Discussion: Am I Too Generous With My 5-Star Rating?

(Look, it’s a bookish post! Hooray! … Okay, let’s move on.)

For many reviewers, the most difficult thing to do, aside from actually writing the review itself, is deciding on a star rating. Because while the majority of us do use the star system, ratings tend to mean different things to different people. For example, a 3-star book to me might mean it was only average, but to you it means you didn’t enjoy it.

This came to me when trying to decide whether I wanted to give My Lady Jane 4.5 stars or 5. I realized I’d given a lot of of 4.5 ratings this month, and this year in general. That realization made me realize that I had therefore given fewer 5-star ratings. If compared to my reviews last year, I’ve lessened my number of 5-star reads considerably.

So I wonder: am I too generous, or have I been in the past, with my 5-star ratings?


In 2016 I gave 53 books out of the 109 I read 5 stars. It was the year I got serious about blogging and reviewing, after treating it as more of a sporadic hobby when I created HOG in September 2015. I didn’t think twice about giving 5 star ratings out like candy. Now, looking back, I wonder if all 53 were truly deserving of that rating. That’s just about half of the books I read last year, and while I do applaud my ability to mostly pick books I’ll enjoy, I’m not that good. Not yet anyway. Maybe one day.

Looking back on my 2016 stats, I see a handful of books * I would likely give a slightly lower rating if I reread them. They’ll most likely stay that way, because I prefer spending my time with books I’ve never read before.

* I found them on Goodreads, if you were wondering. On either a phone internet browser or a computer, log in and go to “my books,” then on the left find where it says “stats.” 🙂

Then if I look at 2017 so far, I’ve given 11 out of 27 books 5 stars. That’s a little under half. While my most common rating is 5 stars, I’ve given more 4 and 4.5 star ratings as well. I think that’s an improvement, and a demonstration of how I’ve slowly become more critical.

With this change, I’ve also started to wonder what, exactly, makes me give a book 5 stars. My first thought was simply books that are absolutely amazing. But what makes me say a book is absolutely amazing?

To that, my immediate reaction was that books by certain authors will get 5 stars, but I know that’s not true. My Goodreads might say otherwise, though, because my 5-star reads so far this year have all been written by Richelle Mead or V.E. Schwab, with one exception for Crystal Storm by Morgan Rhodes. XD

In all seriousness, a 5-star rating goes beyond the author. It includes the plot, the characters, the twists, in fantasy the world-building, and in most books the relationships. But it goes deeper than that. Let’s break it down.

  • plot → Is it thought-out and unique or pieces of other stories stitched into an attempted new one?
  • characters → Are they memorable, or just another bunch of fictional people whose names will blur as you read more? Do you love to hate them, or maybe hate to love them? Can you relate to them, empathize with them? Do they evoke emotion in you?
  • twists → Is it kind of predictable, but enjoyable enough to make it a sort of “guilty pleasure read” or is it a thrilling ride you never expected?
  • world-building → Is it explained clearly enough to imagine, or are things left to the imagination? Do the concepts of that world make sense, or do you have to reread paragraphs to understand?
  • relationships → Do any of the characters have present family? If so, are they caring and involved or just there to look pretty in the background? Is there friendship that doesn’t end in betrayal, or is that maybe something you prefer because it keeps you on your toes? Are there connections between characters of the same gender that lead to legitimate friendship, rather than aggression and competitiveness? And if there’s romance, is it paced properly/realistically? Is it a trope spun into something new, or at least written in a way that sets it apart somehow from other stories that use it? Is the couple compatible, or do they clash in a way that makes you like them more?
  • other things to consider → Is the pacing appropriate, given the length of the book? Is there a cliffhanger that guarantees you’ll continue the series, or was it interesting enough without one to do the same? Is the ending appropriate/satisfying, if it happens to be a stand-alone novel? Does it include diverse representation, and if so, is it accurate and well-done?

Okay, so maybe I went a little too far with that, but all of that is considered in some way when I rate a book. There’s also smaller details that come with each book, and sometimes personal connections or preferences. * I’m sure you all can relate.

* Let’s not forget that there might also be more details to think about when you read specific genres.

I’ve definitely strayed from my original topic, regarding whether or not I personally am too generous with my 5-star rating. But going back to that, I think that in 2016 I definitely did give out 5 stars too often. I realize I read a lot of great books last year and did get a bit more critical in the final months, but I don’t think I truly considered my ratings. So far this year I’ve subconsciously been more thoughtful about how I rate books, and now that I’m really focusing on it I think I’ll do even better. That’s not to say I don’t want to give books 5 stars, because I do. Rather, I want to be a bit more contemplative and make sure I’m giving the best rating to, well, the best books. 😉

How many 5-star ratings have you given this year? What was your last 5-star read? What factors help you decide how to rate a book? I’d love to know! Tell me in the comments! 🙂

I’m off to continue reading Three Dark Crowns. 😉 I hope you all have a fabulous day/night, and thank you guys for your support on my last two posts! ❤

Until next time…

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6 thoughts on “Discussion: Am I Too Generous With My 5-Star Rating?

  1. I just did a similar post to this too XD I am way to generous with my 5 star ratings looking back at all my reads I can see a lot that I gave 5 stars that aren’t my fave anymore or that I would rate different now that I can look back and see that the story or characters just weren’t that great.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I try to consider everything when it comes to book reviews and ratings, but my rating is mostly focused on my feelings – if I liked the book or not, and then explain why. I don’t think I give too many 5 stars, but other people might think that. It really depends on who’s writing and who’s reading, I think. Great post! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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