018 / 6:52 am

    This is excellent!
    I’m a total mood reader, but it also means I’m a mood rater haha. Famous In Love is pure trash and actually pretty bad, but I read it at the right time and loved how cheesy it was so it got 4 stars (even though it’s probably a 2).
    Cora | http://www.teapartyprincess.co.uk

    • Elizabeth
      Author
      October 23, 2018 / 1:32 pm

      I hadn’t thought about how mood reading affects ratings! I’m definitely not a moody reader or rater, so that is new to me! It would be nice to be in a mood and just enjoy a book, even if it is super cheesy 😂

  5. October 23, 2018 / 12:23 pm

    I loved reading this! I also automatically knock off stars for bigotry (really any kind of microaggression), the white savior narrative, and pain used for shock value (especially when it comes to rape or sexual assault). Sexuality and/or mental illness being treated as plot twists also immediately cause me to deduct stars. I’m a very character-driven reader, so connecting with the characters is a must for me, too. Pacing also tends to really influence my ratings. And, of course, I also factor in my general enjoyment of the story!

    • Elizabeth
      Author
      October 23, 2018 / 1:33 pm

      Pain as shock value is so hurtful and terrible! Good characters and pacing is so nice!

  6. emmareadstoomuch
    October 23, 2018 / 5:22 pm

    omg i’m rereading The Lunar Chronicles at the moment and i just…thorneeee. i love him.

    but also i love this exploration of how you rate! i so often feel like i’m just randomly assigning ratings to books based mostly on how i feel at the exact moment i finish them (and then sometimes will change it when i write a review and actually, you know, think about it).

  7. October 24, 2018 / 2:29 pm

    I definitely give harsher rating for books that have bigotry in them, because at this moment in time there’s just no excuse for it. As for tropes, I really don’t mind them at all because tropes are completely unavoidable and are present in pretty much everything. I think once a trope becomes cliched and overused, then it starts to bug me because it’s like beating a dead horse.

Drop some knowledge!