Last Week on Inked Brownies

Those pesky three star reviews

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?


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…

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About Anne (231 Articles)
Dutch book reviewer who reviews in English. Grammar nazis beware!! I like brownies. And chamomile tea.

34 Comments on Those pesky three star reviews

  1. For me 3 stars means one of 2 things:
    – the book was fine: it was ok, I enjoyed it well enough, it passed the time, but there was nothing extraordinary about it.
    – there were several things I didn’t like or I didn’t enjoy reading the book, but there were lots of good things about it which just managed to balance these negative feelings out.

    In general, I don’t see 3 stars as a bad rating at all. And if I give something 3 stars I’d still recommend it to readers who enjoy books in that genre because they might get more from it than I did!

    But what Ishita says is right: I increasingly get the sense that were somehow “expected” to give 4 and 5 stars to everything. I think that’s a shame. I give 5 stars so sparingly because I feel that’s the only way my followers will truly know when I find a book mind-blowingly brilliant. Otherwise, how do we differentiate?

    Liked by 2 people

    • My definition of ‘it was ok’ used to be 2 stars. But I noticed a shift as where I used to be way more critical, I get softer now on the stars because of the general attitude towards everything lower than 4 stars. I once gave 4 stars and then the author told me “Oh well, guess I can’t have it all”. Say what now?? 🙂

      I’m glad you don’t hand out the 5-star ratings like candy either <3. It’s the only way to get those great book recommendations you would’ve missed in the 5-star masses otherwise 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  2. rashthedoctor // 23/08/2016 at 16:32 // Reply

    And that’s why i rate books with a scale of 10 stars , often books that i rate 3 stars on Goodreads get 6 or 7 rating points , i think when it comes to 5 stars scoring people think a 3 star is average or bad , when actually it might feel the reviewer as a good book , just not spectacular enough to deserve a 4 or 5 stars

    Liked by 2 people

  3. novellique // 23/08/2016 at 17:22 // Reply

    I think there’s a great confusion because the goodreads rating system is different compared to how people actually use it. For me, 3 stars is a “meh, it was okay” – it usually means that I finished it and felt it was okay, or didn’t feel particularly strongly one way or another, or liked it but felt there were issues which I couldn’t ignore. 4 stars to me means good/great, and 5 stars means excellent. I agree about not giving out 5 stars too often – authors should respect that their works aren’t often perfection because perfection is so subjective and near impossible for the vast, vast majority of novels.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It is confusing! I always have to adjust my ratings on Amazon and NetGalley. There’s a ‘hated it’ and a ‘didn’t like it’ star. If you’re going to use 2-3 stars for negative ratings (3 is already considered a critical review) it means you can always either rate it with 4 or 5 stars if you liked something/felt like something was alright. 5 stars means perfection to me as well, and unless we live in some dystopian setting, almost nothing is truly perfect 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  4. To me, 3* is also “just ok”. Not a great read, not extremely bad either. A 3/5 is the same as a 6/10. As a teacher I wouldn’t be happy with a student getting a 6… So in that way I understand disappointment

    Liked by 1 person

    • Aargh, stupid enter being so close to my letters on my cell phone…
      What I was saying: in that way I understand the disappointment from writers when they “only” get a 3* review.
      Though I think that if you make clear how your rating system works, there should be absolutely no problem with handing out 3 stars.

      Liked by 1 person

      • giggles happens to me all the time. But yes, looking at it from that angle, it’s understandable. I wouldn’t be happy with a “Yay, I just passed!” either. The individual rating systems (or just the Goodreads rating system) or usually a lot more positive than that and they should look at that instead, indeed :).

        Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve been thinking about comparing it to the 1-10 system, but that 6 could also be a 7 ? 4 stars=8 or 9. 5 stars=10. Unless you use half stars, making a 3.5 = 7, in which case you’re right about the 6. Oh maaan, why can’t they just use the 10 star rating in the first place?! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  5. 3 stars equates not bad, but could have been better for me. But let’s be honest, a lot of things can be better 😉 But reviews are all in the eyes of the reviewer. That is why we set our own guidelines. If I love it, I love it and vice versa. I dont actually pay a lot of mind to the number of stars if we are being completely real. I usually make my decision based soley on how I feel after reading the write up 😊 But I also don’t really care what anyone else thinks because I am a bit of a jerk 😘 Except for you Anne, your opinion always matters!

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I will leave the 3 star book rating to you because you are the professional in that category BUT I am going to look at this from my own perspective and hopefully it makes some sense but who knows! When I think of the 3-star rating, I think of it in terms of netflix when wanting to choose a movie and deciding which movie to watch based on the stars. Normally people tend to want to watch the 4 and 5 star movies and skip over anything a 3 or below. I find that I have probably watched way more 3-star movies on netflix than anything else, why? because I didn’t just view the stars and decide “it probably sucks”, I read the actual reviews and built my opinion based on that and also by watching the trailer or deciding how interested I would be in it based on the synopsis. I think this kind of might go for books as well, because if we were to base our opinions on the amount of stars for everything in life, we might have missed a great opportunity! Also, because one person finds it a disaster does not mean you will, I have seen many reviews talk lowly about a movie and once I watch it, I enjoy it because maybe I understand it, maybe it goes along with my character or something about the movie has my heart racing, etc. So overall, I always give 3 stars a chance because 3 stars in my opinion means “it wasn’t great but it wasn’t horrible” this actually makes it easier for me to watch it and make my own assumption!


    Liked by 2 people

    • Good point there Shay-lon! Because this certainly doesn’t just apply to books, I see it everywhere! If something has been rating with a 6.5 on IMDB, it usually means my hubby loves it. And one of my all-time favourite movies has a rating of goes off to peak, a 5.7! It’s all about the personal preference, one person’s shit can be another person’s gold! (or something xP). If there’s a review stating that something is clearly okay, or entertaining enough to watch/read, then I really don’t see what the problem is. Thank you for putting in your 2 cents! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I agree with you. For me what separates a 3 to a 4* is mostly if I would want to read it again. 4* yes, 3 is no once was enough. And 2 is for when I see a lot of flaws and I’m actually kind of disappointed in the book. So 3 is a fairly good score in my books. Of course authors would all love to have 5* or the next best thing, being 4* but they can’t all be 4*.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I like that one. Re-read material or not. I agree with not wanting to read the 3 stars again. Not because they were bad, but because it was enough, indeed. 4’s and 5’s would mean every book is great! And then there’s the 3’s and DNF’s or something. That’s just a really surreal way of rating things.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Like you, Anne, I’m in complete agreement over the misunderstood, 3-star ratings – but let me explain my own criteria…

    If I completely adore a book and it’s well written & edited, with the perfect cover, it’s a 5-star, with maybe a 1-3 sentence written review. But my reviews are usually, I think, a bit more comprehensive.

    By the time I feel comfortable writing one for a book that I would give 4-stars and under, a bazillion reviewers have talked about the story itself – whatever I would add to that would border on redunancy.

    I want to give a “heads up” to potential readers on what to expect, warts and all. Throughout my reviews, I will indicate whether or not the book was in a genre I enjoy, that the quality of writing was such that, even for me, it made it worth the read, and even if the storyline has such potential that the 1-3 star I gave it could easily go up to top ratings if the author took the time and effort to write a well proofed and edited 2nd edition…while critically urging the acquisition of professionals to insure it’s success (this from a self-pubber who not only didn’t have a pro to help, but even forgot to format for page numbers and header/footer!😧).

    I have recommended 2 & 3 star books – provisionally – and given 4-5 stars to books that I personally did not like (again, provisionally)…because objectivity is, imho, more effective than just saying “Liked It”, “Loved It”, “Hated It”!!

    My 2c. Just sayin ‘ 😕

    Liked by 1 person

    • There’s never anything redundant about adding yet another review to the masses. There could always be people who are following you and haven’t seen the other reviews yet. Which is usually the case for me if I spot something on someone else’s blog (unless it’s A Court of Thornes and Roses :’).

      I like your approach. It takes away a lot of the emotions and just focuses on the writing itself a.k.a. being objective indeed :). I try to stay objective and always keep the “What would someone else think of this?” in mind, but the emotions almost always overtake the review writing process :). Which is fine with me, as long as I still explain why and then someone else can base their decision on if it’s a dealbreaker for them or not. As long as all the stars are being used! We might as well just have a 3-star rating system otherwise with those 3 definitions you just mentioned there in the end! Redonkulous! Thank you for the 2c! 😉 ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  9. agreatreviewer // 23/08/2016 at 22:52 // Reply

    Yeah the 3 star rep bugs me. For me on my blog, 3 stars means it was a good read! There is absolutely nothing wrong with good. Even 2 stars for me isn’t too bad. It means the book was okay. Not perfect, not terrible, just okay. And 1 just means it wasn’t for me. I never want to say a book is terrible. Because that’s not right. Sure there are books I don’t enjoy as much as others, but there are still people who think they’re awesome and worthy of 5 stars! That’s okay too! We all have different opinions and that’s what’s so great! Especially when I am debating over a read, I want to know all sorts of opinions. Sometimes I might not want to know of the not so happy ones when I’m leaning more towards wanting to read it, other times I am right down the middle of not knowing. I need all the opinions I can get!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Same here! I think you can say that you found a book to be terrible, as long as you also mention that someone else might find it amazing. Most reviews are completely subjective anyways and you can always read several POV’s and then make your decision based on that. If someone says they didn’t like it because there was a lot of pointless animal killings in it, then I’m going to pass on it as well. But if someone says they didn’t like it because they just couldn’t get into the story or writing style, then that’s no reason for me or someone else to not read it. There’s just no negative definition to 3 stars in my book (heh) and I’m glad it’s the same way in yours! 🙂


  10. Three stars for me is “okay”. Not great not bad. Good enough to not dnf, but nothing special. .

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think that’s more of a 2-star rating for me 😀 DNF is < 2 stars :). But that still means that in your rating system, 3 stars are still not considered a bad rating! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Agree! I think you’ve got a really good approach in terms of trying to remove the really emotional stuff from the reviewing. That’s something I still struggle with as I’m such an emotional reader!

    For me, a three star review means that I liked it, but there were some aspects I found problematic. It’s kinda like a mid-way point, but it definitely doesn’t mean that I think it was awful!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m trying, but it’s ridiculously hard for me as well! 😀 I go off on a rant or rave pretty quick. And emotional reviews are usually the most fun ones to read if ya ask me ;). Just as long as there’s the recognition that other people might think differently about it :). Mid-way point it is! The 1’s and DNF’s are reserved for awful 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  12. bookheathen // 24/08/2016 at 13:14 // Reply

    I find star-rating an unsatisfactory way of judging a book. What is one rating, after all? The level of enjoyment, the author’s writing skills, the cover, the editing ….. what?
    For example, not so long ago I read a story (I won’t say what) that had so many printing and grammar mistakes that I almost put it aside in disgust. But it was an excellent story – good plot, interesting protagonist . It was just so badly presented.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I like to read the thoughts behind a review more as well instead of scrolling down to see the rating. Sadly, most people only want to see those ratings and don’t care about the content. Books like that just need a good editor! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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