book review

Reading and Reviewing Books With Low Average Ratings

Reading and Reviewing Books With Low Average Ratings

Hello friends! It’s Vera here today, with a post about novels with low average ratings. I’ve always felt like my biggest flaw as a reader / blogger is that I pay close attention to books’ goodreads average rating. Despite knowing full well that I won’t necessarily agree with the majority of readers, I tend to ignore books with low average ratings. There’s something scary about knowing that a vast amount of readers didn’t enjoy a book, so I don’t usually pick up books with an average rating that is lower than 3.6, and honestly? Anything under 3.8 is scary to me. 🙈

However, recently, I realized that I had multiple books on my to-read list that I really wanted to give a chance to despite their low average rating. So instead of deleting them from my to-read list like I normally would, I purchased a copy of them, sat down and read them. It is time to take a look at them and see how much I enjoyed (or didn’t enjoy) them and what I think of them.

Even If We Break by Marieke Nijkamp

FIVE friends go to a cabin.
FOUR of them are hiding secrets.
THREE years of history bind them.
TWO are doomed from the start.
ONE person wants to end this.

Are you ready to play?

Out of all the books on this list, Even If We Break was the one I had the most hope for. Firstly, Sabrina loved this novel, so much so that she even dedicated a full post to it, which you can read here. Secondly, I read Marieke Nijkamp’s debut years ago, and I quite enjoyed it. These two things gave me hope that despite its below 3.0 average rating, it wouldn’t be a disappointment.

After reading the novel, I’m a bit confused by all the one-star and two-star reviews Even If We Break received. As someone that’s read a lot of mystery, thriller, and horror, I didn’t find the story particularly unique or special, but I still thought it was a nice, intriguing ride. The best part of the book, in my opinion, is how atmospheric it is, in particular the first half of it. I found the parts before the action started to be full of foreboding tension, and I couldn’t stop reading them. Later, when the action started, I was still invested, however, I did feel that the second half of the novel was a bit less tension-packed and exciting than the first half.

Something I saw multiple people say is that they found the characters to be badly made, which I don’t really agree with. I found most of the cast likable and I was really rooting for them to survive and to restore their friendship. Something I do agree with is that the murderer is relatively easy to guess, which is perhaps the very thing that made the second half feel a bit boring for me. However, I still think the book is worth reading, and ultimately, I decided to rate it four stars.

The Death of Jane Lawrence by Caitlin Starling

Practical, unassuming Jane Shoringfield has done the calculations, and decided that the most secure path forward is this: a husband, in a marriage of convenience, who will allow her to remain independent and occupied with meaningful work. Her first choice, the dashing but reclusive doctor Augustine Lawrence, agrees to her proposal with only one condition: that she must never visit Lindridge Hall, his crumbling family manor outside of town. Yet on their wedding night, an accident strands her at his door in a pitch-black rainstorm, and she finds him changed. Gone is the bold, courageous surgeon, and in his place is a terrified, paranoid man—one who cannot tell reality from nightmare, and fears Jane is an apparition, come to haunt him.

By morning, Augustine is himself again, but Jane knows something is deeply wrong at Lindridge Hall, and with the man she has so hastily bound her safety to. Set in a dark-mirror version of post-war England, Starling crafts a new kind of gothic horror from the bones of the beloved canon.

Out of the three books in this post, it was The Death of Jane Lawrence that I was the most reluctant to pick up, so it was a pleasant surprise that it turned out to be the one I enjoyed the most. Granted, it took me a bit of time to get into the story, as the start is slow and it takes some time for the plot to get to the part the blurb describes. That being said, I did ultimately become invested in the story, and I found the second half especially engaging and captivating.

For a long time, even after I got into the story, I was going to rate The Death of Jane Lawrence three stars, however, the last approximately 1/4 or 1/3 of the novel made me round up my rating. I could not put down the book during this part and I loved the sort of fever dream quality this part had to it. That being said, I looked up the reviews to see why people hate this book and what I found was that a lot of readers disliked these parts the most, so take from that what you will.

In any case, I genuinely enjoyed The Death of Jane Lawrence, and would recommend it to Gothic Romance fans who are more interested in (dark) magic than in ghost hauntings.

Nothing But Blackened Teeth by Cassandra Khaw

A group of thrill-seeking friends in search of the perfect wedding venue plan to spend the night in a Heian-era mansion. Long abandoned, and unknown to them, this mansion rests on the bones of a bride, and its walls are packed with the remains of the girls sacrificed to keep her company.

Their night of food, drinks, and games quickly spirals into a nightmare, as the house welcomes its new guests. For lurking in the shadows is the ghost bride with a black smile and a hungry heart.

And she gets lonely down there in the dirt.

My Thoughts:

To be totally frank with you, when I added Nothing But Blackened Teeth to my to-read list, it’s average rating, despite the mixed reviews, was quite a bit higher. It wasn’t until I bought a copy for myself that I saw how low the novella’s rating dropped. That being said, I still had hope that I’d fall into the camp of readers who loved, or at least enjoyed the novella. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen… instead, I think I’m somewhere in the middle.

Something a lot of reviewers had an issue with is the writing style, but personally, I didn’t find it bothersome. The main issue for me was that the characters felt only half-developed – if that – and I found it challenging to care about them and to be invested in their survival. I was especially annoyed by the fact that their messy backstory was hinted at multiple times, but at neither point did we venture into it as much as I hoped we would. I’m not sure how I’m supposed to be invested in a conflict – or more like multiple conflicts – when I’m only given a bit of information about it.

As for the plot, while the original idea was fun and the story started off in an interesting way, I ultimately closed the book feeling like the story was underdeveloped as well. At parts, the story flowed easily and I couldn’t take my eyes away from the novella, but at other parts the story was incredibly rushed. In the end, I decided to rate this a very neutral three stars – the concept was really good and the novella had some enjoyable parts, but I can’t overlook the fact that I felt a bit like I was reading a first draft rather than a fully developed, published novella.

To conclude..

I’m actually really pleased with the results of this post! It showed me that I shouldn’t pay as much attention to average ratings as I usually do, as I won’t always agree with the majority.

Do you pay attention to average ratings? Have you read any of these books? What did you think of them?


7 thoughts on “Reading and Reviewing Books With Low Average Ratings

  1. Nothing But Blackened Teeth has been on my TBR for ages, but I had no idea the rating had dropped so much. I think I’ll still check it out, but it definitely dropped some places on my TBR list after your review.


  2. Such a great post!! 💖 I’m also swayed by the average rating on Goodreads, especially if it’s lower than 3.6 🙈 I’m glad to see that you liked Even If We Break, I have been meaning to read it despite the mixed reviews I have seen!


  3. The Goodreads average rating is usually higher than what I would rate a book. So, if I see a GR rating below three, I do start to wonder about the quality of the book because everything on that site seems to be at least 3.6 or higher!


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