Counting Stars: Review Ranking Systems

At A Chair, a Fireplace, and a Tea Cozy, Liz has a great post up about star-rated reviews, like the ones on GoodReads. Liz feels a lot of pressure when it comes to assigning a star rating to a book review:

“What if I think the structure is amazing but the characters average? In my review, I’ll talk about the plot mainly and not touch on the characters because it’s the plot that engages my interest. How does that fit with stars? What if I don’t think its amazing but I know other readers will –which, again, I can address in a review but not in stars.”

I have the exact same problem. I can see where things like a system of stars or number rankings can be helpful–if you go on Amazon and see that a book has 453 one-star reviews, you can guess it’s probably not a great book. But what’s the difference between a three- and four-star review? Even if half-stars were available, I think I’d still have a rough time deciding how exactly a book should rank. It’s hard to quantify exactly how much you like the book because there’s so much that goes into the reading experience. Like Liz, I’m more inclined to talk about the things that worked for me and the things that didn’t without thinking “That’s totally a three-star book.”

Do you use a rating system when you review books? How do you quantify quality?

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