Thursday, March 29, 2012

3 Star Rating Blog Hop

Welcome to the 3 Star Rating event.

During this two day event, 21 Book review websites and blogs are taking an opportunity to delve into the murky area of book review ratings. We are tackling the often controversial 3 Star Rating, what we here at Bitten By Paranormal Romance call One Good Howl.

Today book reviewers are discussing in detail and educating our followers and authors on what a 3 Star rating means to us since so many people seem to react differently to seeing this much maligned rating. It is also an opportunity for our followers to tell us in their comments how they feel about reading, or the possibility of reading, a book we have given a 3 Star rating.

Return tomorrow to to see how several authors feel about the 3 star rating. What it means to them and how they feel when their work receives this rating.

I originally came up with this idea after Laurie and I were talking about how we'd seen some authors and fans "talking" about the 3 star ratings in some comments on other sites and discussion groups. We were blown away when we saw what people thought about 3 star ratings.

What BBPR's reviewers are saying about 3 star ratings:


What does it mean when I give a book a 3 star, or One Good Howl, rating?

This means I liked the story, it was good, I recommend it, it is worth the time and money spent on it and you should read it. Will I re-read it? Maybe but probably not because I am so busy. There may or may not have been some editing/craft issues, I may not have liked the ending or possibly a character, or it is just not a favorite genre, but this doesn't mean it wasn't a good story.

A 3 star rating is not a bad thing. It doesn't mean it is just okay. It is where most books start for me. To get a higher rating, the book needs to really wow me, make me laugh out loud or cry. It also makes me want to read it again and sometimes over and over again. If there are too many editing issues or there are story problems or I don't like the subject matter, it will move down to being just an okay book or down even further to "nothing to howl about" or a 1.

So people a three star rating is a GOOD thing. Say it with me, "a three star rating is a good!" Repeat as often as necessary.


Most people see a book is rated 3 stars and think it is a bad book and they stay clear of reading it. Some authors and publishers frown upon a 3 star rating because they also feel like it’s a bad rating. I myself find a 3 star rating a good book; they are just not a book that keeps me on the edge of my seat or in the can’t-put-it-down mode.

Prime example of a 3 star book for me is Gena Showalter’s latest, The Darkest Seduction. It’s a good book but it didn’t carry the elements I need to keep my attention. If I can put a book down and start playing a video game and completely forget about it, well it’s not holding my attention enough so I need to get it done. You might think that sounds bad, but I don’t because the book has good things in it like the characters and story and once I put it down and pick it up a few weeks later, I still remember where I left off. The thing is, once something starts dragging on me I get bored really quick even if it’s good. So, my 3 star books are good books they just don’t have the attention getting elements I myself look for in a book.

I never see a 3 star rating as a bad book because I myself have picked up books my friend’s rated a 3 and loved them.


Ah, the ever dreaded rating of “3”. I’ll never understand why there is such an outcry over this rating. Most of the people walking the earth are average, and we like ourselves just fine! But before I go any further, let’s take a look at the rating system according to Goodreads – because it’s simpler, straight forward and most of us are familiar with it.

3 Stars – Liked it

Take a good look at the 3 Star Rating: It states that I LIKED IT. Not that the book was average, just okay, ho-hum, mediocre, dull, lackluster; you get the picture? A three star rating means I liked the story, the characters, the setting – something was there to grab my initial interest in the book and then keep it enough to finish reading the book. Hook, line, sinker.

Any type of writing in any form (novel, short story, fiction, non-fiction, poetry, blog, journalism, etc.) is very personal for both the author and the reader. The reader may come away with something not quite what the author had intended. For me, when I give a rating of 3 some of the factors involved may be (in no particular order):

  • I’ve read better work by this author and this one doesn’t meet the benchmark I have established for him/her.
  • The book needed better editing.
  • The book didn’t move me emotionally.
  • The Storyline didn’t “connect” with me.

Now imagine what all the other readers and reviewers must be thinking about. *shiver* Makes my head spin.

I don’t consider a rating of 3 stars as bad. Hell, I wouldn’t consider a rating of 2 stars - It was okay - as the “kiss of death”; as long as the reviewer explains their reasoning behind the rating. Different strokes for different folks.


I've always had mixed feelings on a 3 out of 5. I tend to have two different thought processes on it, and as to whether or not I use it honestly just depends on which process is prevalent that day. Neither one is a bad rating. I've never considered a 3/5 a bad thing, but I do consider it to be an average book. Honestly giving ratings is probably the one downfall to being a reviewer in my opinion, but in our society ratings are necessary. So here are my thoughts on why/when I would give a 3/5.

Thought One: It is just an decent book. There is nothing wrong with it. It just didn't do it for me. I can't explain why I didn't get into it as much as other books, but it took me longer than my usual amount of time to read because it just wasn't catching my attention. I can't say that I've read many that I would rate 3/5 because of this reasoning. Most books I can tell exactly why I'm not enjoying it. It's rare that I come across one that its just "eh".

Thought Two: 99.9% of books I read I tend to either love or dislike. Meaning it would either get a 2 or lower, or a 4 or higher. I've had the fortune of only finding one book since I started here that I would have rated lower than a 4. The one in question that I would have rated a 3 or lower I ended up passing on to someone else, because it just wasn't my cup of tea. I'm extremely glad I did that because the other reviewer gave it a 5/5. So for me to give it a 3 means that I've considered passing it on to someone else and either everyone else was too busy or felt the same way.


I take rating a book very seriously. I realize that my review is only one person's opinion. However, if even one person reads my review and uses it to make a decision about buying and reading a book, then it's important to me that I can stand by my rating and review.

I don't like to write bad reviews or give low scores. At the same time, when you only have a 5 point scale, it's harder to truly identify those books that are exceptional. I wish I could give 5 Howls and a "Wag of the Tail" for those special books. But alas, I can't. Therefore, my review must differentiate the great books from the exceptional. Having said that, if I give something less than 5 Howls, then there was something that didn't quite work for me. This is rarely a reflection on the author, but rather on some element of the story. I don't like books where the characters don't trust each other or fight a lot. An extremely well written book with the characters fighting non-stop will not get more than 4 Howls from me. If the writing is also lacking that special quality that makes the words flow across the pages, then it might drop another howl.

It is imperative that I explain why I am giving the book a specific rating. While the rating and review are both subjective, the review itself helps the reader decide if they might feel differently about the book than I did. I think this is what separates a site like Bitten from sites like Amazon or GoodReads. We always write reviews to go along with our ratings.

I am always looking for constructive feedback in my profession. Whether I agree with somebody's opinion on my work or not, I try to look at their comments objectively to look for opportunities for improvement. If an author is truly planning on writing books in the long-term, then I would hope that they would look at less than perfect reviews as opportunities to improve their next novel.


So dear readers, it's your turn. Do you consider buying and reading a book we have rated with One Good Howl or 3 stars? Do you tell a friend about a book we rate this way? What does a rating of One Good Howl or a 3 mean to you? Also, would you like to see more of these types of events here on BBPR?

Stop back by tomorrow to see what some authors have to say on this topic.

Visit the other sites to see what others are saying about this topic.


  1. I love reading about all of your opinions! I agree with most of you. We have a certain responsibility towards our readers to give a book the correct rating, and not every book is stunningly amazing. But that doesn't mean it's bad either, 3 stars just means it's enjoyable.

    Thank you for hosting this event! If you're interested, here is my 3 star post. (:

  2. Reviewers can put any number system they want on it. To readers, there are only two grades: Read it or don't read it.

    Everyone wants to buy and read a GREAT book, not a good book. I don't know who buys 4s. Friends of the author, I'm guessing. Readers don't give a flip about a 4.

    What product would you buy that's rated "good" when there are thousand brands of the same product rated "best"? I'd only buy the "best".

    So you reviewers have the power to kill a book with your exalted opinions. Your opinion is just like everyone else's, but you've made your opinion mean more by posting it online. And that gives you the power to kill a book with a 3. And then you spread that 3 all over GoodReads in multiple forms so that no one reads that book. Reviewers have way too much power.

    I don't know why you are squawking that no one wants to read a 3. Do you buy mediocre products? You just told everyone those books are mediocre. That's no mystery.

  3. Thanks for posting this article. I also go by the Goodreads guidelines that a 3 is "I liked it." I'll give a book a 4 if it stood out in my mind a few days later or if it were exceptionally written. I do give 5s and those are the books that stand out for me. I have given the occasional 2 or 1, but those are rare.

    To respond to Anonymous - a 3 is not mediocre. When I look at book reviews, if all the reviews are 5s, I really wonder about that book. It's nice to see a range of reviews. What one reviewer may hate - let's say love triangles for example, might be someone else's favorite thing in the world. It's subjective.

    Great discussion.

  4. I, personally, am not saying 3 equals mediocre, but the reader who is looking for the GREAT book, not the good book, will not read a 3.

    The arrogant reviewer who spreads her reviews all over the Net is not one voice standing out. They are pretending to be multiple voices, usually to get a higher reviewer rating.

    The reviewer who has all 5s is choosing not to review and harm a book they didn't think was great. That's smart, IMO and kind. Why trash a book all over the Net just because you, one person, don't like it? And then spread your opinion all over the world, as though it is many people's opinions? Just don't review the book. That's more honest than posting your reviews under multiple names all over the world, falsely skewing authors' scores? That creates an illusion that many people think the way you do, which is a lie.

    Some of you reviewers are abusive. 3s are the death of a book, and so are multiple false scores at GoodReads and other review sites. What's the use of GoodReads when it is filled with lies?

  5. I agree with you ladies, and I like how everyone's opinions vary a little. I think the main point with three stars is to remember that not every book is a perfect fit for every reader and authors shouldn't knock-down reviewers for being honest. Plus, 3 star reviews DO NOT stop a book in it's tracks, just look at the Anita Blake series, those reviews can be all over the map, and the books are best sellers....

  6. Thanks ladies for sharing your thoughts.

    Opinions. Just because one person sees a product as mediocre does not mean others will. Many people love Toyota automobiles. You could not give me one, I think they're junk.

    Some book content can be viewed in a similar manner. Sometimes synopsis and blurb's are too vague. I had that happen this week. I dislike historical romances. The blurb was very elusive in that regard. It brought down the rating for me. People can read the review know why I didn't LOVE it and can form their own opinion.

  7. This is all good stuff. I think one of the things I'm seeing from the authors I've talked and will post tomorrow is that they want to know why a reviewer gave the rating they did, especially in the case of a 3. What did they like about the book, if anything; what did they dislike about the book, if anything; what, if anything, would have made the rating higher. These last two can be a little difficult sometimes without giving away spoilers.

    I try to let an author know via email if there was a specific reason I didn't rate a book higher if 1) I think it will prejudice a potential reader into not reading the book or 2) it requires discussing spoilers.

    I never trash a book in my reviews. I honestly try to find something good or at least not bad to say about every book I review. And before I give a book a 1, I always attempt to contact the author to tell why it is getting that rating and offer to not publish the review before it goes up. I have actually had every single author I've rated below a 3 tell me to go ahead with publishing the review because I spell out the reasons for the bad review.

    What am I taking away from this event - when I award a story with a 3 I will try to be more diligent about providing a reason for it not being rated higher in my mind.

    Again good discussion.

  8. For me a 3 star rating is neutral. I enjoyed reading the book but I didn't either love it or hate it. Will I re-read? Not likely. Would I recommend? Sure.

  9. I think a lot of the feelings about a rating of 3 come from grade inflation. I work at a community college. On our grading scale, C is average. B is above average. A is exceptional. YES, we find that very few students want to be a C-student. I tell students--you've all got so many other things going on in your lives--families, children, full time jobs, etc. When you have other priorities, it's important to realize that you're probably not going to be able to devote the time necessary to be EXCEPTIONAL in your classes. A C is fine. It's average. But students just do not want to be average...

  10. There's a cliche that one person's meat is another's poison. That has to be true of books, too. We can't all possibly love the same things. A hit for one is a miss for someone else.
    It's the why of it that's important, not just to the author of the book, but to the readers of the reviews as well.
    Kudos to Bitten for hosting this event. I'm proud to be a part of it. My post is over at Reading Reality (

  11. This is a really interesting and thought-provoking blog hop. I wish I'd known about it - I would have definitely participated! I decided to do my own post about what makes a 3-star rating on GraveTells, because I think it's a really important distinction. Ratings can make or break a book, and knowing what a rating MEANS is extremely important for a reader.

    For me, "3" means average. Didn't like it, didn't dislike it. Wouldn't recommend it, wouldn't recommend against it. I'm pretty much ambivalent toward the book. So while that's not exactly a "good" score, it's not strictly "bad" either. Hey, it could be a good score, to a reader who knows they never agree with me on ratings! ;-)

    I hope you don't mind me adding my post link here. Feel free to edit it out if you prefer. =) Thanks so much for the unique topic!

  12. Ahh, why didn't I sign up for this hop? *Hit myself on the head* Anyway, I feel bad giving a 3 star rating sometimes because authors/publishers really don't seem to like them, but to me 3 star isn't a bad book. Like most of your comments, 3 star is a well-written that I either liked or feel "eh" about and I'll state whichever it is in the review itself. It could be a really good book and everyone else loved it but I still rate it a 3 if I don't feel like I had an emotional connection with the characters or just the book in general. Nothing wrong with 3 stars. I feel like 3 or 4 should be more common ratings, if 5 is an exceptional book.
    Sometimes I feel like I also compare book ratings. Say if I enjoyed a book a lot and gave it a 4, I couldn't give another book a 4 if that book was only OK or I felt neutral about the book. I don't like giving out 3s even though I feel like there's nothing wrong about them. When you rate a lot of books, not all of them can be 4 or 5s.

    Ning @ Reading by Kindle Fire

  13. I have to say that biggest take away I get is that I need to be more diligent doing my reviews no matter what the rating. I'm not going to please everybody all the time. And either you like it or you don't. I jusr have to be honest to myself.

  14. I saw this and wrote a blog with my response even though I"m not an offical part of the blog hop. It seems like important information for people to know- since it is taken so differently.

    Basically, I agree that 3's are good books. Here's an in-depth answer though. ‎

  15. Thank you so much for throwing this event and taking the time to give us all your thoughts on 3-star ratings. I definitely found it enlightening! :) I appreciate the effort and care most reviewers put into reviewing a book. Obviously, word of mouth is one of the best ways to get our stories out in the world.

  16. Wow - what a great discussion post! It's amazing how sensitive people can get about the 3 stars. Like Catherine Lee above, I struggle to have people (both authors and my students) understand that if I give a book/a paper a C, that's *not* a bad thing. No one - authors, students, parents, ME - can be perfect always, so an average is fine. This post has inspired me to make sure I clarify exactly what I mean by a 'C' on my blog.


This is an award free blog. Thank you for all of your comments.