Chat Between Chapters: 3-Star Reviews, what do they really mean?

February 23, 2014 Chat Between Chapters, Featured Posts 30


 3-starsWhat does it really mean when a book is rated 3 stars? Is it still considered a good review?

Julie Review Avatar Julie:

I struggle with this topic when I cross post my reviews to places like Amazon. Amazon treats 3 stars at just “okay”, while Goodreads treats it as “I liked” the book. Our review rating system treats 3 stars as:  “This book was good, enjoyable, worth reading (not one likely to end up in my sell-back-to-Half-Priced-pile).”

I still consider 3 stars a good review, especially if it is something like 3.5 stars. In my mind that is a good solid enjoyable book, but didn’t quite make it to really great status.

One of my book clubs recently had a chat with author Diane Chamberlain, and she mentioned that she specifically likes to read 3 star reviews because she can learn from them. So even authors acknowledge that a 3 star review has value. These reviews can possibly be the most constructive with listing what specifically did not work for the reader, and what the reader did enjoy.

Rose review avatar Rose:

I always think of a 3 star book as a good book. I tend to give most books 3 stars. Whenever I am deciding if I want to read a book I do look at 3 star reviews. First, the way I decide if I would want to read a book is based on the actual book blurb itself. Second, I consider the source of the recommendation. Was it included in a list of books I really liked? Is it a computer generated “hey, since you read that you might like this?” or did someone who really knows me recommend it? And THEN I look at reviews. People tend to be too free with their 5 star reviews in my opinion. I understand fangirling and all that, but unless you have reviewed some 3 star and also 1 and 2 star books, I really don’t take much interest in your 5 star rave.  I think what Julie said is very accurate. A 3 star review can be very good in honestly reviewing a book and listing what worked for that particular reader and what did not. To me a 3 star review is basically a good book. It is a book I may decide to read again one day and therefore, do not plan to sell back. What about you? What does a 3 star review mean to you?

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30 Responses to “Chat Between Chapters: 3-Star Reviews, what do they really mean?”

    • Julie

      I have a hard time with Amazon because I don’t like rounding up or changing my rating amount from what I post on the blog or GR heh.

  1. Sue

    I would rate a book 3 star if I liked it, but it just lacked that special something or ‘zing’ that would make it great.

    I do look out for, and read, books rated 5 stars – I am just more aware that it’s probably going to be a 3 or 4 star for me. I rate 5 stars to books I loved and consider favourites (South African spelling!) and would be disappointed if these books would automatically be ignored just because I loved it.

    I love your blog and the photos of pile of books along the sides!

    Kind regards
    Sue (aka Crushingcinders)

    • Rose

      Thanks Sue! I know what you mean, I try to reserve 5 star reviews for my “greats” and these are books that I would and do read again and again.

    • Livia

      Sue, I feel this way about my 4 and 5 star novels. 4 star novels had a little something extra and I would reread them if I had unlimited time. My 5 star novels are ones that left me not wanting the story to end, or I felt like I really lived the story with the MCs particularly the heroine. I don’t have much time for rereading being such a slow reader with a crazy amount of unread books collected in all formats, but a 5-star novel goes to the top of my potential reread (typically via audiobook because this is easiest) list.

      In my new to GoodReads and e-book reading days circa 2013, I used to mostly 3-star rate a novel if I felt it lived up to the synopsis, but I didn’t feel a pressing need to reread it. Now I can’t review books with rereading as a major factor because I know of too many authors whose books I still have not gotten to yet to really have time to reread much. A 3-star is now a good, solid story that I wanted to love more but perhaps didn’t feel like the heroine in the story, or it was beyond my the scope of my usual trope preferences.

      I used to sell back my paperback novels when physical books were all I read and I lived near a Half Priced Book store. We don’t have those in Los Angeles though, and now I try not to collect physical books unless they are autographed. I’m a much bigger e-book and audiobook format reader now than DTBs (dead tree book), but I do like to collect and pet the DTBs with a matte finish. =)

      • Julie

        Ooh DTB, I haven’t heard that before. I have a HUGE collection of DTBs that I don’t have time to read. But they sure look pretty.

        • Livia

          Haha! Yes, book spines and covers are a feast for our eyeballs for sure. I’m constantly reorganizing my bookshelves as I collect autographed DTBs. =) I actually like to see the front of the book more so I face them out (or up on my floating shelves) so I see it. Some shelves are a combo of spines out or covers facing out or both. I’m running out of space to store them in my rental. 😛

    • Julie

      Yea that’s a good point. I typically don’t sell the books I rate 3 stars (if I have a physical copy that is). But the 2 star or 1 star books that I happen to have a print copy of get listed on right away.

  2. Carrie

    I try not to read reviews until after I’ve read a book, because I’ve had a book ruined by a jerk reviewer who intentionally threw in a HUGE spoiler without a warning (as in, a character that died in a future book). I do skim them to see if I think it will be worth it and try to find books that are 4+ stars on Amazon if I’m buying them without a recommendation from a friend. But when I’m done reading, I always go back and read all the 3-star reviews because those are the best ones…they are usually the most detailed and the reviewers always seemed to have similar experiences to my own when reading the book. That said, I pretty much love everything and give most books high ratings – unless they’re really awful!

    Thanks for linking up at Wordy Wednesday! I enjoyed reading this post!
    Carrie recently posted…Wordy Wednesday Linky Party

    • Julie

      Wow, that is bad reviewer etiquette right there! We’re supposed to warn before a giant spoiler. Sheesh, so I definitely understand you not wanting to read reviews prior to reading the book.

      • Livia

        I love that GoodReads lets us code and hide spoiler comments. When I cross post to Amazon and Barnes & Noble, I put ****SPOILER ALERT**** so readers who do read a review prior to reading are warned.

        I’m like Carrie 98% of the time. I only look at reviews prior to one-clicking or reading a library book if I’m following a new-to-me author’s newsletter and need to decide if any of their books are worth adding to my WTR pins on Pinterest. I prefer to read reviews after I’ve written my own review. I can fully appreciate them then.

  3. Sophia @ Bookwyrming Thoughts

    I forgot what my 3 Owls are. I think it’s either liked but not memorable and probably won’t remember it unless something triggers it.

    I mean, I don’t really check mine. I use a raw ratings system behind the scenes and round it to the nearest half.

    Either way, I find myself giving books 3.5 Owls more often than in the past. Funny how blogging changes you in rating… O_O

    • Julie

      I notice that as well! I seem to have more 3.5 ratings than anything else. Guess I’m more picky now that I’m a blogger.

  4. Ashley @ Closed the Cover

    I never bother reading 1-star or 5-star reviews. 1-stars are excessively negative and 5-stars are so fan-girl/boy that I rarely give them much credibility. I always read 3-stars and then skim the 2’s and 4’s. I give out a lot of 3’s. To me 3-stars says that the book was good and I liked it but not life-changing and unlikely to be one I remember years from now. Most boosk are 3-stars and that doesn’t mean they aren’t good.
    Ashley @ Closed the Cover recently posted…The Walking Dead – Are the Books Better Than the Show?

    • Julie

      I agree, reading 5 star review can be difficult. Sometimes you just can’t trust them. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  5. Lisa @ Bookshelf Fantasies

    To me, when I give a book 3-stars on Goodreads, it means that the book was fine, but not one I’d rave about. I try to reserve 5-star ratings for books that I consider above and beyond, ones that really stand out as something special or unique. 3 star books are good and probably worth checking out, but probably with a few flaws (plot elements that are unconvincing or trite, underdeveloped characters, etc). I don’t cross-post to Amazon and I don’t use stars on my blog, but for Goodreads, I think it’s totally okay to give a book three stars, and wouldn’t rule out reading a book if I see a lot of 3-star reviews. In the end, it’s all personal opinion anyway. 🙂
    Lisa @ Bookshelf Fantasies recently posted…Review: The Time Tutor by Bee Ridgway… plus a giveaway!

    • Julie

      Agree, the 5 star ratings need to go to books that are just wow. I do admit that before I started reviewing books more often and before I became a book blogger, I used to rate a lot of books 5 star. I really don’t think I’d give them that rating now heh. And yes, it is just personal opinion, and 3 star reviews are still good reviews. Thanks for stopping by 🙂

    • Livia

      In the end it really is all personal opinion, that’s so true! So many things impact my review rating – what mood I was in as I read it, how much did it feel like an easy or slog of a read, how much I quote shared on GoodReads, the hype or lack there of, and if I’m buddy reading it with a book buddy or with a group for discussion either with or without the author participating. I’ve found myself liking some must-read novels that had tropes I may not have enjoyed quite as much when I buddy/group read them. I seem to do more focused and less ADD reading when I do a buddy or group read as well.

  6. April @ The Steadfast Reader

    I agree! Three stars for me is probably a good solid book that didn’t have enough ‘oomph!’ to push it into the four or five star categories. Every now and then I’ll give a book three stars because it fails to speak to me, but still was a decently written book. Three stars doesn’t always mean that I enjoyed it, but I usually specify that in the review.

    Thanks for linking up with Spread the Love!
    April @ The Steadfast Reader recently posted…Monday Musings: Let’s Talk About Amazon

    • Julie

      Yes, thank you! A good solid book, but just was missing something that would bump it up to 4 stars. Thanks for stopping by 🙂

  7. Gayatri

    Normally I don’t really read reviews of a book before starting it. So that I can form a very unbiased opinion of that book. According to me a 3 star rating review is a book I found totally worth my time and might re-read it someday in the future.
    Gayatri recently posted…Teaser Tuesdays #1

    • Julie

      Ooh so you would consider a 3-star book to be a possible re-read, interesting. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  8. Holly Letson

    As Rose stated: “I tend to give most books 3 stars.”

    I don’t have any problem with people rating books 5 stars or being fangirly about books, if they only do that every once in awhile. But, when they start to do it for several books in a row, I do wonder about it. Are they trying to get in good with an author or publishing company to keep getting “free” books or what?

    Back to 3 stars discussion, I rate alot of books/mangas as 3 stars. To me, it means that I did like the book. I probably did not think it was awesome/amazing, but I did enjoy it. Usually, it’s a series book, and it added a little to the storyline, but nothing really major….nothing that just blew me away.

    On another note, it could be a 4 star book that I ultimately enjoyed alot, which did something that I did not like. I remember reading a manga that I was going to make “more” stars, then shows up a guy from this girl’s past, who tries to rape her. I took a star away for that. I made sure to note that (in my GR review) as well. I don’t think that belongs in a book that youngsters have access to reading.

    • Julie

      Ooh that’s a very good point. I’ve also read books that seemed to be a 4 star book but then something happens and it will disappoint so will lose a star. Thanks for bringing that up.

  9. Braine Talk Supe

    I agree with you both. I find 3-star books as average with enough juice to pick up the next book (if a series) or enjoyable enough. I rarely give 5-stars myself, my 5-stars are reserved for books that resonated well with me.

    I dislike it though when authors and tour organizers see a 3-star review as something bad and would ask that you don’t post a review if that’s how you’re rating the book. That’s manipulative on their end.
    Braine Talk Supe recently posted…Love It: Unscathed by Tim O’Rourke & C.J. Pinard

    • Julie

      Ooh I haven’t seen tour organizers not want a 3 star review posted as part of the tour. I’ve seen them request less than 3 stars (or negative) reviews to be held until after the tour, but requesting a 3 star review to be left out is a bit wrong. They can’t all be gems.

    • Livia

      Good point about the authors asking reviewers to wait to post 3-stars. I see where they are coming from though, and I wished they understood that some readers actually prefer to read 3-star reviews the week of release. I’ve seen several reviewers comment that those 5-star reviews are all fangirls. I’d never thought about that before I saw those comments and it took a little bit of my pleasure out of ARC reviewing. Consequently, I try not to ARC review too often any more. I’d rather not be manipulated as you mentioned, and I think readers who post after the release week may actually have more impact than the authors and their publicists realize.

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