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Season 4, Episode 6

The Good, the Bad, and the Average: Starred Book Ratings

February 17, 2022

Jen and Charity discuss book ratings, what it takes to get 5 stars, and what it all means. Book recommendations for young adult and middle grade readers.

Titles Mentioned in This Episode

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Charity 0:01 This is Planet Book with Charity and Jen. On this show we talk about the stories that mean the most to us. If you love books, you've come to the right place. Planet book is made possible by the Springfield-Greene County Library District. Welcome to the Planet. Hey, Jen.

Jen 0:15 Hello, hello.

Charity 0:16 Today we're talking about our book ratings. And we refer to these a lot on different episodes. Oh, I gave that however many stars. But now we're kind of going to get into the nit and gritty of, you know, our own personal ratings. And you know, maybe what it takes to get like five stars. So Jen, why don't you kick off? Because I feel like I usually start so lead us off.

Jen 0:40 Okay. Yeah, I will say that, when I rate things, the easiest example for me is going to be a movie, like so if I'm rating Stephen King's book, The Shining, I'm rating it as a book. What did it do? If I rate the movie The Shining I'm rating the movie, not how it compares to the book. Not if it did. I'm just like, was this a good movie by standards of moviemaking? Is this a good book by standards of book making? But then again, when it comes to a five star review, it maybe isn't going to be the most well written book in the world. But it's one that I'm like, everyone should read this. This was groundbreaking. Like, it's, you know, not always the most scholarly book's going to be five. Just this book did something that I've-or made me feel away, or I've been thinking about this book a lot. So if I'm reading, I guess what I'm saying if I'm reading a children's book, it's based on like, here's a picture book. I'm comparing it to picture books. Here's a middle grade book, I'm comparing it to middle grade books. So I'm not gonna compare Charlotte's Web to Pride and Prejudice.

Charity 1:53 Right. I mean, I'm with you on that. I-here's what I think is so fascinating for me about these conversations, is that you have such an analytical mind, and I just love to hear how it works. And so when you say, well, when I'm watching a movie, I rate it as a movie. I don't compare it to the book. If I watch a movie that's based on a book, like if I and I read that book, and I liked it, I'm comparing that movie to that book. How did they adapt that story? But it makes sense. Well, yeah, they deserve to be viewed in their own right there. You know, Jen, you're just so wise. You're so wise.

Jen 2:37 And I won't say them because they're adult books. But I can think of like two situations where the movie was actually better than the book because like, if you've read a book, generally, the movie can't compare.

Charity 2:49 Right. Nine times out of 10 the book is going to be better for sure. Let me ask you this. So like before you go see a movie or before you pick up a book do you see like, what other people said about it? Do you read the ratings?

Jen 3:05 No, no, we've kind of talked about this in past episodes. I try to avoid all media spoilers, opinions, until I have my opinion. Then after I have my own opinion formulated, I like to compare like, Oh, what did you know critic A say?

Charity 3:26 So like, if you're going to go see a movie and Rotten Tomatoes gives it like a 32. That's not going to-like you're not going to look to see that they gave it 32. Or if you saw that, would it influence you at all?

Jen 3:38 It wouldn't because, okay, what about A Christmas Story? Have you ever seen a Christmas story? Mm hmm. It's pretty fun to watch on the holidays, right? PBS plays it. They used to play it all day long.

Charity 3:50 Yeah, like a marathon? A classic.

Jen 3:52 It was a flop. It was a flop. So if you were going by the rating systems, at the time it came out, you wouldn't have wanted to see the movie because they said it was a flop. So I tend to kind of have a-I tend to not always be in agreement with like the mainstream anyway. So what's it matter? What about you?

Charity 4:17 I mean, I'm pretty much the same way because I want to go into a movie or I want to go into reading a book without other people's experiences. I want to go into it being able to have my own experience with that material. I guess I don't want my feeling about it to be clouded by oh, this big critic said this about it or you know. But we do work in a library and I don't know about about you, but like we talk about books. Somebody read a great book, they come in oh, you know, we're friends on Goodreads you see someone so gave it four stars, does that influence you at all? To see how people that you know and respect viewed it

Jen 4:58 Right. If I know that you have a similar, like, if we have a similar taste in books, then if you say, oh, have you read this? This is great. This is brand new. I just read it. I will put that on my hope list immediately. That way I-and then sometimes I don't get around to those and so I have to put it on hold again. But I do take other people's word of mouth.

Charity 5:23 Okay, I am just so curious. Like how-so if someone like a friend says, hey, I just read this book, I think it was great. But in the past, let's say in the past, they gave you something similar and you read it and like that you know, like you hated that book.

Jen 5:39 I'll tell you this. A patron came in last week and said this book was awful. And then they said why they thought it was awful. And I'm like I said, I'm checking it out tonight. That sounds great. Like everything that they thought was wrong with the book, I thought it would have made it great. So I went home with a book. So sometimes it's if you just know that you are probably I don't know-you like what you like, and somebody suggests something, and I don't love it as much as they do that. I'm just like, eh. It'd probably take two or three recommendations before I wouldn't trust them. What about you? You give them one?

Charity 6:21 I think probably a couple of books. Because yeah, I mean, every book is different. And so-but then, you know, after a few, like, I come to see like, okay, their view on books is similar to mine. So I can kind of trust what they say. I've got a co-worker, and those that work around us they know we are infamous for never having the same view on a book. And I mean, every time it comes up, and it comes up all the time, like, we have such similar personalities so you would think that our views would be similar. But like, no matter what the book is, picture books, chapter books, adult novels, TV shows, movies, like, I'll be like, oh, my gosh, I loved this show. And then she'll watch it like, no. She'll come in raving about a show and I'm like, yeah, I gave that two episodes. So we're just-so you know, you have those people that you're like, okay, I know, I can trust their recommendations. Now, that being said, I know this person is a really-they're an avid reader, and they have a great take on books. And so if they give me a recommendation, usually, I will get on like Goodreads. And I'll say okay, and I'll really look what is this book about and if it sounds interesting, at that point, I'll go ahead and read it. But I usually take their recommendations with a grain of salt, because I just know that I won't probably like. And then there are other people though, they've recommended several books. And like, I've got a co-worker on the outside, we seem to be very different personality, style, everything. But they've made several recommendations for books and shows. And I have loved them. I was like, give me more. So it's fun to find those people who like you can kind of swap recommendations back and forth with. But yeah, so you know, you have to learn whose ratings you can trust. Now, what are your own personal ratings? Like how do you personally-

Jen 8:21 Well that's what I thought was funny. And this is what brought about this episode, because you would keep saying, oh, this is a great book, I loved it. And then I'd look on your Goodreads and you're like, two stars, three stars or so. And I'm, I think, for the most part, I don't select a whole lot of stuff I know upfront I'm gonna hate. So I do a pretty good job of weeding out and only devoting my time to what I think I'm going to get something out of I don't. It doesn't have to be an enjoyable experience. But if it's made me think of the world in a different way than Yay. So yeah, a five star book is something that, you know, I'm still thinking about, or that I would immediately like read and then say I have to own this for my own library. I want to give this as a gift. A four star going to be that's a solid book. I could suggest this to any patron and not have a shadow of doubt about this. Like, whether they like it or not I feel like it's a good enough book to recommend. Three stars is going to be it was a book. I didn't love it. I didn't hate it. I'm gonna forget it in two days. And then I don't know that I've even-I think I've given out one two star and that's because it was just there was holes in the logic, holes in the reading.

Charity 9:44 That's so funny. So I'm looking at Goodreads. If you're on Goodreads, it will let you compare your ratings to your friends. So Goodreads says we are 71% similar in the books that we've rated. And we're similar on a lot of titles, but I can see like, there are a couple where I gave it one star you gave it three or vice versa.

Jen 10:09 I remember when I first because I hadn't been involved in Goodreads until this podcast, really, I'd had an account, but I didn't really rate things. So I remember you're like, Lord of the Flies. I can't remember if I gave it four or five. But hey, I read it in high school. I really thought it was good in high school when I read it.

Charity 10:32 I think I mean I did finish it. But yeah, I think if I could, that's one if I could have given it zero stars I would zero stars.

Jen 10:40 Yeah, it's brutal.

Charity 10:42 I mean, it is like, so I will say so on Goodreads most of my ratings are within two to three stars. And yeah, once in a while, something will get four stars. And there are like a handful of things that I've given five stars to, and you're only getting five stars from me if that book, like I couldn't stop thinking about it. And there are a few titles that I'm thinking of, I'm pretty sure I gave like the War that Saved My Life, five stars. There's several adult titles. But those are the books that you are just so engrossed in the story. It's like you forget about the world around you. And then even days afterwards, I just find myself thinking about those words, or I want to buy it. Like there are some books-I normally don't buy books. But in the last year I have because I've read a couple books by an author that I was like, oh my god, this is amazing. I want to own this book so that I can go back and look at it anytime. And so those books got five stars. But if you don't move me and so on Goodreads people say you only gave it three stars but on Goodreads three stars is just it's like I liked it. I didn't love it. I didn't hate it. I liked it. It was okay. Two stars is like no, this did nothing for me. And if you've only got one star, I probably didn't even finish it. And I have a did not finish shelf on Goodreads.

Jen 12:08 Oh, I didn't even realize there was a did not finish.

Charity 12:11 I mean, I just I created for myself, because I wanted to keep track of those books that like this was so terrible that I didn't even finish. And I will say back to like other people giving you recommendations, you have to know those people. There is a patron who came in and this patron like they've been coming in for years. I would say they're a friend. They're lovely. And they recommended a book. And they're like, oh my gosh, this is so good. And I was skeptical, because of who the author was. And but I was like, okay, this person had never recommended a book to me, I'm gonna read it. And it was-the book was it wasn't bad. I think I might have given you No, but I was like, Okay, this was exactly what I thought. And now I know where that person falls when it comes to rating books. And do you feel like, I've talked about this with some folks before. Like, there's a difference in how people who are immersed in books, like librarians are rate books versus kind of the lay person rates books? Have you found that to be true? I don't know. So like, you know, so this patron, like they are not a library person, they use the labor, but they're not a they're not like a reader reader, I don't think and so like, their take on books is different than say someone who's worked in a library. We're surrounded by books, we're reading all the time all kinds of things. And so I think, I don't know, I just think we're a little more discerning.

Jen 13:41 Right. And if you've read enough, or a lot of us have, if not majored, minored iIn some sort of literature writing teaching, we have a certain set of skills that we can evaluate things, not just on an emotional level. Like I think a lot of patrons are have the luxury of just like, hey, this is this impacted me on an emotional level. That's what I'm looking for. I'm rarely looking for something that's going to impact me just on an emotional level, I usually want somebody that's that's trying to say something, and maybe you have to work a little harder and understanding that and sometimes those books that you have to work harder, or even movies, the more you learn about cinematography or cutting films or whatever, it gives you a different level of understanding. So I think, that being said, sometimes patrons that you know, maybe they work at a gas station, and that's you know, that's a noble job. That's a very dangerous job. And I've had people like one of my best friends is a cook at one of the places in town, and he also worked at Vintage Stock so any kind of comic book he recommends I know is going to be great because he worked at Vintage stock.

Charity 15:07 Yeah. So he's got, I feel like that's like he's got some street cred, you know, and so I yeah, I trust those recommendations from people that I know, have some credibility behind those, you know, behind the recommendations, versus, you know, something else.

Jen 15:26 Now, I will say that, like, say, I know, I'm weak in a romance genre. Like I would, I would have to look at Fantastic Fiction before I could recommend anything to anyone, for the most part. So there are certain patrons, that's all they read. So sometimes, I will ask about like, who are your favorite authors and why to kind of get an understanding of what people that maybe read a genre I'm not as into want. And some of them want a spicy and some of them want no spice. And so it's always kind of interesting.

Charity 16:03 I do find, you know, I do try to read at least one book and genres outside of my go tos, just so that I can have some sense of what that author is like or like the really big names. So the book that this patron had recommended was, was a big name, author, and I'd never read any of their books. But I thought, You know what, this person is so huge, and this is what so many of our patrons are reading. Let me read one, so I can at least say okay-

Jen 16:32 Was this James Patterson?

Charity 16:35 It was?

Jen 16:39 Well, for the listeners that maybe don't work in libraries, James Patterson comes out with like, three books a month, at least, and they're in kids books, middle grade books, adult books.

Charity 16:55 Yeah, they take up like three or four shelves in the library, just James Patterson. It's like, here's the James Patterson row. I mean, bless his heart. But yeah, and I do think as a librarian, you do kind of have to, you gotta keep up with it. You gotta, you gotta at least expose yourself to some of those big authors and genres so that you have some semblance of familiarity. But-

Jen 17:20 I think I read him back when he was first like kind of kicking off with like it was it Kiss the Girls or Along Came a Spider or something? I think I enjoyed those, like, legitimately enjoyed those that made him popular. It was just, it'd be hard to keep up with everything, I guess is what I'm trying to say.

Charity 17:37 So how do you feel-so you know, we both kind of said, we don't really look at the book reviews before we read a book. How do you feel when you let's say, you really loved a book, and you go back and look through reviews? And like, they're terrible, like everyone hated it? Like, or maybe it happens the other way? Like, how do you feel when that happens?

Jen 17:57 I do tend to love books that a lot of people love or hate. So I'm fairly comfortable with people hating something I've loved. There aren't as many middle middle ground books that I'm as attracted to. Kind of like what is the-why do so many people hate this book or why did so many people love and hate this book? So I generally can formulate a response in my head like, well, you and a lot of times it means they're judging this by a different standard, like they want the character to be X Y or Z. And I'm like, you're wanting another book. Or did you not notice that pregnancy was involved? This character couldn't have been male. There's a pregnancy involved. Like you have to have a woman like, so. Sometimes I just, I'm blown away with what people complain about. Because, it doesn't make sense. What about you?

Charity 18:56 I mean, so I always look to see, I always want to see the worst reviews, even on Amazon. Like if I'm buying something and I see something has a ton of reviews, I want to see that most critical review. Because I feel like those are the ones that are gonna give you-I feel like there's just more truth there maybe. So I always look at the one and two star reviews on Goodreads. And I will say like, no matter what its been or how popular it's been, you can always find people who feel the same way that you did about books, and it does feel, you know, validating like, okay, I wasn't just out in left field here and people picked up on the same things that I did. And so, you know-

Jen 19:39 Well, and it's also funny that there's always going to be the karen's and the kevin's of the world that you wouldn't be able to please them like you know, right. Like, you need to read another genre is what happened. Like you're expecting a romance when you're reading a thriller or whatever. sometimes it sounds like what do you think's gonna happen in this genre? Have you never read it before?

Charity 20:06 We do see some of that.I always love you know, like the patrons who come in and they want like fantasy, but I don't want any magic. Well gosh, that really is going to narrow down what you're looking for. And how do you feel when you recommend a book to a patron and they come back and they didn't like it? Listeners, you can't see, but Jen's face just got very pensive. She's really thinking. You know, so I'll let you think. So, I try not-I've gotten way better about this. But when I first started in the library, I'd recommend a book that I loved and like if patrons didn't love it, I would kind of be like, what do you mean, you didn't love this? This book is amazing. But it's worked the other way too like books that I-there's a book that I have recommended and I recommended it several times. It's a great family read aloud and that's the Wild Robot by Peter Brown.

Jen 21:05 Oh, yeah.

Charity 21:06 Everyone that I've personally recommended it to that's read it, they have all loved it. I feel like yes, this is what being a librarian is about.

Jen 21:16 I think because of the emphasis that like I had in college being kind of like, I was really into transgressive literature. So that's the rule breaking stuff. I am very cautious about what I recommend to people. I don't just recommend something because I like it. I'm basically not going to recommend something to a patron if I haven't heard it talked about on NPR because I understand that my rationale for like, I'm not easily offended. I mean, like, there's all these things that I have to think, well, what would a normal human being do? How would this affect a normal human being?

Charity 21:57 Right, right. Well, I, you know, I do, usually I'm recommending stuff I personally like when they say well, what would you suggest? But, you know, there have been times where, you know, I'll recommend a book and they'll say, well, is there any of this in there? Is there any of that? And I'm kind of like you like, there isn't a whole lot that I am offended by or, you know, bothered by in books. And so, you know, I always say, well, you know, it didn't bother me, but you might want to read it for yourself, before you give it to your kids because we're all different.

Jen 22:31 I noticed that sometimes things, I think middle grades are the trickiest because stuff I would think solid-like to me Nimona by the way, I can't think of her name off the top of my head. But Nimona to me is a solid middle grade read. But to a lot of our co-workers. It's like, no, no, it's like a ninth, 10th grade read. So it's that kind of thing. That is a lot of times I have to look like what's Fantastic Fiction saying or what's Goodreads saying? What's the demographic? And I usually just go by what the book says. On the book, it says it's targeting this age group.

Charity 23:10 There's a reason why those are on there. They're usually pretty on the money so. There was a time that like, I remember this one time a patron came in, and they wanted mystery books. And after talking to them, I recommended some Tana French, who's been on my radar, but I haven't read anything by her. But her books sound really interesting. And I was like, well, you know, try these out. I haven't read or I hadn't read the book that he said he wanted something like it. But thank goodness that, you know, we've got sites like Novelist and Fantastic Fiction. And so he came back later after reading that he's like, oh my god, I love that book. That was amazing and I put the rest of her books on hold. It's like, okay, that's nice. And that makes a librarian's heart feel good.

Jen 23:57 And that's funny. That's one of the patrons that I do trust her opinion. But she recommended that author and I just haven't still haven't gotten around to reading it because child death. And if I know child that's going to happen. It's sometimes like, oh, let me save this for you know, when I'm emotionally stable enough to read this.

Charity 24:18 Yeah, I've heard you say that before. And that's a good point to make here too. Like, because in the last year, I have gone back and revisited books that I read that initially I did not like. There was one book, it's an adult book, so I won't mention it. But it was super popular. They turned it into a movie. Everybody was raving about it. And so I tried it and I hated that book so much. But I think it was just because of where I was emotionally, mentally at the time. And so I read it again, in a completely different headspace and I really liked it and I was surprised by that. So I'm going to ask you one more question before we wind up. Do you ever go back and change your ratings on Goodreads? Because after I read that book and liked it, I went back and I changed my rating. I wrote a totally different review and do you ever do that?

Jen 25:10 I do, and especially the more I get of a certain genre, because it can go either way. So if I've been, like, say, I'm reading a teen historical fiction, and I've read 10 teen historical fiction titles, well, I'm probably going to be more generous because I don't have a lot to compare it against. So once I hit 50, teen historical fictions, I'll be like, well, okay, maybe that was more of a three, you know, not a four.

Charity 25:39 Yeah, I feel like you know, just because you felt one way about a book at one point in your life doesn't mean that, you know, maybe it hits you differently at a different time and a book that you didn't like, before you'll come to like, or vice versa. I will say that I have been pleasantly surprised at revisiting some books that I loved as a kid, which we've talked about in previous episodes and seasons that have held up and I still like them. It's like, oh, that's so beautiful.

Jen 26:09 Yeah, yeah, exactly. Versus mine probably wouldn't.

Charity 26:16 Jen, you know, before this project, I knew that you are like one of the most interesting and coolest people and this is just like confirming it. Every time we do an episode like Jen's the coolest chick I know.

Jen 26:28 No, no. It's so much fun though, to let the younger patrons because we work in the area where the younger people come like the teenagers and working in a library you have certain teens that they just stop in once a week and just want to tell you what, what's going on. But the funniest part is that I have certain teenagers that we'll talk about and they love watching these 80s movies and telling me how awful they are. Like you guys like this? This is wrong on so many levels. I'm like we didn't know that.

Charity 27:02 Can you say what's one that they-

Jen 27:03 Overboard.

Charity 27:04 You know I've never seen that one.

Jen 27:05 With Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell, he essentially kidnaps her and makes her his servant. And then, you know? She maybe wasn't the nicest person to begin with, but it's still not okay to kidnap and, and just, you know, make someone your servant.

Charity 27:22 Yes. You know, sometimes you have to be careful about looking back because you know, things can get a little problematic.

Jen 27:27 Yes.

Charity 27:28 You go back far enough. Oh, gosh, this has been so fun.

Jen 27:36 One of my coworkers was talking about how awful the second Indiana Jones is, how problematic that is. So yeah. Yeah, the stuff we grew up with, like, that's the other reason I'm so hesitant to just go by my gut reactions like, hey, our rating systems were different back in the day.

Charity 27:55 True, true, yeah. I mean, you develop a different sensibility about those kinds of things as you get older and you know, that's all a part of life and growing. And, you know, well, thanks for joining me on this episode, Jen. I loved hearing about your ratings and all your views. It's always good.

Jen 28:15 I know. I love to understand why Charity is such a two and three. You've got to work hard for Charity's approval.

Charity 28:28 You know you've got to really do a lot to win me over authors. So I'll just tell you that. Thanks for joining us for another episode, send your book and show suggestions or comments to We'd love to hear from you. Follow us on Facebook for the latest news and events. This has been a production of the Springfield-Greene County Library District. Thanks for listening.

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