Now Reading
To 3 or not to 3, that is the question…

To 3 or not to 3, that is the question…

by davincikittieMarch 29, 2012

There is a really interesting and, I think, informative blog hop happening right now at Bitten By Paranormal Romance about just what exactly makes up a “3 star” rating for each review site. The perception, from many readers, authors, and publishers, is that 3 Stars (or Hearts, in our case) is a “bad” rating. I’m not technically part of this hop (although I would have been if I’d known about it – BAD DVK! Must keep up with current blogosphere events better!), but I think this topic has real merit and wanted to add my own clarification about the dreaded 3/5 rating.

[floatquote]The perception is that 3 Stars is a “bad” rating.[/floatquote]On GraveTells, 3 Hearts means “eh, whatever”. It is literally a not-rating. We didn’t like it, we didn’t dislike it. Some would argue that this in itself is a “bad” rating, especially when you’re an author or publisher trying to promote your book. And there is merit to that line of thought. Readers might skim to the bottom of a review, see it only got 3 Hearts, and not even finish reading it. Hell, that’s what I do. I read too many books, have too much to do to spend time or consideration on something that didn’t get a “positive” score.

The reality though, and what I think a lot of people might not consider, is that a review rating only means as much as that reviewer’s relevance to you as a reader. Do you generally agree with their ratings? Have you taken their book recommendation advice and felt satisfied with the resulting reading experiences? While tempting, we can’t just take a quick peek at a book’s Amazon, GoodReads, or B&N score to decide if we want to take a chance on it; we have to dig a little deeper, read through some reviews (and hope we don’t get spoilers – bad reviewers! /handslap) and make an educated decision based on how the comments and review scores match up. It’s about more than just the number and, to be brutally honest, we’re cheating ourselves out of some possibly great reads when we put on the rating blinders.

[floatquote]It’s about more than just the number and we’re cheating ourselves out of some possibly great reads when we put on the rating blinders.[/floatquote]Many review sites define a “3” rating as “I liked it”. Some, like us, define it as neutral. I think there are very few who actually define it as “bad”, so while a 3-Heart score on GT might seem harsh to some, on another site it would actually be even lower. Our highs are higher and our lows are lower – our midpoint is a true midpoint. Here’s the breakdown of GT’s scoring system:

5 Hearts: Golden Heart Award, “A GraveTells fave”
Extremely moving, unforgettable, one of the best books I have ever read
4.5 Hearts: Silver Heart Award, “A must-read”
Excellent read, emotional and satisfying, a hearty recommendation
4.0 Hearts: Bronze Heart Award, “Recommended”
Good solid read, well-crafted, worth your time and money
3.5 Hearts: “Worth a look”
Overall satisfying read, had some issues with pacing, editing, or character development, but some readers will probably enjoy it
3.0 Hearts: “Eh, whatever”
Didn’t dislike it or like it, don’t really want to read it again but wouldn’t discourage anyone from buying it, generally had plot/character/editing issues that kept us from being able to fully immerse ourselves in it
Anything less than 3
Avoid this book. On GT, anything below a 3 is just a shade of “bad”. To date, we have never given a true <3.0 rating. These books are usually culled during the selection process, since reviewers choose their own books and bad books tend to be off-putting, with their clumsy blurbs and boring excerpts.  I’m not trying to be harsh: that’s the reality.  Not every book can be a homerun.

To illustrate how these definitions change from site to site, I recently did a review for another review blog that I felt was a 3 (“Eh, whatever”). However, on that site, “3” means “I liked it” and “2” means “it was okay”, so I went with “2”. I felt like I was reaming this author, giving the book a 2/5 (which in GT lingo is “Skip it”). I didn’t dislike it! I just didn’t really have any feelings one way or the other about it. But readers of the other blog will be expecting that rating system, not GTs, so a “2” is what it ultimately got and, to me, 2/5 is a “bad” rating.

How do you define a 3/5 rating?

Do you take into account the individual reviewer’s history of scores and your shared interests with that person as a reader, or do you just look at the number?


What's your reaction?
Love it, have it!
Sounds fun
Thinkin' 'bout it
Bleh, no.
About The Author
Sue "DaVinciKittie" Brown-Moore is a veteran romance blogger and reviewer and the primary voice for Sue has been shamelessly pimping book boyfriends since 2010 and has won several blogging awards with GraveTells. Sue is also a freelance Developmental Editor passionate about helping authors bring out the best in their stories. She loves reading romance, fantasy, and sci-fi and edits any genre she reads for pleasure. You can follow Sue's editing blog, with tips and tricks for authors, at
  • March 29, 2012 at 1:55 pm

    see, you have those half stars, the half stars really make a difference.

    • March 29, 2012 at 2:17 pm

      The half-hearts definitely make a difference. Else, I couldn’t easily distinguish between a really good book (4.5) and a oh-my-god-it-blew-me-away book (5.0). Likewise with the solid, recommended 4.0 and the you-might-like-it 3.5.

      This discussion has made me realize I should have my rating system out in a more obvious place, rather than buried in the menu like it is right now. /shamefaced

  • March 29, 2012 at 2:04 pm

    For RhiReading I chose to use the same ratings formula as because, personally, the simpler the better’ is how I feel about ratings systems. Which means for my blog a 3 star rating means ‘It was okay.’, but even that can be open to much interpretation.

    It’s essentially the fence sitter of ratings. The rating that didn’t pick a side in the war. 😛 Which can be a bad thing. It means that the book (in most cases) did not provoke enough of a response in me to cause like or dislike. IMHO its usually better to have disliked a book than feel ambivalent to it. That said, I find myself giving 3 star ratings over 2 stars (‘I didn’t like it.’) when there’s something I really didnt like about it but know other readers will likely love. I’m trying to think of an example but at the moment I’m blank. (lol the Midnight Breeds! When we discussed it via email that was how I felt about them.)

    I think in my case the 3 stars are sort of like the catch-all rating. When there’s just not enough LOOOOVE to draw it higher and it’s not so bad I want to scream and tell people how much it sucked. I figure if folks are too lazy to read the actual review to get a sense of why I felt it was ‘okay’ versus another rating they’re not going to really care either way.

    Great discussion!

    • March 29, 2012 at 2:20 pm

      I have a tough time giving less than 3.0 scores too. Partly its that I just don’t even want to finish the book if it’s that bad and partly its that I dont want to smear the author. That said, giving consistently honest (sometimes brutally) and dependable advice is what builds trust with a reader, so sometimes I just have to buckle down and do it. =(

      That and the perfect scores dont mean as much if all I give out is 4s and 5s!

      Great discussion, guys – thanks for the comments!

      • March 30, 2012 at 10:56 am

        I know some reviewers will not give below a 3 star and on one hand I respect their choice not to review a book if it’s not that good but I agree! Without there being some variety of opinion available how can you rely on a 5 star review?

        For years I never wrote DNF reviews. I just figured it wasn’t worth reviewing if I couldn’t finish it. But now that the majority of my books come from sources other than my own pocket, I have begun doing them and making a point to explain why I found it too unenjoyable to finish. It doesn’t always mean it’s a bad book, often the blurb mislead me or I made an impulse pick in Amazon Vine or NetGalley. Sometimes I just couldn’t stand the heroine and decided it wasn’t worth wasting time on it when I could be reading something I would enjoy.

        I’ve had an author get royally pissed I gave them a 1 star review but the funny thing is… I, personally, depend on 1 star reviews when I’m buying stuff. When well written, they’re often more informative and concise than the 5 stars. I rarely will buy something that doesn’t have a few critical reviews, book or otherwise. It gives me th impression that either the reviewers aren’t being honest or have been censored.

        The hardest for me are writing reviews for authors I’ve built a more social relationship with when I have an issue with their book. In the case of one, we’ve become good friends on a personal level because we have a lot in common IRL. But one of her books had this one thing that bugged me. Just one and it wasn’t worthy of a low rating but I did feel judgey pointing it out. I have an intense respect for authors who can read reviews and gain something from the critical ones but as the always awesome Meljean Brook pointed out ages ago… reviews are for readers not authors.

  • Sophia Rose
    March 29, 2012 at 6:02 pm

    I read the review and some times do not even pay attention to how many stars/hearts it got (I’m a deets person). Three does just mean median average to me and means that the book is wide open to interpretation whether its good/bad.

    Thanks for sharing your opinion!

Leave a Response