Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Rant: False 5-Star Reviews

Hello Readers-
I'm feeling a bit ranty today. Why, you ask? Because of false 5-star reviews. And I am not talking about the "fake" reviews where people are creating fake profiles to leave fake reviews (that's a-whole-nother issue). I am talking about reviewers, bloggers, street team members, or anyone who got a free copy of the book for an honest review, only to leave a false positive.  

We even see the reviews with that caveat in them: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Why, then, does this new or upcoming release have ONLY five-star reviews that all sound very familiar? Statistically speaking, it is not believable that every single person who was provided an ARC (for an honest review) felt the same way about a book. Check out the below sampling of rating stats for new and upcoming releases:

The above stats are from books that I have read or am in the process of reading for an honest review. ALL of the 5-star reviews are from people who received an advanced copy of the book.  I actually volunteered to participate in the ARC program for these books based on the star ratings the book was getting.  Imagine my surprise and annoyance when I am expecting the ultimate in reads, the glorious 5-star, and what I am faced with is a lackluster 2-star. 

Am I being a bitch?  I know people rate books differently and we all feel different when we are reading.  But I feel like I am seeing a lot of guilt ratings... what my friend Deanna (from Deanna's World) and I sometimes call "pity stars". This issue arises when you are reading something for an author who you really like, or who is really sweet, so you feel guilty giving the book an honest rating because you don't want to hurt the author's feelings.  Now, I was raised in the South so I grew up being taught that you should only say something nice (or not say anything at all).  So I admit that I have problems with this, and may (in the past) have been guilty of bumping up my 2-star rating to a 3-star, or maybe even a 3-star to a 4-star.  But never have I ever given out an unwarranted 5-star rating.  5-stars are my holy grail.  I reserve that rating for that book that is absolutely to-die-for and that I recommend to ALL of my friends.  But after this latest round of annoyance for me, I am vowing to do away with the pity star.  I feel I owe that to myself, to my readers who are relying on my reviews when deciding on a book, and to the author who has asked for an honest review.  And listen, just because you don't rate a book 5-stars does not mean that the book is terrible.  And just because you rate a book at a lower level does not mean that you have to write a bitchy review.  

So let's look at rating systems.  Below are the standard Goodreads and Amazon Rating Systems.  This is what Goodreads and Amazon tell you if you hover over the stars before you give a rating:

5 Stars:  It was amazing (GR) / I loved it (Amazon).
4 Stars:  I really liked it (GR) / I like it (Amazon).
3 Stars:  I liked it (GR) / It was ok (Amazon).
2 Stars:  It was okay (GR) / I don't like it (Amazon).
1 Star:    I did not like it (GR) / I hate it (Amazon).

Since I most commonly use Goodreads and Amazon, I use a variation of those rating systems.  Here's mine:

5 Stars:  This book is amazing and a must read.  I will recommend it to all my friends.
4 Stars:  This book was great, but there was something missing or some aspect I didn't like.
3 Stars:  Good book and still recommendable to my friends.
2 Stars:  I did not really enjoy the book, but my OCD kept me reading.
1 Star:    I did not like the book.  I struggled to finish it and it made me ranty.
DNF:      The book was not for me.  I abandoned it before finishing.

I guess I have not really addressed why this issue is making me so ranty.  And its not just that its statistically not believable for all advance reviewers to have absolutely lurved a book.  It's because - as a reader - I rely on these ratings!  When I'm trying to decide what book to read, or what ARC to accept, I look at the star ratings on Goodreads and Amazon.  They help me decide whether I'm gonna pick up this book or not.  So seeing all these 5-star reviews definitely has an impact.  And picking up a book and expecting one thing, only to have something vastly different, will make me ranty reader.  I feel like I have been let down by my fellow readers.  And that's not a very good feeling.  

Does this issue bother you as well, or am I a little too high on my soap box?  Let's discuss.