How Do I Rate the Books I Read?: A Look at My Rating System and What I Look for in a Book!!

I’m a really indecisive, not confident person.

And this means I struggle a lot with deciding ratings for books! Like a lot!! And so, in an effort to maybe help me decide on ratings more easily (and also to motivate me to READ), I’ve decided to tackle something I’ve been meaning to talk about for along time now: how I rate the books I read!!

I know there are a lot of people who don’t like to rate books, and that’s completely fine and understandable! I personally like ratings because I feel like it’s a way to quickly look back at my stance on the book, even though each rating will depend on the book of course!!

Like I said, I’ve wanted to write this for a long time now; I had it planned before I saw Marie @ Drizzle Hurricane Books talk about the same thing on her blog in November, and then I got inspired to do the same as she did with the cute little rating influence percentages. So make sure to check out Marie’s wonderful post as well!!

fae divider (2)

WHAT I LOOK AT OVERALL

berry 2 ENJOYMENT berry 1

rating influence: 100%

The Foxhole Court (All for the Game, #1)This is absolutely the number 1 thing that decides my ratings! For me, my enjoyment of a book > the technical aspects of a book. If I look back on a book and feel like I enjoyed it a solid amount, it’ll probably get a high rating from me!! I’m really not super critical about technical aspects until those aspects start to affect my enjoyment. It could be really terrible quality, but I’d still rate it highly if I enjoyed it a lot.

There’s no better example than The Foxhole Court, because as much as that series brings me joy, it just… sucks. Like, you can tell me it’s trash and poorly written and frankly problematic, and I would agree with you!! But it was so entertaining for me to read and I adored the characters, so that completely turned the rating around.

berry 2 CHARACTERS berry 1

rating influence: 100%

Characters are absolutely the thing that make or break a book for me. If I hate your characters, or I can’t connect with them, there’s a very low chance of me liking the book. Why would (and how could) I care about a story if I don’t care about the people that it’s happening to? And vice versa: if the story is poor, or maybe the writing is bad, the book can still be saved by its characters. 

berry 2 PLOT berry 1

rating influence: 60%

If I somehow didn’t make it clear already: I can handle a pretty terrible (or even nonexistent) plot, if I love the characters enough. Most of my concerns in books that have to do with plot are character-related (ex: lack of character motivation). But the thing that makes me pick up a book in the first place is an interesting premise/plot, so it still has to be intriguing to me!!

berry 2 FEELINGS/EMOTIONS berry 1

rating influence: 30%

The Song of AchillesBooks that can make feel things and get emotional are instantly set apart from other books. They’re good enough to actually move me, and it’s an incredible feat to somehow make someone Emotional with your words!! One book that comes to mind for this is The Song of Achilles. I originally rated it 4 stars, because while I adored it, the beginning was just Boring to me. But I kept thinking and getting emotional about it, and that made me go back and give it 5 stars.

berry 2 WRITING STYLE/VOICE berry 1

rating influence: 15%

For me, this mainly applies to two types of styles/voices: the really gorgeous writing styles, and the dense ones (sometimes they’re both the same thing for me). Gorgeous writing styles only make me appreciate a book more, while dense writing makes me enjoy the book less because it’s a struggle to get through it. This doesn’t usually affect much in my rating, though! Maybe just something I’ll talk briefly about in a review.

berry 2 THEMES berry 1

rating influence: 15%

I really love thematic ideas/concepts or messages in books!! I think they are so so powerful, and I especially love ones that are subtle or artfully woven into the story; they can just add a whole other layer to a book. A lack of themes might not lower my rating, but having them just makes me love a book all the more!

berry 2PACINGberry 1

rating influence: 10%

Six of Crows (Six of Crows, #1)Usually pacing doesn’t really affect my reading and rating that much?? I can handle slower or faster pacing, though I might get slightly annoyed. Honestly, pacing only becomes a big issue for me when the author fails at making me care about the characters enough that I can overlook it. For example, Six of Crows definitely has a slow beginning, but I love the characters so much and care about them enough that it doesn’t bother me! (Also I’m biased because that’s one of my favorite books.)

berry 2 PERSONAL MEANING berry 1

rating influence: depends

Personal meaning can influence my rating a lot, actually! Books that have representation of marginalized identities that made me feel seen or I deeply related to while instantly have a more special and memorable place in my heart. But if a book doesn’t mean a lot to me personally, that’s not going to make me lower my rating!!

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STAR RATINGS

berry 2 5 STARS berry 1

I’ve noticed that I actually… rarely give out 5 STARS now? I used to give out 5-star ratings out a lot more freely, but now I definitely only give them to books that I love enough to call it a favorite, and I know without a doubt it deserves 5 stars from me!! If I have to question whether or not I should rate it 5 stars, it’s not getting 5 stars from me. Wow I love being mean.

And a lot of people talk about 5-star books having a sort of Spark, and that’s absolutely the deal for me too. There have been a lot of amazing books that ticked off all the boxes of a great book for me, but didn’t have that little special something that set it apart from other books!

berry 2 4.5 & 4 STARS berry 1

I know half-stars don’t work well for some people, but I’ve read a lot of books that were better than a 4-star read, but didn’t quite deserve 5 stars because of something. 4.5 STARS is the perfect rating for me to give a book when I loved it more than a 4-star book, but I still wondered whether or not I should give it 5 stars. It’s also perfect for books that I really adored, but didn’t have that special 5-star spark!

4 STARS has become my sort of default “I enjoyed this book” rating. A minor thing or two might not have been perfect for me, but it wasn’t enough to hinder my enjoyment and bump it down a half star. Usually, it’s books that I feel like were solid and I had a good time with!

berry 2 3.5 & 3 STARS berry 1

We Set the Dark on Fire (We Set the Dark on Fire, #1)These Witches Don't Burn3.5 STARS are usually reserved for books that I mostly enjoyed, but a small-but-big thing was lacking. Two really good examples of this would be We Set the Dark on Fire and These Witches Burn.

My enjoyment of those two books were 4-star level, but there was something off about them—but I don’t think they deserve 3 stars because I still enjoyed them. (I feel like I would describe this as “I’m enjoying the book but something’s nagging me about it in the back of my mind.”)

And now comes my most dreaded star rating: 3 STARS. I HATE giving books 3 stars, because it’s so meh and in-the-middle, and if I give a book that, it basically means I just didn’t really care about it. Usually, I somewhat enjoyed the book, but I didn’t enjoy it as much as I wanted to and something was lacking.

berry 2 2.5 & 2 STARS berry 1

I don’t really give a lot of books 2.5 STARS, and I’m not really sure why that is?? For me, 2.5 stars is basically “I didn’t like this but there were Some redeeming qualities that made me enjoy it a tiny bit”. (And sometimes I’ll feel bad for giving it 2 stars and bump it up a little bit.)

2 STARS, on the other hand, is my default “I did Not enjoy this book” rating. I might be able to think of one positive, like “The writing was nice… I guess”, but that’s it. I didn’t like the book, I’m straight up not having a good time, and I wouldn’t recommend it.

berry 2 1.5 & 1 STAR berry 1

The City of Brass (The Daevabad Trilogy, #1)Shatter Me (Shatter Me, #1)These two ratings are super rare for me! I account it to me being pretty good at picking up books I know I’ll like. Usually if I don’t enjoy a book, I’ll stick to 2 or 2.5 stars, and these ratings are reserved for books I feel more strongly about.

For me, 1.5 STARS isn’t too different from 1 star, but with 1 STAR I just hate the book with my entire being, and 1.5 stars is just slightly less intense feelings. There are also times where I feel bad for rating a book 1 star and will give it a .5 star more—1-star ratings are more definitive, as in I truly despise the book and don’t feel bad about hating it/1-starring it.

(The books I featured are some of my infamously hated 1-star reads!!!)


shall we chat

do you rate the books you read? how do you do it? what things influence your ratings? are characters important to you vs plot? do you give a lot of 1- or 5-star ratings?

p.s. small update on things: transitioning back to school is a lot harder than I expected and I’m struggling a bit with blogging! I keep pushing the Book Blogger Awards results back because of this, but I PROMISE it’ll be up next week <33

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43 thoughts on “How Do I Rate the Books I Read?: A Look at My Rating System and What I Look for in a Book!!

  1. My breakdown would probably look pretty similar! Characters are everything.
    My simplified star rating is:
    ⭐ no
    ⭐⭐ meh
    ⭐⭐⭐ ok/good
    ⭐⭐⭐⭐ great
    ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ amazing
    But everything is arbitrary and I mess with it a lot because I’m super indecisive 😂
    I try to keep the rating a bit more objective though and if they have the ‘spark’ I just put them in my favs even though sometimes they have likr 3 stars from me because I love it despite the flaws

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      1. I think most of my 3 star faves are my faves for sentimental reasons 😀 Usually, it’s 4-5 star but sometimes I will acknowledge that a book was not that well-written as I initially thought and somewhat problematic but it held a special place in my heart for so long I cannot not love it lol
        I changed ratings so many times I’m avoiding looking back at them now and just clear it if I must because focusing so much on it makes me nervous… 😅

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  2. This is something that I have been thinking about a lot recently. The other thing that also influences me, is the remainder of the series. For instance, I rated The Foxhole Court 4 stars when I first read it, but by the time I had finished the entire trilogy I wanted to go back and re-rate the first two books as 5 stars each, because all the little things that had bothered me, I no longer cared about because I loved the characters so much more by the end of the series.
    The other thing is that I often think that I love a book because the ending was so “AHHHH” that I rate it highly, but when I go back to it months later, I actually can’t even remember parts of it unless I reread my review (meaning I haven’t thought about it at all since finishing it). But, should I re-rate it based on the lack of feeling that I now have, or should I leave the rating from when it was fresh in my mind?

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    1. Yes Meeghan, I agree with you so much!! In the example of The Foxhole Court, I actually wanted to lower the rating for TFC when I went back and reread it, because the rest of the series was just so much better, but yes, I definitely see how loving the characters in the series overall could make you want to go back and rate the first book higher!!

      And you are asking all the right questions aaahh! I’ve gone back and rated books higher and lower and sometimes I’m not sure if it’s the right thing to do because who’s to say the time away from the book hasn’t affected my thoughts of it? But also could there have been something else at the time I read it that affected my rating which is why I want to re-rate it months later?

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  3. I consider several things when choosing my rating, but the main ones are characters, plot, writing style, and overall enjoyment/the impact it has on me as a reader. A great, well developed setting also helps!
    I certainly do not give as many 5-star reads as I used to. As I have read more, perhaps my expectations have increased slightly…
    Great post, May!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I definitely agree with you, Stephen! My only difference would be setting/worldbuilding; it doesn’t usually affect me much (unless it was really poorly done 😅). And yes that definitely makes sense! I think I’ve grown more critical, and what I might have rated 5 stars two years ago gets 4 stars from me now.

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  4. i agree with pretty much everything in this post but the atmosphere has a HUGE influence on my rating? like if it’s not an atmospheric book, i can give it 5 stars, but if it IS there and is done-well then It will definitely make me enjoy the story more!

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    1. huh that’s interesting!! by atmosphere do you mean like mood/tone? (because when I think of atmospheric, I think of like eerie lmao) I feel like that also lowkey affects my rating, but I feel like that’s more connected to writing for me personally if that makes sense

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      1. im not really sure what i mean by atmosphere LIKE??? when you just get those vibes from a book whether it be cozy or magical and you just feel like the entire mood of the book has just wrapped you up like you’re so engrossed in the world…i have no idea what i’m saying. but i feel like that’s why i like books with magic in them cus i nearly always get a strong atmosphere…from them? (i make no sense)

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  5. also there’s totally a thing where books age differently in my head? like i’ll read it and give it 4 stars but a few months later i’m like lol, it wasn’t even that good and give it 3.5 ya know?? (for example, starfish) and yeah i only gave a handful of books that are five stars!! like everyone’s like OMGGG I HAVEEE SOOOO MANY FAVE BOOKS but i don’t think i have that many (like i struggled so much for that fave book bingo thing going around on twitter a while back. because i don’t have that many fave, faves? if that makes sense?)

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    1. SAME. and I don’t know if it’s good or bad that I re-rate the books I read?? because what if my like of it has just gone down over time but I still liked it when I read it? or what if I’m letting other factors decide my rating weeks after I finished the book? and OH GOD SAME looking back on all the books I put on my fave books bingo makes me :// because I feel like some of them aren’t really Favorites. I think I maybe have like ten total all time favorite books? (and I mostly account favorites to being ones that emotionally impact me a lot, even though I might /like/ another book better than that idk)

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  6. I don’t rate books on my blog anymore because I found star ratings so subjective from book to book personally, though I do still do ratings on goodreads because I like to see how my thoughts about a book change over time and how I felt about a book right after I read it. What you said about enjoyment of a book overall trumping technical aspects of a book really resonated with me because for some books I can definitely overlook some technical/craft issues, but for others, even if I’m liking a book, I just can’t decide, which is one of the reasons my ratings can be all over the place.

    How a book makes me feel is definitely another huge factor for my ratings when I rate on goodreads and is pretty much the sole determiner of whether a book gets 5 stars for me. I’ve also noticed in my ratings that I don’t often give 5-star ratings, but the ones I do give 5 stars to tend to be books that absolutely crush my soul. Not to say I don’t enjoy happy, fluffy books, but the ones that tend to make the biggest impact on me and inspire 5 stars are just more emotionally fraught I guess.

    I think if I started doing star ratings on my blog again I’d have to do a breakdown of characters, plot, feels/emotions, writing, and other more specific parts because I have a hard time deciding on one rating that encompasses completely how I felt about a book.

    Thank you for this super interesting post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I definitely get why you don’t do star ratings anymore! That’s 100% valid ❤ And oh my god, you captured my thoughts exactly! I'm always questioning myself and wondering if I need to let the more technical aspects determine my rating, or if I actually liked it more than I thought I did because the technical aspects were somehow affecting that. (I feel like that entire sentence made no sense SORRY haha)

      Yes! I think there are so many books I love that could technically get 5 stars from me if we're going with the whole 5-stars-is-for-what-I-absolutely-ADORE thing, but often, I really need to be super emotionally impacted. (I think a funny example for me is The Song of Achilles, because I originally rated it 4 stars because of the slow beginning, but went back and increased it to 5 because I just couldn't stop thinking about — and crying over — it.)

      Liked by 1 person

  7. YESS i so agree with you!! my ratings change A LOT (probably because i highkey overthink things) and a lot of the time i’m reluctant to give a book a certain number of stars because i don’t know what i’ll think of it when it’s not fresh in my brain? it’s pretty much impossible to be consistent when it comes to ratings because books are so subjective and i’m so indecisive aHH

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    1. lmao I struggle so much with looking back on the books I rate!! I’m always like okay but what if I wasn’t critical enough, or what if I was TOO critical, but then I wonder if the time away from the book has affected my thoughts on it, and it’s just a messy cycle of indecision and doubt 😎😭

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  8. You’re so professional, May 😂 I basically just shrug and give it however many stars I feel like, although it’s usually 3.5 stars or 4 stars.

    But I think characters vs plot do have a lot of influence on me. If the characters are amazing but the plot is okay, I could still give it 4 stars, but if the characters aren’t working for me, then no matter how good the plot is, I think I’ll give it 3 stars. I don’t know how it works in my head, but I usually just start my expectations at 3 stars and the book has to earn it’s stars from there!

    And I’m like you in that I used to give books 5 stars all the time, but now I’m super picky and I haven’t rated a book that high in over a year! It’s very rare. But I would never rate a book just 1 star, because if it’s that bad, I’ll probably DNF it. Thanks for the interesting post, May! 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    1. LMAO I’m only professional because I overthink everything and like to think I have a process of thinking 😎😭

      Characters 100% carry more importance to me than plot! Like, the plot could be underdeveloped or just messy in general, but if I’m loving the characters, then I’ll want to read about them no matter what. (And I’ve heard a lot of people do the start-at-3-stars thing! For me I feel like it always starts at 4 stars because I expect to like a book, and it either stays there or goes down, or up, rarely.)

      I honestly am surprised at how little I’ve been rating books 5 stars! I mean if you look at my GR shelf, there have been a lot of 5-star reads, but only because of rereads lmao. And ah yes! DNFing a book makes more sense than just forcing yourself through it and rating it 1 star!!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Great post…!! The individual ratings of yours mean slightly different in my case but the influences are pretty much the same… characters are everything 😍😍😍😍 but books which I can personally relate to due to some representation definitely rank a bit higher… I also love books that make me cry 😂😂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Definitely, characters are the biggest part of a book for me! And yes — any book with meaning to me (whether it be representation or nostalgia, or another thing) gets rated higher. And for me, books that make me cry automatically are put on a step higher than other books lmao!! ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Love this post!! Honestly, I’ve sort of gone the opposite direction with regards to five stars, but I think that’s honestly more… I know what I like so much that I can get a lot of five stars? I’ve rated like 40% of the books I’ve read this year a five but I don’t think it’s because I’m less picky now — I think I’ve literally just gotten so good at sensing whether a book is right for me that I’m enjoying a good 80% of what I read.

    I don’t do half stars 99.9% of the time so usually when a book is nagging at me in the 3.5 range, I rate it three (unless I genuinely just was in love with it despite all problems, aka The Foxhole Court). With 4.5s I usually just say it’s a 4.5 and then rate it 5 anyway (usually those are books that were perfect for me but objectively have issues x y and z).

    The thing is, I feel like almost all my favorite books of all time have some flaws, but I’d never actually rate them a four because I love them. And I think a book’s value isn’t just the sum of its parts; some of my favorite books of all time are sort of weirdly paced or have ridiculous plots, but I Don’t Care because the character writing or the theme writing just resonated with me so much. And that takes just as much talent, you know? There are books with no pacing flaws or plot flaws that also have no deeply resonant character writing so… why should I care about them.

    Honestly I think enjoyment is my main rating criteria. I kind of hate when people are like “you shouldn’t rate a book two stars just because you didn’t enjoy it” like… okay but that’s what the rating system on goodreads means?

    ANYWAY ESSAY.

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  11. Gosh, this post is so great! I honestly agree 1000% with what you said about enjoyment and characters. I think those are the two things that impact my rating of a book the most as well. For example, with Gilded Wolves, I felt like some of the plot points didn’t make sense to me (but that could be own fault – I listened to the audiobook, and sometimes got distracted), but I didn’t end up caring in the end, because the cast of characters was so much fun! Anyways, I really enjoyed reading this! 💛

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  12. I legit give out too many 4.5 star ratings :/ Enjoyment is a massive factor for me too and oh dear god personal meaning varies to the MAXIMUM. basically this post just reminded me that I give too many high ratings and oops I’d better go fix it
    thank you it was a well needed post!!

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  13. I have a hard time rating books too. Pacing is also really important to me. I prefer a book that keeps me engaged and wanting me to read more but not skipping over so quickly that I don’t build a relationship with the characters. Also, sometimes I think a book may just not be for me based off my personal preferences so sometimes a low rating may not really be fair. Great post!

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  14. Lately, I’ve been reading a lot of similar posts on rating systems and I’m starting to realize that, despite having become more aware and critical of books ever since I started blogging, I’m not strict at all. I’m not sure how I feel about that, either. For me, enjoyment, characters and emotions make the most of my decision. I usually already have a rating in mind by the time I finish the book. Then, while thinking about it and writing my review, I’ll think about other aspects and polish my rating if needed. Your list has the same aspects I consider. And 4 stars has also become my standard rating for books I’ve enjoyed xD

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  15. I think for me, it really depends, but mostly the things that I look for the most are well developed characters that I can latch on to and good pacing. If not a lot is happening to keep me hooked/entertaining, I can feel my enjoyment start to decline for the book. Though I also do love a really intriguing plot but it could be the most amazing/well thought out plot of all, if I’m not attached to at least one character, I probably won’t be enjoying the book too much.

    Anymore, I only seem to be rating books 3, 4 and 5 stars. I usually don’t use a lot of half star ratings. I usually just round up or down depending on my overall enjoyment. And I have gotten a lot better at picking up books I know I’m going to enjoy, so I don’t tend to dish out lower ratings all that much anymore.

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  16. It was really interesting to see the percentage of components that matter most to you. Sometimes I feel like my percentage for personal meaning to me is too high, so I’m trying to stop caring about that so much and just have fun!

    As for ratings I’ve mostly stopped using them. Through habit I can usually assign a rating to any book I read, but i try not to. I like more of a pass/fail method of – is this worth reading or not? And why?

    This post is awesome! Also, you go for valuing how much you enjoy a book above most else. I think that is one of the best parts of reading – when you’re having a blast.

    💕💕

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  17. AHH I love this post so much, I’m so happy you wrote it and thank you so much for linking back to my post and thinking of it even if it was posted ages ago now ah this means a lot, thank you ❤
    I feel like we have pretty much the same feelings when it comes to rating books: characters and enjoyment have a HUGE influence on my rating, if I adore the characters, I can look over some of the plot elements that I wasn't too certain of or that made me feel confused, for instance. And I agree about the personal meaning, too! Some books, while they didn't seem like anything special, has some meaning deep down to me and I can relate to it a lot in different ways and somehow everything is out the window and it's a 5 stars read because, well, just because hahaha.
    I love this post! 🙂

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  18. Awesome post, May!!! I 100000% agree with everything you said here, and especially the first bit about enjoyment! I have read some books that well … for lack of a better word, sucked. YET, I adored them to pieces because I just had such a fun time reading it! It’s funny how often my mood can affect my overall opinion of a book! Pacing isn’t too important to me either, but if I’m not particularly enjoying a book, it can make the reading experience so much worse. Haha!

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  19. well I think that’s fair about liking books even if they’re trashy (I think we all have books like that 😉 ) So I definitely like to rate books on enjoyment rather than quality- particularly taking into consideration the *feels* and personal meaning- I also think it’s probably easier for me to quantify how much I liked something as opposed to how good it is 😉 Characters and plot also make a huge difference! Fantastic post! Really like seeing how people break this down!

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  20. Enjoyment is the #1 factor for me as well! I’m totally with you, it can be a trashy read but you still loved it so you want to rate it highly.

    I’m super late to comment whoops but this is an awesome post idea, I might do something similar (if I ever get around to it lmao) if that’s alright, and would definitely tag you!

    Like

  21. Okay, I actually LOVE how you broke down how you rate things. I take emotions and enjoyment into account the most, but I’ve never really recognized that until this very moment! I also love character focused books, so plot is pretty much meaningless to me as long as you give me some great characters in an awesome setting in exchange.

    And I rate my books super similarly! 5 stars is more of a gut reaction than anything, while 1 stars are extremely rare because it means I can’t really find a redeemable quality and would not recommend this book to anyone. The one thing I’ve found is that enjoyment sometimes fades, and I sometimes look back and question why I gave a certain book a particular rating. Usually I overestimate how much a book impacted me, but I only actually change my rating on Goodreads half the time.

    Great post! It was so interesting to see how I rating systems and breakdowns compared!

    Like

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