An F is an F. But what about a C?

The longer I write reviews, the more confounded I am by star ratings.  When I started rating books, it never occurred to me that different people would interpret them to mean different things.  It’s pretty universal that 5 star books are books we really love.  And 1 star books are the worst of the worst.  But the discrepancies come with the numbers in between, especially that intangible 3-star review. 

If I gave a book 3 stars, I thought it was meh… alright… fair… so-so… a “C.”  Yet other people have told me that for them, a 3-star rating means the book was good, that they liked it.  I guess it’s all semantics, but I’m seriously considering moving to a grade rating system for many reasons.  One, I’ll get more nuances in ratings with +/- options.  And two, maybe if I throw a “C” up on a book I thought was so-so, it will be clearer.  Or maybe not.  Undoubtedly, someone will pop up and say “I think C’s are good.” 

But I’d like to get your thoughts on it before I make a change. Are you guys down with letter grades to rate books?  Would it make things clearer?  Do you care?    


  1. I am fine with either stars or letter grades. It really just comes down to, is it a keeper or a wall banger?

    A 3 star rating for me means, It was just okay, but I will probably never read it again. They pretty much go straight into my trade in pile.

  2. I think of 3/C as average. Lots of issues, room for improvement and slightly forgettable. Not bad, not good, but not necessarily “meh”. I’ve given 3’s to books I’ve enjoyed but that had some issues that prevented me from giving them a higher grade, and yet I would recommend them. I’ve given 3’s to books that didn’t do it for me but weren’t necessarily bad. But grades aren’t universal, so you have to know the reviewer to really get what they mean and also read the freaking review, a 3 doesn’t always mean average, it can be that the reviewer didn’t like the fact that the hero was a cat person when the reviewer hates cats! If the review is detailed then the grading is almost unnecessary, you should be able to tell whether you would like the book or not.

  3. I’m fine with either. However I think that a blogger should probably have their rating system somewhere on their blog.

    For example: 1 Star = awful. 2=bad, 3=meh/ok, 4=good, 5=AWESOME!
    It doesn’t have to be on the main page but somewhere where I don’t have to hunt for it.

  4. While I appreciate what you are trying to do, I don’t know if there is any way to really clear things up.

    Pet peeves for me are reviewers who give a short story a lower rating because it’s short, or mark down a paranormal because it isn’t believable. Then there are those reviewing BDSM books who gave a low rating because it is too intense. And several times I have read reviews of m/m romance where the comment was made that that men would never really touch that much or have sex that often! lol

    And no, I am not kidding, I have seen all of those comments at Amazon and on review sites, too.

    Not every book deserves a five star rating, but when a reviewer consistently decides books are three and under there is either something off with the way the reviewer chooses books to read, or there is just something off with the reviewer.


    • (*sigh*) You may be right.

      As far as your peeves, I think we (reviewers) need to be mindful of selecting books that actually have a chance of pleasing us. Not every book will be a hit. But for instance, I know I don’t like BDSM books, so I don’t read them. My review request policy states that I don’t accept them. It’s not fair to me to force myself through something I won’t enjoy nor is it fair to the author who has written the book for a different audience.

      That being said, I think we all have ideas about our expectations for books, even in genres we like. You brought up believability in paranormals, for example. I suspend my disbelief for certain things in paranormal books, but not for everything. I can accept that there are vampires and werewolves, but may still find the book unbelievable, if say, the heroine was ok with her hero sleeping with her best friend. Or that she would fall in love with the man who raped her, etc.

      In a similar vein, there are some novellas that can feel like a complete story while others feel superficial or unfinished. It depends on the individual book. Sometimes, I may say I want more because the author wasn’t able to use those pages to give me what I needed from the story.

      Thanks so much for your thoughtful comments!

  5. I don’t think I have anything more to add–it seems like all of you have pretty much stated what I would have tried to explain myself. 🙂

    I think every reviewer’s problem is writing a review on a book that was a ‘3’ (or the equivalent to, if the reader uses a different system, the ‘meh’ kind of book). It’s easy to go on for a while saying great things, and even though we dont’ like doing negatvie reviews, when they are done (or considered, maybe never posted) it’s still easier to say why the book didn’t work for you then it is to say the book just didn’t bring out either response from you. 🙂

    I have to agree with the fact that it is not so much the rating as the review. If we did not use ratings at all, can I still read the review and be able to understand what your thoughts were on the book (keeper, ok, not for me, etc)? If not, then regardless of what rating system you use or give to the book, it will not be very helpful to me. 🙂

    Personally, I think the system you have right now is fine–I read the review, not just how many stars you gave it. But if you did change it, that would be fine with me as well as long as you still tell us why you liked/didn’t like the book. 🙂

    Great post, love having dicussions like this!


    • I agree! They are the worst to write! And probably that’s why I worry if people know what I mean when I give it that “3.” Maybe I need to trust that I’m making my point with my words…

  6. The dreaded 3, for me a 3 can mean different things which actually Brie summed up quite nicely so I wont summarize the same. I use halfs, if something was hovering between a 3 and a 4 i pull out the half. Usually a 3 i liked, I didnt love and there is little possibility that it will get re-read or even thought of much after the review is complete.

    I think seeing a grading system like school will kind of be refreshing and a bit unique. Most people will know exactly what the grade means.

    Great post, got us thinking about our own rating systems!

    -Amanda P
    Paranormal Romance
    Books, Shopping & Rock N’ Roll

  7. I’m one of those people who think a 3 star book is still a good book just with some problems. I also prefer to have a 1/2 star as part of the system. The only thing I will say is that I tend to put more stock in the text of the review than the final star rating. So in that sense, in the end, the symbolic rating does not always impact my view of the book.

  8. I agree with the comments that it really rests with the actual review of the book. For me, a 3star is just ok. I will not read it again and if its the first in a series.I probably won’t continue it. I am also a fan of the half star. If I am indecisive of the stars,I will go the half star.

    My pet peeve are those people who leave a two star or one star rating on Goodreads and don’t say why. If you have taken the time to rate the book, give me a sentence or two to say why. What you may not like, may not bother me.

  9. Either is fine. I’ve seen both around and to me them pretty much are the same. It’s like someone having a cute little rating system with symbols instead of starts or letters. It doesn’t really matter what you use it’s what they mean to you.
    Like you said it’s all semantics.

  10. I think the only think you can do is explain your ratings, which you’ve done. Whether three stars or a C you can’t change whether other people look at it differently when you’ve specifically explained your rating. If I see a meh book that caught my attention, I know I’ll get it from the library instead of buying it. But a me, C, or 3 stars will not keep me from reading a book.

  11. I like the idea … If you decide to do that, I would be curious to see what people (see: authors) thought. If it works better, would you mind if I used it at well?

    • That’s very conscientious of you to ask, but it’s not “my” idea. While it’s not nearly as common as the star ratings, some blogs already use letter grades. Off the top of my head, I know Dear Author and The Book Pushers do. I’m sure there are others as well.

  12. I agree with Alexis. But so many people do not read everything on a site, including what the ratings mean so yeah a letter grade would be better in some ways. But I don’t think you can get really creative with them like a regular system. (Like you can’t put hot lips instead of stars like some do).

  13. I use a combo star and letter rating – coupled with a word description. For me, 3 stars is a B, so I’m one of those odd people. If you want to see my rating scheme here is a link:

    I put the letter, stars and text at the end of each review to hopefully make it clear what I think! LOL

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