December 8, 2012

Pajama Musings - I beg to differ!

Where there are opinions there are arguments, conflicts, and even heavy clashes. What I'm talking about? Neither politics, nor religion. Reviews. Yes, reviews.

Those who write them will almost inevitably have experienced this phenomenon. Not so much that tastes in books may differ, because they do and this is certainly not a bad thing. Some people will not just disagree with you, they will start throwing tantrums of the size of my unread book piles. Those who don't know about my mountain ranges of unread books yet, trust me, we're talking huge. Piles and tantrum, for that matter.

While I have never been attacked by an author whose book I reviewed - the worst that ever happened was an author ignoring my e-mails after posting a 3 star review and the only consequence was that I was then not able to offer a copy of the book in question in a giveaway as had formerly been promised by said author - I received a fair share of ... uhm, remarks on sites such as Amazon.
Earlier this year I reviewed Dispatches from Bitter America (Todd Starnes) which made some of my readers comment about how they would not even touch a book like that with a ten foot pole *waves hello to Rikki*. In my defense, I was curious, I read it, and I shared my opinion. We're talking 2 star review here.

Here are two comments I received on Amazon:

-This book was written by an American for Americans. As you have said, you are too European. As such, you would not understand. So why did you even offer a review?-

-I see ... Liberals have to be warned about what they should or shouldn't read because it might change their thinking. Don't confuse me with the facts I already made up my mind.-

Apparently you can't make either party happy, but that's ok. Let's keep in mind that what I posted is actually a review and not just an appeal to the general public to basically burn the book. You should see some of the other reviews, especially those adorned with 1 star, and the comments on those. The worse the review, the more likely people will claim that you obviously never read the book. Hmmm ...

So, the example of comments I got are far from being hateful, but it illustrates that, please speak after me, opinions differ between individuals. Shocker, right?

What did get me going, a little bit at least, was a recent comment about my star ratings. Apparently one of my reviews read like 4 stars so how dare I only give out 3 stars? Let me think, probably because I thought the book was only average? 

The thing with reviews is that the actual review and the star rating won't always make sense to others. The fact that the "meaning" of each star rating is often slightly different, depending on the site where you post your review, doesn't exactly help matters either.

5 stars - I love it
4 stars - I like it
3 stars - It's ok
2 stars - I don't like it
1 star - I hate it

5 stars - It was amazing
4 stars - Really liked it
3 stars - Liked it
2 stars - It was ok
1 star - Didn't like it

See the differences? What's ok on Amazon is apparently more than ok on Goodreads. And now let's add that every single blogger and book reviewer has his/her own concept of what each star rating means to them. 

As much as I find star ratings mildly helpful, all I can say is - read the actual review that goes with it, and even better still, read the book yourself and build your own opinion! What I most certainly don't need are some know-it-all's who haven't read the book and who think my rating is wrong. Wrong compared to what!?

What's your take on ratings - are they a good thing or do you feel they can be misleading sometimes? In case you're a book reviewer, do you post your reviews (as I've seen some bloggers do) without a star rating? And how about you, my dear readers, do you decide whether a book is worth picking up by their ratings? Please share.


  1. I am also confused by the different rating systems on Amazon and Goodreads, and very often I think about removing ratings from my reviews. Someone sees two stars and decides that it's not worth reading... I tend to read the reviews-mostly negative ones. Is it just me or do they give a better insight into what *really* didn't work in the book?

    Also, I'm more likely to trust Goodreads reviews. Those on Amazon are too easily removed, and when I see only five star reviews, I get suspicious...

    1. It's true, negative reviews usually give you more insight, especially seeing how some 5 star reviews will be nothing but gushing without even scratching the surface of what a book is made of (well, not all great reviews are bad, of course). I couldn't say that I prefer to read the negative ones though, usually I'll read across all the ratings to get a better idea of what's great (or not) about a book.

      I also prefer reviews on Goodreads as I find the community on there a lot more trustworthy.

  2. I trust Goodreads more. Authors on amazon have tendencies to fake their reviews. Plus, people on Amazon write one or two sentences about a book. People on Goodreads write REAL reviews! :D

    1. Me too. Goodreads reviews might be short too sometimes, but on Amazon there is often not that big a quality standard when it comes to reviews.

  3. I don't really take into account rating when I choose to read a book. This can be quite misleading and people are always subjective when they rate... I sometimes look back on a book and think I may have rated it way better than it deserved, but it is just the mood of the moment I guess...

    1. While I do look at the rating, the important part to me is the actual review too. And I confess, sometimes I rate according to my mood too. It doesn't happen often, but in the past two years I did chance ratings on maybe a handful of books, because I later on found they either deserved one star more or less.

  4. I don't care about ratings on Goodreads or Amazon because I don't know what type of literature the rater likes. I don't like chic-lit, but when I do happen to read a book of that genre (once a year I try to force myself just to see if I've changed my mind) the odds of it getting 5 stars is very unlikely. Probably a 3.5 at most, but most likely a 2.

    When I had my other book blog I did have an author contact me after I gave his book 1/5 and said that it was shit (not in those words, mind you). It was called Gigolo and cos £1 so I thought, why not try it. He went on and on about how he had put in so much of himself in this book and blah blah blah - I didn't bother replying to him cos all I had to say about the book was said in the review. I don't simply go "hate it" or "love it" - I explain why I love or hate something.

    Also, I love your review of the America book and I can see how he'd be upset because he seems to take things VERY seriously. But to resort to passive aggressive message is childish. The book should have said "For Americans Only" on the cover is he's going to be all bent out of shape about a European reading it. Some of us read to educate ourselves, but I suppose he'd know nothing about that. FOX News - ha! I especially love how every low-starred review of his book on Amazon has a bitter reply to it. Maybe that's his issue; he's just bitter all the time.

    And, as per usual, my reply is longer than your post :)

    1. Ha, I love when your comments have a longer word count than my posts!

      You raise an interesting point there. While I try to see each genre as a separate entity it's often hard for me to give "the same" rating to a "seriously profound book" and a "fluffy light novel". If I enjoy both the same way, they deserve the same rating despite one being more "meaningful" while the other is only there to "entertain". Of course this does not always work that way when I rate/review.

      Oh my, authors who get nasty when they receive bad reviews ... first of all tastes are different, secondly you explained what worked or didn't work for you in that book which is light-years from bashing a book without reason. Some authors just can't handle critics thus are are simply not willing to maybe mull over what's being said about their book and possibly even learn from it. Sad, but true.

      Good point about the whole "being bitter" business! :-D

  5. I don't pay much attention to reviews any more, but use to years ago. If I think I will like the book, I read it and depend upon my instincts on this subject. But, I mostly read non-fiction, historical and some political stuff.

    After traveling in Europe for the past ten years, I see little difference any more between the way Europeans think and the way we Americans think. We are all pretty much the same except for a language problem at times.

    1. I guess I mostly pay attention to reviews because they alert me to interesting books in the vast market of new publications. I find it great that you rely on your gut feeling when choosing books!

  6. Ha, how dare you review a book that was written for Americans? Serves your right for reading it, :).
    As for amazon reviews, as long as people rate a product with 1 star because it took too long to ship their reviews are worthless. But you CAN find some pretty funny ones in between - great for entertainment.

    1. I knooooooow ... shame on me!!!

      Funny reviews? Do I know about them? Of course! There are even websites dedicated to such laughter-inducing Amazon reviews. Great for those days when you're bored and have nothing else to do!

  7. I am sure you have read the hilarious reviews of the bestseller "How to avoid huge ships". Make you cry with laughter.