September 5, 2014 • Cee • Discussion


Scenario: You just finished typing up a review, and you realize you have to rate it, but you find yourself at a lost because what rating does this book deserve? It was okay. You liked and hated some stuff. It deserves a…B? B-? Maybe lower than that? Then months later, you’re going over your old reviews (for whatever reason—fixing formatting or comparing ratings) when you look at your review of The Bird Who Never Sang (a book I just made up), you frown and think, “wait, I rated the book a B? That doesn’t seem right. It deserves so much lower than that?”



Yes, absolutely. It happens frequently when I’m writing reviews. It usually happens with books that I had initially been unsure of what I should rate it.

Recently, Charlotte and I were talking about Avalon and decided to look at our reviews to see how we rated it.

Charlotte: Wow, I gave Avalon a really high rating. I don’t remember loving it that much.

Me: (Looks at my own rating and frowns, totally baffled by the grade) Huh, I gave it a B-??? Like why? I only remember the boredom and frustration. Why did I rate it that? It deserves like a C or C-, at best.

Everything about Avalon was the definition of meh. There were so many problems in that book—the main of which was the lack of connection with the characters—so why did I rate it higher than it deserved?



I will answer this with another question: do my ratings change because my tastes have changed?

For me, I don’t chalk it up to taste changing. I think it’s because of two reasons: 1. I’m getting over my guilt and 2. I’m getting over the high of the book that covered my brain in a thick fog (which I didn’t emerge out of until months later).

Reason #1: Bye Bye, Guilt

Yes, you read that right. Guilt. I have a weird habit of feeling guilty when I rate books because I want it to accurately convey how I feel. (It’s a lot of responsibility on the grade to carry on its shoulder.) I’m a perfectionist, what can I say?

Most of the time, settling on the perfect rating is a bit difficult and rarely happens quickly, especially if I find an equal amount of pros and cons for a book or if I was kind of meh or bored with it. A battle is fought inside my brain. I rate books by grades, and despite the plus and minus signs, which gives me lots of choices, I am still confused if the grade I decide on is the perfect one. I flip-flop back and forth, weighing out the pros and cons. Here’s how my usual thought process goes:

“I think it’s a C-. Maybe? C- is a bit too harsh? I did sort of like it? The writing and big mystery were good. Maybe a B- or a C+? But the characters, ugh, soooo frustrating. And the romance, no thanks. Didn’t connect with anything. But gahhhh. B-? No. Maybe? What to dooooooooo.”

In the end, I tend to rate just a bit higher than I should because I just feel bad. (The guilt plays in here!) I feel bad because the book has good parts, but there are parts that were beyond frustrating. It’s like I’m setting the book for a bad future or for failure by putting a strike in their permanent record. It’s weird, I know.

Months later though, I get over my guilt, so I don’t feel horrible about giving Avalon a C-. I am the most ruthless.

Reason #2: The High Is Over

The honeymoon period is over. At least, for the books I read that I don’t harbor any strong memories or affectionate feelings.

That’s the only way I can put it.

I do feel like I get caught up in the high/excitement of the book, glossing over the things that I ignored initially (even though I addressed the problems in the review). And then months later, I just find myself puzzled of why I gave a book a certain rating. It really sucks when I realize it wasn’t all that cracked up to be. Maybe the idea of the high being over is a matter of taste changing?

Whatever it is, I don’t feel that overwhelming excitement for that book. It’s like I’m —

I feel like I can rate it better months later. Maybe because I’m looking at a book in a different light, or in a clearer mind?

(Note: I don’t feel this way for all the books I read. I still have the excitement and love for certain books—usually the ones that have made me reflect back on my own life or made me cry. The honeymoon/high will never be over for those.)

What about you? Have you looked back on your book rating and realized that it’s not completely accurate? Why do you think it changes? Is it because your taste changes or something entirely different like me? 


11 Responses to “THE THREE C’S: CANDID CONVERSATIONS WITH CEE | Flip Flopping on Book Ratings”


    You know I’ve definitely looked back on my ratings and thought I should change them but I won’t ever change them because they reflected how I felt at the time I finished the book. The memory and feelings I had about the book are the freshest at that point so I just got with that. If I let myself change ratings, it’ll be a constant wave of changing every single rating and it’ll probably just get lower and lower. I do envy people, you included, who can remember the high of a book. The high for me is over within a few min no matter how much I enjoyed that book or disliked it. I can remember feeling high but I can’t conjure that emotion anymore even when I think about the book which is why I always make it a point to rate a book the moment I finish it because I just know once a few minutes have passed, I’m going to feel so different about it. Unless I start talking about the book or write the review, then the emotions start rolling in. But if you throw in the title of any book I’ve read right now, I would just be meh about it.

    I guess another part of it is because the more I read, the more critical I become so naturally I’m gonna be a lot harsher as time goes on. I was more a lenient reviewer in the past because at that time, those books might have been amazing but if I read them now, they might not even elicit the same excitement in me anymore.

  2. Ugh, yes! There’s been so many times I’ve looked at ratings and thought, “Why the hell did I think this book deserved *blank* stars?” but I don’t change it because sometimes I enjoy a book while I’m actually reading it and then later it doesn’t seem so great anymore. But the experience was still pleasant at the time, right? I’m a very moody reader anyway, so what I enjoy in March may not be something I’d enjoy in April. So even when I do get itchy fingers to change a rating, I force myself to leave it alone. Although there is ONE book I changed that I just hated that much XD

  3. A couple of months ago I went back to all my old reviews and I changed some ratings.. I didn’t feel comfortable having inaccurate ratings on my blog. I want my review to be honest and like you, I sometimes rated right after finishing the book and those ratings are higher. That’s why I’m now taking more time before I write a review (and okay, I’ve been a bit lazy lately :p)

    Most of the changes happened between 2 and 3.5 stars. My 1 and 4 – 5+ stars are always accurate, but I felt I had to switch up a little in the other ratings :)

  4. Jackie says:

    I am all too familiar with flip-flopping on review ratings. In fact, I struggled with ratings to much that I ended up dropping ratings all together (although lately, I’ve been thinking of bringing them back…). You talk about a honeymoon phase with the books you’ve read, and I think that’s a perfect way to look it the situation. I know after I’ve read a book, it’s the only thing I think about. I’m so appreciative of the journey it has taken me on, I fail to think about the book critically– fail to compare the characters/world/plot to others in books I’ve read. After the honeymoon phase is over, I tend to be a little more critical– that stuff that didn’t really work well for me stands out more. The stuff that other authors executed better stands out more.

  5. Katie says:

    I always tend to over-analyze my ratings. I’ve stopped myself from changing them after a few days have passed, but sometimes I will change a rating (usually lowering it) if it’s only been a couple of days or even hours.
    Part of my problem is that I always rate books before I write reviews, but writing things down helps me think about the book and sometimes I realize I don’t like it so much as I thought, looking at the problems. It’s easy for me to get caught up in a book and not notice flaws until afterwords.

  6. Oh so true. Guilt and knowing no one’s gonna check up on you later and wag their proverbial fingers at you because they don’t really care anymore.

  7. Charleen says:

    I do change my ratings sometimes, but not for the same reasons as you.

    I’m not rating the book so much as my experience reading the book. If a book is full of cliches and plot holes but there’s still enough about it that I do enjoy reading it, my rating will reflect that. So, for me, I feel like the best time to rate is right after I finish the book, or maybe after sleeping on it for a night… even if that very rating confuses me when I look back months later. I might be confused, but I won’t change my rating.

    On the other hand, any time I re-read a book, the rating is up for reevaluation. And here is I think where it does come down to tastes changing, or even the way that I rate changing. I’m currently finishing up a series that I originally rated mostly 4-stars, with one book getting 5-stars and one getting 3-stars. On a re-read… they’re all solid 4-stars. But I rated these very shortly after starting on GR, and I think I felt the need to differentiate my favorite and least favorite from the rest of the series. And since I hadn’t read so many books at that point, it wasn’t immediately obvious that my reactions weren’t as extreme as I was making them sound.

    There are lots of ratings, especially from books I read years ago, that I wonder about… but unless I take the time to re-read the book, they won’t change.

  8. I definitely look back on certain books and wonder why I’d rated them as much as I did. Strangely enough, it’s always that I feel they should be less than what I’ve rated them; I’ve never looked back on a book and thought I’d rated it lower than I should have. Guilt plays a part with me, too: as much as I believe in honesty and integrity as a blogger, I also don’t want authors to feel bad in a way! Which is hypocritical because I 100% support negative reviews, and write negative reviews myself. I don’t know, I’m just nice, I don’t like criticising people (HOW DID I GET PROMOTED TO A SUPERVISOR AT WORK???) but I do it anyway lol. And I definitely agree that the honeymoon period plays into it too. Emotions are so strong in the moment but the glow fades.

    I don’t ever actually go back and change my reviews though (I lie, I’ve done it once to one book). I feel like if I change it once, I’ll be constantly changing it. So I stick with initial rating because that’s kind of a snapshot of my feelings at the time. If I ever come around to rereading it (usually the high four-stars and five star ratings, which are the ones I usually change my mind on anyway), I plan on writing reread reviews, which would address that wavering uncertainty towards the rating, I hope.

  9. Sydney says:

    Honestly I’ve been doing this a LOT more lately. When I think in terms of “3 star = liked it, 4 star = loved it, 5 star = ASDFGHJKL” I can’t help but feel like I’ve been rating a LOT of books too high. But I’m also a guilt rater. I’ll think “Oh, the romance wasn’t stellar but it had swoon moments, so…” and that often means I’ll bump up the rating. I also bump up ratings on Goodreads, so a 3.5 star book would get a 4 star GR rating (okay they really need half-star ratings).

    It drives me crazy looking back on old reviews and thinking “I didn’t love that book THAT much, and while it was a favorite it wasn’t a 5 star…” But it’s hard for me to part with those ratings because they’re already in place. :/ So weird, I know. Eventually I’ll go back and probably rethink the ratings I gave to books, ha.

    Awesome post!

  10. Vlora says:

    Yup, I do this too. Usually I think I’ve given the book a higher rating than I should have because when I think back on it, I mostly evaluate it critically. However, when I rate a book right after finishing it, I consider the reading experience and how much I enjoyed it as well. I just noticed this when I reread a series recently. I added the books to my goodreads account years after I read them and I rated all of them around three stars. Now I’ve reread them, I gave all of them four stars because I actually really enjoyed them. The other reason I give books a higher rating than they deserve sometimes, is that I WANT to like them. I try to see the good, so I look for things I liked and if I find them, I feel guilty giving them a bad rating.

    I’ll try to keep from changing too many of my ratings because then I’d be at it all the time, but if I feel a rating really doesn’t fit the quality of the book, I’ll adjust it.

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