6 Things I Struggle With When Deciding My Ratings for Books (and by Struggle I Mean Have an Existential Crisis Over)

I struggle with a lot of things.

And one of those things is: RATING BOOKS. Some books I know right away what to rate and don’t hesitate for just one second, but others take so much time and thought and even after that I’m STILL slightly doubtful of the rating.

So today I decided to talk about 6 things I struggled with when rating books. Hopefully talking about them will mean that I’ll recognize it when it happens and then I won’t have the same struggle?

(Who am I kidding I’m always going to have existential crises over these.)

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1. it feels like 5 stars but it’s not as good as [5-star book]

I struggle with this SO. MUCH. I’m a huge comparer, both in real life and with books (it’s not good I know), and that fact doesn’t help when I’m considering a 5 star rating for a book.

My latest source of frustration with this one is Girls of Paper and Fire. I’ve rated THREE books so far this month (including GoPaF) 5 stars, including The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo and Radio Silence.

Girls of Paper and Fire  The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo  Radio Silence

GoPaF was absolutely amazing, don’t get me wrong, but if I compared it to Evelyn Hugo and Radio Silence, those books took it to another level. So does it really deserve 5 stars? But it was so good and meaningful? And I really loved so many parts of it? But Evelyn Hugo and Radio Silence both just blew me away?

(It’s definitely staying at 5 stars, though! I’ve worked it out with my head. Aka just convinced myself it deserved 5 stars.)

And another hard thing to do is comparing potential-5-star-books to my favorites! For example, Six of Crows? How can a book beat that literary masterpiece???

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2. i enjoyed the book a lot but it had flaws (or vice versa but that doesn’t happen often)

I rarely rate or review books based off of technical things. If it’s not written well, it most likely will affect my enjoyment of the book.

But there are some books that have a lot of flaws… but I enjoy reading them so much? Sometimes the flaws can’t be overlooked but sometimes they can. And sometimes I just enjoyed it way too much to really care that much about flaws (though I’ll mention it in reviews).

Autoboyography  Leah on the Offbeat (Creekwood, #2)

For example: Autoboyography. There’s one scene in this that I think was really gross and unnecessary, and the romance was kinda insta-lovey, and it’s just another book about a queer boy trying to figure out his sexuality instead of just a queer boy LIVING… But I loved reading it so, so much. (It got 5 stars from me.)

Another really big example is Leah on the Offbeat! My full review of it is going up soon on Goodreads, but there were four main issues I had with it that kind of ruined my experience. I REALLY liked reading it and it was enjoyable for me, but those “flaws” kind of overshadowed it and I can’t rate it more than 4 stars.

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3. it’s not 5 stars but not 4 stars but not 4.5 stars??

I HAVE SO MANY PROBLEMS WITH HIGH RATINGS.

I don’t really have an actual rating system and rate books based on my feelings (1: hated it, 2: disliked it, 3: okayish meh, 4: really liked it, 5: loved it) and it’s not at all specific and requires me to analyze my emotions towards books… and I hate analyzing myself.

Summer Bird BlueThe most recent book I struggled with in this particular way was Summer Bird Blue. I ended up going with a 4.5-star rating, because I had a hard time taking a liking to Rumi in the beginning which prevented me from REALLY loving the story from the start. But it was hard for me to get the idea of a 5-star rating out of my head because 1) it made me cry and 2) it was written so GORGEOUSLY.

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4. i strongly disliked it but there were a few things that slightly redeemed it

Also known as me trying to be a positive happy reader trying to find the best in things but totally failing.

I just? want to love books? I REALLY don’t want to hate a book, thought it may look like it. So I convince myself that this ONE vaguely nice quality is enough to give the book a higher rating, even though the rest of the book was trash in my eyes.

Yeah I don’t know how this logic works either.

The Epic Crush of Genie Lo (The Epic Crush of Genie Lo #1)Usually if this situation happens and I think enough about it, I go back and lower the rating! Which is what I did to The Epic Crush of Genie Lo. I really liked the inclusion of Chinese mythology and Asian characters but god, I just hated the writing. It was really childlike and tried WAY too hard to be funny*.

(I originally rated that 2 stars, but lowered it to 1.5 stars, and am still considering lowering it further to 1 star!!!)

*Listen I know I do the same thing but THIS BOOK WAS EVEN CRINGIER THAN ME!!!!

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5. everybody else loved it!!!!

This is actually a surprisingly REALLY huge factor in my ratings?? (Or at least it was.)

For me, this is mostly with books I’m considering a high rating with. (I told you I struggled a lot with high ratings.) I think the biggest thing with this particular struggle is that I know the book isn’t 5 stars but everyone else loved it so I give it 4.5 stars instead of 4.

I’m easily influenced by outside opinions and it kind of depresses me!!!

My thought process is essentially: “Well… I didn’t love it, so it’s not 5 stars… but I really liked it! It was still pretty great! Everyone else really adores it so… it’s better than I actually think and therefore should get a higher rating”

Strange the Dreamer (Strange the Dreamer, #1)  The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue (Guide, #1)

The two books I can think of that fit this REALLY well are Strange the Dreamer and The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue. I had problems with the writing of Strange, and Gentleman’s just didn’t blow me away like I’d expected it to. But because everyone else loved it SO MUCH, I was like okay!!! I guess it’s 4.5 stars!!!

I’ve obviously gone back and changed my ratings to 4 stars, which I feel is the right rating for both of them based on my reading experience. And I’m really happy to say that this struggle doesn’t happen as often now! I read those two books like a year ago.

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6. i anticipated the book so much

I don’t know WHY this affects me as much as it does, but I also know that I’m really easily swayed by a lot of things. (Forget about these rating struggles giving me an existential crisis, writing this post is giving me one instead.)

The City of Brass (The Daevabad Trilogy, #1)  Gemina (The Illuminae Files, #2)

There are some books that I am looking forward to SO MUCH that I want to love it so bad and then I kind of force myself to love it more than I do. For example: City of Brass. I was like “okay it’ll get better it’s really not that bad it’s just a bit boring and slow right now” for the whole time I read it, until DNFing and rating it 1 star. (Okay so maybe I didn’t struggle that much with that rating.)

But one that there was DEFINITELY a struggle with was Gemina. Listen, I absolutely ADORED Illuminae and it—by itself—is one of my favorite books. I expected so much out of Gemina, and though I found a lot of issues with it, I convinced it was 5 stars because I was just so hyped for it.

And then I returned to it, realized the issues really affected my enjoyment, and recognized that it actually was not worth 5 stars but only 4. I’m still actually considering a 3.5-star rating right now.


shall we chat

what things do you struggle with when rating books? do you face the same things i do? do other people affect your rating? and do you tend to have higher or lower ratings??? TELL ME ALL ABOUT IT!!

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47 thoughts on “6 Things I Struggle With When Deciding My Ratings for Books (and by Struggle I Mean Have an Existential Crisis Over)

  1. I could relate to what you said on a platonic level man. Seriously, I have this huge dilemma when eating classics. Even if I really love the classic, it’s always about whether I really loved it or was it just immensely good. It’s just so damn difficult. Oh and people are ready with their pitchforks to attack you at any moment cuz the book which you didn’t like was their favourite book ever. WHAT EVEN?

    Yet, you can’t deny the fact that we all love 1-star reviews which are full of sarcasm and sass. And that seems to be an art.

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  2. I frequently have the same problems when trying to rate books. I’m more of about how a book makes me feel and how much I connected to a story for my ratings. I’m not typically too critical. I feel like I’m more generous than most. I find that if I have trouble coming up with a rating right away, I will sit on it for a while, even a week. This way, I have more distance and more clarity when I’m out of the story. I don’t know if any of this makes sense. LOL. Just know, I struggle with these things too!!

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  3. I feel the same way about books that aren’t quite five stars but also aren’t really less?? Like, I felt Salt to the Sea was practically perfect, but it just didn’t feel like 5 stars? So I normally just go for 4.5 stars in those cases

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  4. The struggle is real! I often think that two 5-star books aren’t always equal (I mean I’m already stingy with my 5 stars ANYWAY but still). I think I put a lot of emotion into the rating too. Was it technically good? Yes. Did I like it? No. I wrote a whole post on the struggle between assessing whether a book was good and whether I actually enjoyed it (https://arubunwritten.wordpress.com/2018/02/22/discussion-was-it-good-or-did-you-like-it/). I feel like the more other people like a book, the more I *want* to like it but I don’t think it affects my reviews/ratings too much.
    Such an interesting discussion!

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  5. Ahh yes, I relate so much! Especially the not 4 stars, not 5 stars…but not 4.5 stars one. XD I also struggle when I’m reading a book that has been so hyped up by the book blogging community, and I’m not enjoying it and I don’t know how to rate it because I feel like it should be good? But it’s not? (That was a very confusing sentence.) Anyway, great post as always! 🙂

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  6. I remember when I first started blogging and rating books to review them and I struggled with this a lot as well. I am totally for putting in my review if the novel was a 5 star book or a 4.5 or even a 4.75 star because I can tell you what would make a book fall into each category. In all honesty, I change ratings for novels when I haven’t gotten to writing a review yet. For example, I originally gave Ready Player One a 3.5 star rating after finishing, but a couple of months have passed and I still haven’t written a review yet and I have a deep dislike for that book now, so I changed it to 2 stars. When I anticipate books and they disappoint I’m a much harsher rater as opposed to when I didn’t expect anything and a novel caught me surprised. It’s a weird system, but it works for me! Great discussion post!

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  7. I LOVE THIS POST IT SPEAKS TO MY SOUL, MAY.
    There are just so many books that “feel” like 5-stars read, but aren’t quite there yet? I don’t even know how to explain and I don’t even have an excuse to tell you why it’s not a 5-stars, it’s just, not?! High ratings are just so hard, because then you tend to compare it to other high ratings, and you just don’t know what to do anymore. That existential crisis happens to me pretty much every single time I’m rating a new book haha.
    AND YES to others loving a book, and then you read it, have to rate it and somehow feel influenced by others. That happens to me way too much – I like a book, it doesn’t probably feel like a 4, maybe a 3 enjoyable book, but…. if others loved it, I feel like I’ll rate it 4 stars?! I don’t know. I hate that I get conflicted like that about these things haha.
    Fantastic post!! ❤

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  8. I’m so with you on #1 & #2. I don’t know it’s a good idea to compare books, but I do think it’s inevitable and I always try to mention if I do it and it’s influenced my rating. I think that’s the big thing, though, people shouldn’t just look at a star rating. That’s why the actual review is so important! I will straight up say something along the lines of “I didn’t really find this book enjoyable but found it really high quality in some regard and thus rated it more highly.”

    I think the main reason I love reading other book blogs is not to learn about other books but learning how other people see books and explain their thoughts on them ^_^

    P.S. So try not to let others’ opinions change your own! It’s ok. If you’re being honest and thoughtful in your review, your thoughts are valid 🙂

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  9. Fantastic topic, May! Rating books is HARD. I’m a little harsh with my rating system. I pretty much start out at 3 stars for every book, then if it impresses me it goes to 4 and if it disappoints (or mainly, if it’s boring) it goes to 2. If it was offensive or just really really bad, 1. If it blew my mind and lit my soul on fire, 5. But it’s so hard not to compare books to others. Like I might have really enjoyed it in the moment, but is it as good as [insert book here]? And if I read classics, I always feel like I’m missing something important, so I often end up not rating those. 😅

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  10. I, too, struggle with a few of these. Especially when it comes to the book not being as good as another book I rated 5 stars. But sometimes I’m also like “this book wasn’t good enough for a 5 but a 4 star seems too low but I don’t do half ratings!?” It’s a pretty frequent problem. I’m so picky about my 5 star books though so I usually end up rounding down to the 4 star ): I also read a book recently where I didn’t know how to rate it because I really enjoyed it and it kept me engaged but there were so many problems with it!?!?! IT’S SO HARD TO RATE THINGS!!! Great discussion 😀

    Amber @ Escape Life in the Pages

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  11. I relate to all of these so much. Especially the ratings. Like there are some books that I consider to be above average but not THE BEST. Still enjoyed it and could read it again, but I don’t LOVE it.

    While I do for the most part try to have my own thoughts and opinions on books, other people have affected my ratings in both positive and negative ways. It just depends on the book and what the reviews are like for it. If I may have missed something that someone else noticed, it could definitely change my rating, especially if its about something that is problematic or harmful.

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  12. Omg I love this post, I can relate to every single point you made!! I always have existential crises over rating books. 😂😩 Other people definitely affect my rating of a book, both before and after I’ve read it. (I care a lot about what other people think in general, haha.) I’ve also changed my rating of books after reading other people’s reviews (bc I’m like “yeah that makes a lot of sense actually”) – I lowered my rating of Leah on the Offbeat to 4 stars from 5 stars for this reason haha.

    I tend to have higher ratings than lower ratings, and I think a big part for this is because I’ve tried my best to read books that I’m pretty sure I’ll enjoy lol. (Of course there have been disappointments.) And also it may be because I’m really/too nice when it comes to ratings; I hate giving low ratings to books (unless it’s really problematic).

    Thanks for writing this amazing post! 💗

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    1. Oh yeah, I forgot to say, I’ve rated some of my favorite books as four-stars and that doesn’t make sense even to me LOL, bc shouldn’t all my favorite books be five-stars??? But that’s just not the case, and idek why. 😂🤷🏻‍♀️

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  13. I struggle with fitting the books I read into star categories, so I just stopped giving them a rating entirely! It’s a lot easier to explain how I felt in my reviews, rather than attempt to sum up my feelings for a book in stars. Do you ever think you’ll stop using a rating system for your reviews? Great focus soon post! ❤️

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  14. I love this post! I totally struggle with rating books, especially if everyone else seems to like it, I tend to bump it a liiiitle higher than it deserves. I also tend to compare it with other books with the same ratings that I’ve read ahaha!

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  15. The only situation I struggle with is rounded rating or adding (substracting) a half star and when i say struggle I mean FULL ON CRISIS MODE. I had tweeted about something like this around a month ago if you remember and it actually happens quite often but to variant degrees.
    Great post!!

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  16. Everything’s true!! I have struggles with giving high rating as well but also the pacing plays a big role for me aka I read it in 2 days (which is actually a very good sign for me,usually 4 or 5 stars) but I give it a 3 star rating… help

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  17. IT HURTS HOW MUCH I RELATE TO THIS POST. Like is gmos 3 or 2.5 stars? Like I liked it more the second time round but NO WAY did I enjoy 3 star level ahahah. So 2.5 stars? But that feels to low? But it feels right? You know. Also I get rating books high because of the hype!! I used to do it a long time ago too. For example, If I rated the ADSOM trilogy now I think they’d all be 4 stars for me, apart from mayyybe the last book.And like there are a lot of books (in 2016) that I read and pretended to like…oops. I’m going to come clean about books I’ve lied about in a post soon and I think you are going to be shocked lmao.
    “it feels like 5 stars but it’s not as good as [5-star book]” YES. Like I feel so weird rating The SUmmer of Us 5 stars because it comes nowhere near other five stars reads but I ENJOYED IT SO MUCH!! I think the best thing to di just?? don’t compare because each book is different in it’s own way.

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  18. “it’s not 5 stars but not 4 stars but not 4.5 stars??” Well if that isn’t the most relatable thing I’ve ever read… I have this problem ALL THE TIME.
    And I honestly struggle SO MUCH with my ratings. I feel like I tend to rate things higher than they deserve… either because I got swept in the hype, or because I always look for the good in everything… And then I go back and change it later, but I feel ridiculous when I’m like ‘That book deserved 2 stars, Iris. Not 3.5…’

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  19. OMG. YES. HI THERE QUEEN OF RELATABILITY. (is that even a word???) It’s a teeny bit painful how much I agree with this post. When it FEELS like a 5 star book, but it’s not AS GOOD AS another 5 star read is,,, vjsdmgkrn confusing. Because it’s not a four star??? But??? Its??? Not s five either??? *cue thousands of years of failing*

    I feel the same about Autoboyography because it was so HARD to read Sebastian trying to accept that he was gay. And yeah the romance was quite fast, and I think that Tanner’s “crush” went to obsesssssssiionnnnn rather quickly ahah. BUT, saying that, I loved how Tanner was so outspoken about his sexuality, and how he accepted that about himself ~enter the quote: “it is a big deal, I’m explaining how my heart beats.”~

    Ahhh yes EVERYONE ELSE LOVED IT!! I had this with Simon Vs. Because I liked it,, but I found it cute but,,, not enough????? And while I liked it, it was SUPER hard not to get caught up in the hype.

    TBH when I give star ratings, I often don’t actually have set criteria for every book to meet a certain star rating????? I just think oh was this a good book? Were there bits that I didn’t like? Could I flail about this book forever? Personally, I feel like I give 5 star ratings really easily? But? Hey ho *shrug*

    I LOVED THIS POST ❤

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  20. Are you sure you aren’t a mind reader because you legit just took all my thoughts out of my mind.
    I struggle so bad with rating things 5 stars. I always think well did I really love it like I think I did? There was one book I rated 4 stars and honestly I couldn’t figure out why looking back. I loved everything about it so I raised it up to 5 stars.
    Rating books is hard.

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  21. OMG I totally know how you feel. I get so frustrated because I get so easily influenced by everybody else’s opinions and I have no idea if a book is actually good or not. Like right now, I’m reading Glass Sword, and I loved Red Queen and I gave it five stars, but now I think I should’ve given it four because I wasn’t really that surprised by the plot twist, and now everyone is saying it’s not even that good of a series and the writing isn’t even that good and they are comparing it to so many other series and now it’s kind of ruining it for me. 😦 I’m so sad because I want to form my own opinions but now I don’t know what they are, and does this mean I just don’t think critically enough? Does this mean I can’t be a good blogger if I can’t review books accurately or if I’m not reading the “right” books or have the “right” opinions like everybody else? But I don’t WANT to end up hating every book I read because they are supposedly “all the same” you know? Then I won’t enjoy reading anymore. UGH it’s SO frustrating! D:

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  22. I STRUGGLE WITH A LOT OF THINGS TOO. I really cannot rate books to save my life. No 1 is literally me. i am literally no. 1. I compare like so many things?? I mean I enjoy a book but if I compare it to one of my favourites, it’s just so different?? When I rate 5 seems to mean LOVED IT and also liked it at the same time?? Which is confusing my little brain.

    And aagghhh I totally get being influenced! There are so many books that I read which I’m like meh. But I don’t want to give it a low rating otherwise I’ll be pelted with mangoes and pineapples??? Which is not pleasant.

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  23. The only thing I continually struggle with is.. wanting to be too nice? Like, I can imagine if the author would stumble on my review in some weird way and see a two star-rating, they’d go “WHAT?” and want to know why. And.. I don’t know. Sometimes rating books is hard because we have to stay true to ourselves and be honest and if we don’t like a book we have to SHARE that, while I’d rather hide the book and act as if it doesn’t exist so I don’t have to review it either but that’s not really an option? [that’s one huge sentence..]

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  24. Hi hello I just discovered your blog and I loved it!!! <3<3<3 and I love this post it's sooo relatable ahaha I get how simple thing like review can be such a complicated work and I agree with so many of your points here. I get how there are some books that deserve MORE than 5 stars and putting them on the same level with other regular 5 stars book would seem unfair… but I guess that's why there are reviews hahaha I can't give it more than 5 stars, so I'm just gonna write an ultra glowing review so people know how much those books deserve to be read!! 😛 I also found half stars really help when I'm reviewing on my blog (I just round it up or down based on my gut feeling for goodreads review) but I agree, even sometimes it's hard to decide between 4, 4.5, and 5 stars :') I didn't like Gemina as much as I did with Illuminae as well and it was HEARTBREAKING to give it 4 stars hahaha but I think Obsidio totally made up for it because it was stellar (have you read that) 😀

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  25. I also struggle a lot with star ratings which is a big reason I stopped doing them when I blog, but I still struggle when I rate things on Goodreads. I usually struggle most with books I really like, because it’s easy to compare books you love and if the book I just read isn’t as good as another book I loved, I just don’t know what to rate it. And then there are times when I like a book but don’t really like it or love it, so I give it 3 stars, but usually those books I end up forgetting about and rating lower later on. It is nice to be able to change ratings on Goodreads whereas on the blog is a little harder. Ratings are definitely a struggle.

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  26. I completely get what you mean with this post May because there seem to be so many things I struggle with when rating books too. I guess when you only have a one to five star rating system and there are so many different things that go into rating books it can be hard to judge right? I really with Goodreads did half stars, because then I’d do half stars on my blog as well. There have been so many books that haven’t quite been four star reads for me, but haven’t been five star reads either and that’s when I’ve needed a half star rating.
    Also yeah I get what you mean about the hype too. Personally I loved Gemina and The City of Brass but Children of Blood and Bone was one everyone seemed to be really excited for when I read it myself it was good but I wasn’t blown away you know?
    Great post. 🙂 ❤

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  27. OMG this speaks to me so much! I have some books I still haven’t reviewed this year simply because I’m not happy with any rating?
    I especially know what you mean when rating and comparing to your previous reads. I have so many books that I have enjoyed, but just aren’t the same quality as other 5-stear reads, and so I flail endlessly deciding whether I should knock a half star?! I’m so glad that this isn’t just me (although also why do we make ourselves suffer so much OTL)

    I definitely tend to stay at a 3.5 for a lot, which is my go-to ‘undecided’ rating. Haha!

    This is a great post though, you’ve certainly hit the nail on the head.

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  28. These are some really good points, I’ve had to go back and change the rating I gave whiloe I’m doing a review because I realized there were more issues with it than I thought. I get swept into a story and immediately after finishing it rate it on goodreads but then I’m thinking about it and it’s just not that good

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