Those pesky three star reviews

There are different ways you can classify a review based on the structure and style, but the reviews (movies, books, art, plays) I grew up reading were in newspapers and mainly of two “types” – ones with a rating system (out of five) and ones without.

When I started this blog for book reviews, I didn’t use a rating scale at all. Over time, I became active on Goodreads, started opening up my blog for review requests and came to know about the importance of leaving reviews on Amazon. It was then that I started rating books, because I realized how inbuilt and expected it is in the scheme of online retail, forums and promotions. I also went back to my earlier reviews and rated all of them.

However, there are times I wish there was no concept of a rating system at all. I feel that way every time I am about to give a 3 star (sometimes even a 3.5) review. There are two aspects to this: what I want to communicate through the rating and how the author ends up perceiving it.

When I give a three-star rating, it means that – while I didn’t love the book, I don’t regret spending my time reading it. It was a decent one-time read with some good moments. In addition, if I am giving 3 star rating to the first book in a series, it means that I found some potential of improvement in further installments of the series. I always thought 3 star rating meant something “positive”. Any book or movie that was rated 3 or above was automatically included in my to-read or to-watch list.

But I feel like there has been a huge change in the way 3-star ratings are being received over the past few years. While I understand it is the prerogative of the author/publisher to choose which review or post to use for promotions, I just find it part-bemusing and part-baffling whenever a 3/3.5 star review is barely acknowledged (by author/publisher) with nothing more than a “like” on your tweet/post and sometimes completely ignored. Like seriously, not even a 3.5 is good enough?! How boring and commonplace would it be to have reviews filled with 4 stars or above for every good book out there? Moreover, the 4 or 5 stars would totally lose their significance if the reviewers are expected to give them out like freebies.

To be honest, I look out for the 3-star reviews that are interspersed with the 1s, 2s, 4s and 5s and the 4s which have a li’l note saying “3.5 rounded to 4” (because GR and Amazon don’t like the .5s, if y’all don’t know.. :/ ) whenever I want to have a quick and rounded view of both the “good” and “bad” in the book. It is the easiest way to read about both the strengths and weaknesses which, though, subjective to the reviewer, can be used to judge or gauge whether the book is aligned to your likes and preferences.

So, what do you think? Do the 3-star reviews get enough love from the author, blogging and publishing world or are they completely lost amidst the sassy 1s and 2s and the gushy 4s and 5s?

17 thoughts on “Those pesky three star reviews

  1. Anne August 23, 2016 / 12:55 pm

    I completely agree with pretty much everything you just said here. I think 3 stars is a positive rating as well, but sometimes, I’ve never heard from an author again after rating it with 3 (or 3.5) stars. One time, I even had one who said if I liked the first book, I should read the second after that. When I reviewed the first one with 3.5 stars, he said to never mind on the second one because I obviously didn’t like it enough. Baffled! I’m reblogging this in the hope it reaches at least one person who thinks 3 stars are shit because they really aren’t!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ishita August 23, 2016 / 4:52 pm

      Oh, yes! I have faced that a bit too! While I quickly wizened up about how the 3 stars are received and stopped expecting them to be shared/acknowledged, I was a bit taken aback when even the 3.5s were met with total disinterest..
      Thanks for the reblog!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Anne August 24, 2016 / 9:38 am

        Blah, it’s just annoying. Of course, you want the highest praise possible as an author; it’s the dream they’ve worked so hard for. But to get there, they need honesty instead of brown-nosing, so I’m always happy to get a genuine thank-you from one when I give a 3 star rating with (hopefully) constructive feedback. You’re welcome, this topic has gotten me worked up a lot lately xD.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Anne August 23, 2016 / 12:58 pm

    Reblogged this on Inked Brownies and commented:
    I completely agree with Ishita here. Three stars is NOT a bad rating and I’m getting rather tired of having to defend my ‘not liking’ a book when I clearly said that I did like it by giving it those 3 stars. What’s your take on a 3-star rating?

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Amber Jerome August 23, 2016 / 1:12 pm

    3 star ratings are the middle children of the reviewing world. Ignored, often picked on, and underrated (kind of an ironic term to use here?? Lol).

    I recently read Gone Girl, and I gave it a solid 3. I hated the end. But I enjoyed the book overall and don’t really regret reading it.

    Very well put perspective on the poor, left out, and lonely middle child of the review world.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Ishita August 23, 2016 / 5:00 pm

      Thank you! Haha yes, the lonely middle child is a nice way to put it..
      When I look back at some of my earlier reviews, I do feel that I was “stricter” with rating them. Another way of looking it is I have gone soft with the ratings over time…


  4. The Lunatic In My Head August 23, 2016 / 2:15 pm

    3 stars don’t have to be considered as something that’ll take away the goodwill of a book. It is a decent enough rating for people to try it out. If 4 stars are made commonplace, then the really good books will suffer, on account of people mistaking them for mediocre books. 3 is good, 4 is excellent and 5 is legendary – That’s the way I think it should go. 3 does not mean bad!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ishita August 23, 2016 / 5:06 pm

      Exactly, it would be such a shame if a book that has lots of 4 stars stops standing out amongst the crowd because getting a 4 isn’t really a big deal.

      Liked by 1 person

      • The Lunatic In My Head August 23, 2016 / 5:22 pm

        Yep. The good books would lose their credibility, and the rating system would stop being of any relevance.


  5. Pearl Kirkby August 23, 2016 / 8:14 pm

    I’m in agreement here, Ishita. 3-stars SHOULD indicate that the review needs to be read (I further comment on this on InkedBrownies👍).

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ishita August 25, 2016 / 7:22 pm

      Thanks Pearl, and I liked your point about the self-pubbed books. It is something I have tried to be careful with in my reviews too. I mean, I have read self-pubbed books with not the most unique story lines, but with really clean writing, and good, descriptive prose – all of which made for pleasant reading experience. So, I do try to put that forward in my reviews..

      Liked by 1 person

      • Pearl Kirkby August 26, 2016 / 8:01 pm

        …and vice versa as well. I can think of two self published books that I’ve read just in the past three months that were horrifically edited, if edited at all, with a storyline that shone through like the noonday sun, notwithstanding!

        Understanding that I am counted amongst those self-pubbers, I feel it is encumbant upon us to police ourselves if we want to be taken seriously. If we don’t, others most certainly will…and thence, the disdain in which we are held by trad-pubbers, book stores, libraries and critics 😞

        To quote many authors, “Writing is not a career for those with thin skin;” and it would behoove those of us who haven’t the funding for professional assistance to really scour those reviews…especially the 3 and under…to see where we can improve our craft. And I take that seriously.

        I love to read the 4’s and 5’s (for my own tiny tome as well😁), but I set great store by the 3’s or less, PROVIDING they give an explanation!

        Hmmm…I think I’ll use this back and forth as a blog post, if you guys don’t mind!?

        Liked by 1 person

      • Ishita August 30, 2016 / 6:39 pm

        Oh yes, I have received couple of books like that and it gets a bit awkward when you get such books as part of blog tours. I agree that some basic editing goes a long way in changing perceptions and making for a more pleasant reading experience…

        Thank you so much for commenting! I have loved reading your take on this!!

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Haley Keller August 23, 2016 / 10:12 pm

    I leave ratings on Goodreads, Amazon, etc. because it’s expected, but I still don’t do it on my blog. I feel like I’m just too iffy on my ratings most of the time to commit to a rating. Three star ratings are probably the easiest for me to give most of the time as it’s just average. Funnily enough, I think it’s hardest for me to decide between one and two star ratings. I always have to sit there and think for a while “How much did I dislike in this book?” before I make a decision.

    But with just about any rating, I find myself questioning it and not being sure if I’m making the right decision. I know there are probably books that I felt similarly about all things considered but which ended up with different ratings because of the mood I was in when I rated the books. Sometimes I’m more forgiving and sometimes I’m not.

    That’s why I tend to dislike ratings so much. I prefer writing full reviews where I can provide more nuance. I participate in ratings because it’s what expected, and I admit that I sometimes look at average ratings when trying to decide if a book is worth it. It’s not even that I think ratings can’t be valuable. There just not something I enjoy giving myself, so I’ve decided to keep them off my blog so far.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ishita August 25, 2016 / 7:40 pm

      I know what you mean by your mood affecting the ratings. Also, there are times when book grows on you with time and you might end up feeling differently by the time you have reviewed the book (and a lot of times much later, and you keep itching to revise your ratings)..
      One example that I can think of is the Book Thief – this was one of my earlier reviews (without ratings) – If I had immediately decided to rate it, I would have probably given it a 3. But when I finally got to it months later (when I was adding ratings to all my earlier reviews) – I ended up giving it a 4.

      Yes, I would prefer doing away with rating altogether too sometimes (me being iffy about ratings was definitely a reason, and rating a book at three places including my blog makes it seem so final… ) .. and for a long time my blog didn’t have it.. I started it only after becoming active on Amazon and GR. I thought, might as well include it here too.


  7. Lindsay | Bookboodle October 24, 2016 / 8:46 am

    Reblogged this on bookboodle and commented:
    Really interesting blog here on 3 star reviews! I don’t see a 3* rating as bad, for me it was an ok enjoyable read but not one I’d necessarily shout from the roof tops about and would donate rather than keep on the shelf.
    I don’t use a rating system other than on Goodreads but I’m aware other bloggers do and sometimes I mention in my review what Goodreads rating I gave, and sometimes I don’t. It’s not always about the star rating.
    What are your thoughts on 3* reviews?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ishita October 24, 2016 / 3:50 pm

      Thank you so much for the reblog! I really appreciate it!
      I feel like it would be great if the rating descriptions on Amazon and Goodreads were consistent … I mean, in Amazon a 3 is “Okay” but in Goodreads it is “I like it” ..

      Liked by 1 person

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