Bookish Discussion

{Getting Wordy} Am I A Bad Reviewer?

Have you ever asked yourself this question?

I sure have, and not necessarily for the most obvious reason. I mean, of course I worry about the quality of my reviews. The book blogging world is filled with people who are able to share their thoughts in such unique ways; these bloggers are funny and smart, and can convince me to add books to my to-read list that I never thought I would. Basically, I’m in awe and you’re bloody awesome. πŸ’œEven though your excellence is a great topic, it’s not what I’m planning on discussing today. (Sorry!)

The thing is, I’ve read – and even reviewed – a few novels that were… less than perfect, and yet, I rated them remarkably high, either giving them five or four stars when they – objectively – deserved one less star in each case. As far as I can see, there are four main reasons why this may occur.


#1: I love (certain parts of) a book so much that I’m able to overlook its less than perfect aspects. Not Even Bones, one of my favorite books (!), is an excellent example of this. I didn’t click with the writing of the novel at all; nonetheless, I rated the book five stars. I loved the story, the characters, the general concept and every other part of the book, and so ultimately, I couldn’t round my rating down to four stars, I just couldn’t. In this case we’re speaking about a debut author, which is something I also had to take into account when rating the writing; I was certain her writing would develop, and book two showed that I was right!


#2: I’m a fan of the author and/or the series, and thus, I’m somewhat biased, i.e. I’m a little more lenient with my rating than usual. This occurs most frequently when, objectively, a novel would be worth four stars, but I round it up to five, however, this can also “help” me decide between three and four stars. There are only a handful of authors I love this much, so this is most typical of novels in my favorite series.

The best example of this phenomena would be King of Crows, the final novel in The Diviners series. I’ve been following this series for years, and as such, it has become truly important for me. I adore the characters and their friendships as well as their romantic relationships, some of which I’ve been rooting for since the first novel. Unfortunately, my experience with the final book was… mediocre. Bray didn’t deliver quite as I expected, which was heartbreaking; realistically, King of Crows deserves three stars, and yet, I couldn’t give it less than four.


#3: I’ve reread a four-star read many-many times, and I raised my rating to five stars somewhere along the way. This is an interesting case, because a book would have to be super-close to five stars for this to be a possibility. If I say a novel is a reread worthy, solid four star read, that means it has the potential to reach the magical fifth star one day. This happened to me when I reread Before the Devil Breaks You and Act Like It, both excellent novels filled with incredible characters. In the latter’s case, I found myself loving the story, the characters and the romance so much that I couldn’t not raise my rating.


#4: Finally, I’ve been known to round my rating up to five stars if my enjoyment of a novel is high. This would mean that, yes, I can see some imperfections in the novel, however, I’m willing to overlook them because I enjoyed the heck out of the story. This 1000% depends on my mood, as well! Say, I’m stressed or sad and then a massively captivating or entertaining novel comes along that cheers me up; in this case, I can imagine rating it higher than it would deserve.

I’m pretty sure this happened with A Madness of Sunshine by Nalini Singh, although that was a combination of a few things on this list. Yes, I was stressed because of the quarantine, so it felt great to read something I could get lost in for hours. At the same time, I know and will admit that I’m somewhat biased, too, because Singh is one of my favorite authors. So, you see, these things are not exclusive, they can occur together, further confusing me and my rating.


So, am I conning you all when reviewing these books?

*softly screaming “don’t worry! I’m credible!”*

While I’m not a professional reviewer, it’s never my intention to lie or mislead anyone who might be reading my reviews, so of course I always point out any “negatives” I find. Thus, my review of A Madness of Sunshine contained all the things I didn’t like about the novel. On top of this, I think I’m pretty open with mentioning exactly how much my bias influenced my rating. As such, in my review of The Diviners, I outright admit that I’m biased as hell when it comes to the series, which is why I rounded my rating of the final novel way up.

Ultimately, I don’t think this makes me a bad reviewer, because well, I believe that reviews are subjective. I doubt you can write a fully objective review of a novel or movie, in part because art is supposed to influence our emotions, and when emotions come into the picture it becomes difficult to review objectively. I mean, we’re talking about a story, one that (hopefully) touched you in some ways, not about the newest device. It’s possible to be all technical in a review, it’s hard – or impossible – to completely ignore your emotions.

That said, I know there are much more objective reviewers out there than I am, which is great! I think both subjectivity and objectivity are necessary and good, so basically – you do you.


Let’s chat!

How objective are you in your reviews? (If you’re unsure, think of a review you’ve written and love! Is it subjective or objective?) Which one do you prefer to read? Are you guilty of any of the four things I mentioned?

49 thoughts on “{Getting Wordy} Am I A Bad Reviewer?

  1. My reviews and ratings are heavily subjective. I used to do the whole “writing score, world building score, character score, plot score”, but I found that I enjoy talking about the book more when I don’t have to analyse them while I read them.
    Now I just talk about what I like and what I don’t like, and give an overall “feeling score”.
    But there are times when I’ve rated a book 4 stars because at the end I thought “huh, that was really good” but then I’ve thought about it for weeks afterwards, so I upped it to 5 stars. Same as there are books I rated 5 stars because I was like “best book ever”, but a month later I couldn’t even remember what happened.
    Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. My reviews are definitely subjective. Though I always explain why I feel a certain way. For example, when I read a book by Leigh Bardugo, one of my favourite authors, I’m usually going into it expecting to love it. And I will say in my review that I’d read anything Leigh ever writes, so the readers know that I’m probably not entirely neutral about it. So I guess your reviews should be subjective, while still portray your feelings and what made you feel like that. Reviews can only be subjective, I think. But for example when you said you didn’t like the writing in Not Even Bones much but still loved the rest, that should be how you write in in a review. Other readers might love the writing but maybe others who have a similar taste will know what to expect. So yeah, what I want to say with all this rambling around, reviews can never be completely objective because every individual brings their own experiences/wishes/expectations with them.

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    1. I definitely agree with you, and I do the same, as well. πŸ™‚ (Unless it’s a straight-up recommendation post, because I tend to tag authors in that, and I wouldn’t tag them in something that contains negative criticism.) I feel like it’s important to be clear about the good/bad and the bias we may have. On the other side of what you mentioned, I also really like when reviewers mention, for example, that a novel didn’t work for them for certain reasons, BUT it might work for people who like XY.

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  3. I rarely write full-length reviews anymore, but I always rate based on how much I enjoyed the book. If I know the book is objectively terrible, but I had tons of fun reading it, the book would get a high rating. In my review, I’d explain why I loved it despite its problems.

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  4. I don’t pay that much attention to star ratings because I think they are highly personal and highly subjective. I prefer to read the review to get a more nuanced picture of the positives and negatives about a book. Whether a reviewer rated a book three or four stars isn’t that important to me. I think the main thing is I can look and see it wasn’t rated one-star. That is, it’s still a generally positive review–for whatever reason.

    I prefer to read the review rather than just glance at the rating because I know my ratings can vary based on how I feel about a book. I can objectively recognize that a book was illogical, overly dramatic, and just poorly written. But, if I was hooked regardless, I’ll give it a higher rating for entertainment value. And I’ll say that in my review.

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    1. I fully agree with you, though, I do like to look at someone’s rating just to know what to expect from a review. But the review itself is so much more important for me. For example, for me, a three star rating is not good, it means a novel was mediocre, but for others it can mean that a novel was pretty solid. If I simply look at their rating I might lose interest in a novel, BUT if I actually read a review, I’ll get the full picture.

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      1. Yes, that’s the trouble with star ratings, Everyone’s system is different! I personally consider three stars a good, solid book. Just perhaps not memorable or not something I would reread.

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  5. Someone asked me the other day what I mean when I rate a book certain stars, and I was like: honestly, I’m not too sure myself lol! I definitely think I am a little biased when it comes to reviews. I totally relate to loving an author so much that I am a little generous when it comes to the stars.

    I had a moment where I raised the rating of a re-read just yesterday! I re-read The Crown by Kiera Cass, and had this moment where I loved it even more than when I read it the first (and even second!) time around. It’s funny because I remember being so passionate about why I gave a lower rating when I first read it, and now I was like: nope, it needs to be higher lol.

    This was a great post, Veronika!

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    1. Haha, I *never* had a very concrete description for my star system – I really admire bloggers who have a super concrete idea of what each star (including half stars!) mean.

      I think that’s totally valid (obviously) – part of the reason why I love rereading is that it’s so great to see how my feelings and opinion changed. Thank you!! πŸ™‚

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  6. I love how honest you are with posts like these. I personally really love your reviews because you explain WHY you liked or didn’t like something instead of just going “it was great!” I’m pretty objective with my reviews. I feel like rating systems are very individualistic.

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  7. If one points out both the pros and the cons of a book BUT in the end the book was able to elicit a strong feeling, it’s understandable that that person may end up upping their rating. At the end of the day, though I agonise about my own ratings, I don’t particularly rely on other people’s ones – it’s their reviews that tell me what I need to know. So you’re allowed to cheat a little πŸ˜‰.

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  8. This is such a relatable post for me! Some books are a no-brainer rating for me, and other times I struggle with how I’m going to review the book. I’m definitely influenced by personal bias/love of an author’s previous works, and I think we all are to some degree!

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    1. I’m so glad to see that this is what most commenters say, and I agree with this. It’s impossible to read books without being influenced by certain things – like our love for the author. The best we can do is point out that bias in the review (if we even realize we have it.) πŸ₯°

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  9. i love this discussion! i’ve been getting a lot more critical in my ratings/reviews lately lmao, but i still try to prioritize enjoyment over anything. often, if i have too many objective issues with the book, it’ll affect my enjoyment, and that’s when my rating goes down! but other times, like, for example, with the song of achilles — the beginning was definitely a bit of a drag for me and i originally rated it 4 stars, but i couldn’t stop thinking about it and raised it to 5. (and then, like you said, going back to reread it made me even surer of its 5 star rating!)

    also, kind of unrelated to the topic, but you talking about how much you loved not even bones makes me want to read it even more!! i’ve been reading the webcomic but might stop so i can read the book first, but i already love the themes that it’s exploring (and i love the thai character πŸ₯Ί)

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    1. Thank you! I agree with you – if I have two many problems, the enjoyment factor won’t boost my rating to a massive extent. I *adore* The Diviners and waited years for the finale, but there was no way in hell I’d rate King of Crows five stars. Still, my enjoyment did bring my rating up to four from three.

      I’m always up to talk about Not Even Bones. πŸ₯° That series is INCREDIBLE, I love the characters so much – and yes, the themes it explores are great too – and I do hope you’ll pick up the book. (This is a great reminder for me to check out the webcomic.

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  10. After 6 years of book blogging, I’ve come to accept that once you interact with any kind of art form it is, on principle, literally impossible to be objective and anyone who tells you differently definitely has no clue what they’re talking about lol! I think you’re absolutely right that all art is intended to make you feel something and therefore it’s not possible to make your thoughts on any work of art objective. Tbh, this point is exactly why it frustrates me how many book bloggers seem to hold themselves and others to a standard of rigid objectivity in reviews—not only are you setting yourself up for disappointment but you’re also lying to your audience about what they can expect from you and other reviewers! Anyhow, I always aim to rate and review with honesty rather that with objectivity and I think that’s the best any of us can do. I think there’s also nuance here in that many, if not most, “casual readers” care more about how a book made them feel rather than what made them feel that way (oftentimes because primary and secondary schools, as well as university level electives fail to teach people how to tap into their emotions and reconfigure them as technical literary analysis—but that’s a whole other discussion haha!). In this, it becomes almost less important to have more technical, analytical reviews which might be considered (at least in form) more “objective,” because that’s not what most readers are paying attention to. Anyhoo, great discussion! It really got me thinking!

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    1. I think that’s a great point you make – objectivity is impossible, so what we should aim for instead is honesty. This is why I try to mention my bias (e.g. regarding an author) if it exists (and if I even realize it exists, which is a different question.) I agree with you, most of my university professors did consider feelings as valid things to mention, but before that my primary and high school teachers followed the textbook analysis of literature. πŸ™„ No wonder kids don’t learn to love literature in school. It felt like everyone had impressions and emotions, but they were not heard or appreciated, so analyzing literature became so stale and boring. We basically just listened to the teacher drone on. Thank you! πŸ™‚

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  11. Aren’t all review subjective? They are your opinions and feelings and they are important. I round up almost always. I can usually overlook small imperfections in the book too, if it made me really feel something. When I am flying high on emotion, I will not be nitpicking. I think you spell out what you liked or didn’t like and the reader can evaluate from there.

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  12. I’m definitely more of a subjective reviewer and I’ve also did a lot of the things you’ve listed here too. I felt the same way about King of Crows, I found the story to be a bit anticlimactic but because I loved the writing and the characters of the series so much I still gave it 4 stars.

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  13. I definitely agree with your comments in this post, and can relate with a lot of things.
    (Like the point where you re-rate well-loved books five stars – I do that too! There’s a reason why I keep going back to them, lol).
    I’m also VERY partial to diverse authors who write #ownvoices reviews because 1) I always appreciate those stories, no matter how written just because of how necessary it may be for another readers and 2) the industry is particularly hard on marginalized writers so I always want to support. Which at the end of the day is like, well it’s not really their writing? That’s just my perspective as a reviewer, haha.

    I think this is why I love reading reviews rather than just ratings too, because you see these types of nuances and are ready going in, even when the review =/= the rating. And I think those are valid too! It’s definitely not my place to say whether people are bad reviewers or not (but I can certainly have personal opinions about reviews… lool).

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    1. Exactly! If something is good enough for me to keep going back to, I’ll probably raise my rating at some point, lol. I feel the same way about OwnVoices novels – I mean, most of them that I’ve read are incredible, but I’ve encountered a few that I wasn’t totally satisfied with, and yet I rounded my rating way up. Like you said, these authors already have it harder – and lots of times, the publishers do nothing to promote them – so I don’t want to be the reason why someone didn’t pick them up. I’d rather support them.

      Yeah, same – I like to check the rating to know what to expect from a review, but it’s the review, not the rating, that can make me want to (or not want to) read a novel. πŸ™‚

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  14. I love this discussion!! I’ve definitely thought about this before too because it’s kind of stressful when you’re writing a review. Like are you reviewing your experience of reading the book or are you reviewing the actual content of the book itself? I think I’ve come to terms with the fact that I’m rating my enjoyment of the book. I’ve had times where I’ll rate a book 5 stars because immediately after reading it I was like OMG AMAZING, but then months later I’ll think that it probably deserved 4 stars instead. I think that even though reviewers write reviews for people to read, we’re really reviewing our own personal experience with the book, and if you enjoyed it more, even if there were some things you know were wrong with it, give it that extra star!

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    1. Thank you!! Ooh, that’s a good way of putting it! There can be a massive difference between my experience (or emotional response) and between the actual content, like the plot construction. I agree with you – and, at the end of the day, I’d rather be a bit more lenient if it meant I don’t feel like I have to nitpick things in a novel that I otherwise enjoyed. πŸ™‚

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  15. Reading is subjective. I honestly really loved reading this discussion. I don’t think we should be hard on ourselves when reading. If you enjoyed it then give it as many stars as you want. I’ve definitely been biased towards some books but at the end of the day it’s my personal opinion so there shouldn’t be any harm in that. I’ve rounded books up to 5 so many times especially when I can’t stop thinking about the book.

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    1. Thank you!! πŸ™‚ I agree with you – I’d rather rate something based on my enjoyment than sit down to nitpick its aspects, and with that perhaps ruin my reading experience. Also, yes! I’ve definitely rounded up books that I couldn’t get out of my head after finishing them.

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  16. love this post, vera!! i’ve also been mulling over this topic lately, but for the opposite reasons, i think. πŸ˜… i feel like my ratings have been unfairly low lately, haha. i rate primarily based on enjoyment & investment, so no matter how objectively good a book is, i could still rate it 3 stars if i didn’t enjoy it enough to rate it higher πŸ™ƒ i do try to tell people whether i recommend the book or why they should take my rating with a grain of salt though. and i really love what you said at the end of the post—in the end, every opinion is subjective. even the most objective-sounding of opinions (e.g. the pacing was uneven) is still subjective. but there are undoubtedly more objective reviewers than me out there, so i really don’t take it personally if someone doesn’t fully trust my ratings πŸ˜…

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    1. Thank you!! πŸ™‚ Haha, I think that’s totally valid – and now I wonder if that’s ever happened to me? I honestly don’t know. πŸ˜… I think you do a good job of explaining your opinion in reviews. When I see three stars my mind screams “avoid, avoid!!” but whenever I’ve seen you discuss a three star novel – which I know is a good rating for you!! – in a post, it’s always clear if it’s recommended and why.

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  17. This is such an interesting post, I love it so much! I’ve been wondering about my reviews ever since I started blogging and unfortunately I don’t think that will ever stop. πŸ˜… I’m definitely subjective when it comes to rating books and I think we can’t be objective, really, because there are so many different elements we take into account when reading! I know there are some books I read at a certain time in my life that I ended up praising, but maybe wouldn’t (or not as much) if I read them at another time in my life, either πŸ™‚

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  18. I don’t think any of this makes you a bad reader and reviewer at all! I also have it where I rate books four stars and then I think about them for a long time after and reread them and count them into my favourites. I don’t think a four star rating means it can’t be a favourite, if that makes sense? It means it has flaws and you could recognise this in your mind but loved it nonetheless. I also think rating books five stars when you read them and you’re going off the high of having completed it and overlooking some of the bad parts – totally valid! Maybe you’ll knock a star later, but I don’t think there is anything bad about rating based on feelings. Lastly, we all have bias and that is okay!

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  19. Wonderful discussion as always, Veronika!! ❀ (do you prefer Vera or Veronika? πŸ™ƒ) I also usually end up rounding my ratings up or down at some point. When I finish a book, I’m pretty much on a “reading high” and my emotions are running all over the place (or not if it’s just an overwhelmingly meh book) so I always kind of go to one extreme or another. For instance, A Darker Shade of Magic: when I finished reading it, I rated it 5 stars, and I have no idea why. That book deserves like 3 or 3.5 stars at best. Currently, I’ve dropped my rating to 3.75 rounded up to 4. Honestly, if I sit down to rethink my experience reading that book, I’ll probably drop it again to 3 stars.
    However, I don’t think that’s a bad thing because I am incredibly subjective when I just finish a book. I may be so livid with it for not delivering as I expected it to, or I loved it so much that I think it’s the best thing in existence. But then a few hours later, when I’ve calmed down, I can think about it more objectively (it’s of course still going to be subjective, but it’s less so than when I initially finish) and my rating is more accurate at that time.
    I also am biased for series/authors that I love. For instance, when I first finished The Queen of Nothing, I was crushed and livid at how cheated I felt because it was so MEH and disappointing. But I still gave it 2.5 stars, I think, rounded to 2…😐 I’ve finally dropped my rating to 1, but honestly, the only reason why I bothered giving it a 2 to start with was because I loved the idea of what the book could have been and because I liked The Wicked King. It’s so interesting to see how irrational I can be at times πŸ˜‚

    Anyways, this was a really interesting discussion, and I don’t think any of the things you mentioned make you a bad reviewer. Reviewing books is completely subjective; the point is to share your emotions and experiences while reading the book and explaining why you liked/didn’t like it. And well, we all do these things anyway, so it can’t be wrong lol. Also, my apologies for this long and very late comment πŸ™ˆπŸ’–

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    1. Thank you! πŸ’– Both Vera and Veronika are fine online, irl I use Vera – basically, choose whichever, haha. That’s so me!! When I’m on a high after a book, I can be so excited and happy, and I will end up rating it super-high even if it doesn’t deserve that. πŸ™ˆ
      The Queen of Nothing is a weird one for me, as well! I didn’t *hate* it, but I also ended up lowering my rating (I think) from four to three stars. I feel like the thing with that book is that it’s super-action packed and kept me on the edge of my seat (DESPITE being super-predictable, lol) so when I finished it, it registered as a “good” book in my brain. But when I started to think about the actual content – like the relationship (ugh, I just can’t get behind that!!) or the character arc, I realized that it was BAD.
      Don’t apologize, I love long comments!! πŸ’– (And I myself tend to be late with commenting, haha.)

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  20. Objectivity has no place in reviewing. Books are written to evoke emotions so they will impact our reviews. I always think star ratings are a terrible way to properly categorise a book, it’s all about the review that you can really see a person’s opinion. There you can justify your rating and see the things which influenced it because I know I look at two books with the same star rating and then my level of enjoyment for the two are completely different. But I’m also way too generous with my ratings, if I like something I have a hard time not being too kind with the rating. It’s lower ratings which I almost never give, if I’m not enjoying it I tend to just DNF instead.

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  21. When it comes down to it, reviewing is subjective. There are a few people out there who use a rigid system for coming up with their reviews, but most of us just go with how we feel. I think that’s just fine, honestly. I mostly want to know how much you enjoyed the book—not if it had any possible imperfections.

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