Book Reviews: Are You An Easy Grader?

At the risk of piquing ire, today’s topic is book reviewing—not as an author who receives reviews but as a reader who gives them. Specifically, informal reviews on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Goodreads.

If you were to scan the reviews I’ve given, you’d probably conclude I’m an easy grader.

Image Credit: Microsoft Clip Art

Image Credit: Microsoft Clip Art

Why I’m Easy

Part of my leniency stems from: “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” But the bigger part is, I’m easily entertained. If that makes me a dullard, so be it.

A few misspelled words or passages of odd formatting don’t bother me. In fact, I found typos in three best-sellers I recently read:

– Doctor Sleep by Stephen King

– Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy by Helen Fielding (though if anybody asks, I’ll deny I’ve read the series…)

– W is for Wasted by Sue Grafton

If typos plague bigwig authors with bigwig publishers, they can plague anyone.

Of course, I want the material to be well-written, but if the story captivates me, I corral my internal editor and overlook the occasional mistake.

Therefore, my reviews reflect my happy-to-be-entertained, dullard self. Four- and five-star reviews are my norm. Three stars appear from time to time. A two-star? I’ve only left one. As for one-star reviews? Never gonna happen.

Why not?

Because if I think a book deserves one or two stars, I won’t finish it. Life is too short. My single two-star review was for a book-club selection I felt obligated to complete, even though its overabundance of childbirth and menstrual blood made me want to pluck out my eyeballs and barf. In the author’s defense, life as a woman circa 1700 B.C.E. probably included little but childbirth and menstrual blood.

Image credit: Microsoft Clip Art

Image credit: Microsoft Clip Art

Star Ratings

Below, I’ve included the various star definitions of the three big sites. I tend to be a tougher grader on Goodreads. After all, not everything I read can be “amazing.”


*   I hate it

* *   I don’t like it

* * *   It’s okay

* * * *  I like it

* * * * *   I love it


*   Did not like it

* *   It was ok

* * *   I liked it

* * * *   Really liked it

* * * * *   It was amazing


*   Poor

* *   Below average

* * *   Good

* * * *   Very good

* * * * *   Exceptional

Indies Vs. Traditional

Do I grade independently published books more kindly than traditionally published novels? Probably. Many of these Indies were written by authors I follow on social media, and I won’t insult your intelligence by saying that doesn’t factor in. But another reason is this: getting reviews as an independent author is tough. Plus, they don’t have the editorial staff the bigwigs enjoy. Most of that painstaking editing was done on their own.

I don’t review every book I read. Some genres don’t capture me, or perhaps the subject matter is too uncomfortable (think sexual violence). But rather than leave the author with a bad review—a review that would reflect my aversion rather than the book’s quality—I feel silence is best.

I also won’t denigrate the author, not even the bigwigs. Whether they have thousands of reviews or not, there is still a human being behind that book.

Nor will I pen a writing critique as if I could somehow do better. One, I probably couldn’t, and two, such arrogance would make me Frasier Crane.

Image credit: Wikipedia

Who does this Carrie Rubin think she is? I could write circles around her. (Image credit: Wikipedia)

So yes, I’m an easy grader. Entertain me, and I’m happy.

What about you? Do you take no prisoners in your reviews or are you chill? As my kids say, “It’s all good, Bro.”

Addendum (11/18/13 12:11 pm):

I thought I should add that just because I don’t leave one- and two-star reviews doesn’t mean I don’t think anyone should. Negative reviews can be helpful to prospective book buyers, as long as they’re not purposefully cruel. I’m just not the sort who can leave them. Perhaps that makes me a wimp…




250 Responses to “Book Reviews: Are You An Easy Grader?”

  1. michellejoycebond

    I’m right with you! There are too many two and one star books to waste time on when there is so much great literature out there! Often, I feel like that guy who breaks his glasses on that one episode of The Twilight Zone. Too many books–too little time. 🙂


    • Carrie Rubin

      Isn’t that the truth? And yet I keep adding new books I want to read to my reading queue, thinking that maybe I’ll eventually get caught up and read them all. 🙂


  2. lostnchina

    I was solicited through my blog to give this person a review of her ebook on Amazon, and they’ll give me a copy for free.

    The book was…blah…probably 2 stars…but I gave it a 3, because I’ve nothing against this woman, and she did give me a free ebook. AND the other reviews on there are fake (all 3 of them) – but I didn’t want other people to pay their hard-earned $0.99 or $1.99 – however much the book was worth, thinking it’s a 4-star book when it’s obviously not. So I wonder, whether it would be helpful if you had reviewed those books you thought were 1- or 2-stars? (Though this would entail that you actually finish the damn thing.)


    • Carrie Rubin

      There is much truth to what you say, and you’re right, it would be helpful to others. I admire those who put a respectful negative review up. It helps all of us as readers. I guess it’s just hard for me to do that, not only because I have my own book. Even before I became an author I had trouble leaving negative reviews, whether it be for a book, or a movie, or a product. Luckily, there are plenty of folks who have no trouble doing so, but I think it can be done in a manner that isn’t cruel.

      Thanks for reading and commenting. I appreciate it!


  3. Zen A.

    Definitely not an easy grader here. Entertainment does factor into my rating, but I also take into consideration cliches, annoying characters, plot holes, all that stuff that I personally try to avoid as a write because they bug me endlessly. For the most part, however, I tend to give 3 and 4 stars… and 5 stars for those books that I really love.

    Though… I am definitely kinder to indie authors, because like you, many of them are actually people I know, and I’d feel bad giving them bad reviews. xD


    • Carrie Rubin

      Sounds like you’re doing it the right way. I wonder if I’d be a tougher grader if I didn’t leave reviews in my real name. But by using my real identity all over the Internet, I suppose I tend to be on my best behavior. 🙂

      Hope all is well for you. Thanks for stopping by!


  4. Kourtney Heintz

    I read a book by an indie author that felt like an early draft. There were major structural issues. Wrong POV, incorrect use of that POV, poor writing, constant telling. Undeveloped scenes. 2-d characters. The concept had potential, but the actual execution fell apart. I wish small presses and self published authors would realize putting out a badly written book is bad for the author and the industry.


    • Carrie Rubin

      Agreed. I probably wouldn’t have made it through that book you described, though sometimes it’s difficult not to finish if the author is an online acquaintance. That’s why I admit I’m an easier grader for indie books. I’m not saying that’s right, because it really isn’t, but I’m just being truthful. I suspect I’m not alone. But as I mentioned in the post, if it’s really unreadable, I’ll stop and just maintain my silence. 🙂


      • Kourtney Heintz

        I try to grade on a curve and cut indies more slack too. I think I just stumbled on a really badly written book and it made me terribly angry today. I try to read these through so I can see why the book didn’t work. Part of me hopes the writing will improve too. It’s just one that I won’t review and will chalk up to a reminder of why it’s important to constantly work on craft. 🙂


  5. Anne Chia

    That makes two of us. I am an easy grader too I think. If s/he has gone to all that trouble to boldly put out some writing, why not validate (unless they are award-winningly bad).

    I can’t believe you found typos in those books by authors who are so established! What???


    • Carrie Rubin

      I know, hard to believe, isn’t it? Then again, they’re large books, and it made me feel a whole lot better about the typo in my own book. Of course, the bigwig publishers can go back and change the typos for future editions. My publisher said no to my request. 😦


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