Ever see one of those book tags where you’re like, “Well shit, this is too good to pass up?” And then you’re disappointed because no one tagged you? Well, I saw this tag on Amanda @Literary Weaponry and she saw it at Way Too Fantasy, so if you are here reading this and thinking it sounds like fun, consider yourself tagged! (and also check out Amanda’s blog because she’s awesome).
So here we go!
1. What is the highest rated book that you gave a low rating? (Sort your books in Goodreads based on Average Ratings and find the highest rated book you gave a low rating).
Where do we start?
First off, I’m gonna caveat here: these are all my opinions. Just because I hated a book you enjoyed doesn’t mean the book itself is bad or that you are bad or that I’m a soulless monster (this last bit has some merit, though), just that we have different opinions and they are, well, opinions.
First up, Harry Potter. I grew up as these were being released, and so I remember life pre-Harry Potter, the sudden onslaught of Harry Potter-mania in the US, and then the movies and then JK Rowling opening her terfy mouth and ruining my childhood. Granted, the issues within Harry Potter (anti-Asian references, anti-Semitic stereotypes, racism, transphobia, etc.) have been long noted before Rowling revealed herself to the world as the Grand Dame of TERFs, putting my already-saddened state into one where I refuse to support her any more.
I still own my first editions, and I still cherish the memories these books gave me as a child (although I was never quite the Potterhead as others were), but I have rated all of these on Goodreads as a one-star. There is an argument to separate the art from the artist, and a general reclaiming of this work by others within the queer community, and I understand both arguments. However, for me, it’s a one-star and I will recommend other works of MG fantasy when doing book recommendations. JK Rowling has a huge platform and is ubiquitous in the MG/YA fantasy world: I can do my part by boosting marginalized fantasy authors instead of her (and hey, if you still like the books, I’m not going to stop you from checking them out or make comments on your reviews).
And here we have it: the Mary and Gary Stus of science fiction and fantasy.
The fact that 62,000+ reviews later and Project Hail Mary still has a 4.56 rating on Goodreads makes me just believe I read an entirely different book than everyone else. Grace was a damn golden retriever trapped in human form, and you can’t convince me otherwise.
As for Sarah J Maas, I feel that I might have given her more of a pass if some of her fans weren’t so…everywhere. Again, I’m not docking you if you love you some SJM—you do you, I love that you have passion unlike my heartless self, and again this is my opinion—but I mentally and physically have to brace myself 2-3 months before and 3 months after her books are released because they are everywhere. My Goodreads feed is flooded, my Instagram inundated, my blog over-saturated by SJM. All for books where I find the writing overt and lacking nuance, the twists blatant, the relationships and character dynamics flat and lazy, the main characters poorly disguised author self-inserts, and what little representation shoehorned in for ✨diversity✨ points.
2. What is the lowest rated book that you gave a high rating? (Sort your books in Goodreads based on Avg Ratings, in reverse order, and find the lowest rated book you gave a high rating).
Somehow, Airports, Exes and Other Things I’m Over has a 3.13 rating. Yes, Sari is a brat. Yes, she’s overly dramatic and not perfect and a little over the top with her reactions. But she’s a damn teenager and well, she kinda acts like it. This is a breezy YA contemporary about trust, second chances and discovering what love is—and is not—all while experiencing the hell of airport purgatory.
Loathe at First Sight gets its 3.18 rating more from bad marketing than anything else. Its summary, cover and the small marketing campaign surrounding it screamed contemporary romance when this book is…not that at all. It’s about misogyny and the intersection of race and gender in a male-dominated environment that fetishizes Asian women. It’s about burn-out and doxxing and failure and learning to take wins and continue to create even when the world is stacked against you. It’s for everyone who fumed while watching or listening to the 2020 Hugos.
3. What is the most popular book you disagree with the avg rating? (Sort your books in Goodreads based on number of Ratings, and find the first book you disagree with the avg rating)
Is this a surprise?
Because I cannot with this book. I cannot. I just cannot fucking wrap my head around that 4.56 average from 62,000+ reviewers. How? Why?
To be fair, this is a fantastic story—but it’s wrapped up in such shitty writing and storytelling and the most obnoxious character and an ending that nearly rolled my eyes out of my head that I just cannot. I cannot.
If I could hurl this book into the sun to be devoured by light-eating space algae, I 100% would. And yeah, I completely understand why the book’s Big Bad did what they did. I would too, because fuck Grace and all of the other white dudes who ride their previous outrageous successes to further heights without challenging themselves to do better instead of more of the same.
4. What is the least popular book you disagree with the avg rating? (Sort your books in Goodreads based on number of Ratings, in reverse order, and find the first book you disagree with the avg rating).
After Loathe at First Sight, it’s probably Go Set a Watchman. I liked this better than To Kill a Mockingbird, probably because I came into this classic as an adult and while I appreciated the story, I just did not get the hype surrounding Atticus Finch or the prose itself. So I feel that Go Set a Watchman, while clunky, gets the hate for revealing what was there all along in Atticus’ character (don’t believe me? Go back and read To Kill a Mockingbird—Atticus’s racism is very much present, masked by white nobility and sacrifice and good manners), because this book is written through the eyes of an adult returning home instead of a naive child first experiencing the effects of racism in America.
I feel that this book should be reexamined, because it tells a truth many of us melanin-deficient Americans find it hard to accept: we are racists and a product of our racist society, and we have blinded ourselves to this fact.
5. Choose two books that have an average rating of 3/5 stars but you gave a higher rating.
Did I not already do this? See answer two.
6. Choose two books that have an average rating of 3/5 stars but you gave a lower rating.
Will I ever stop bashing No Judgments despite its already low 3.36 average? No, because I’m a judgy bitch and this book annoyed the fuck out of me on a multitude of levels, not the least of which was because of its incredibly inaccurate portrayal of well, everything.
The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls earns its 3.35 rating mainly though, I’m pretty sure, the misleading nature of its summary and marketing campaign. The title, cover and summary all indicate this is something it’s not, and what it is, is, well…ew. It’s ew. I can stomach a lot, but the twist at the end is just not my cup of tea at all (no, there is no horse-fucking or bestiality, so get your mind out of the gutter).
7. Choose two books that have an average rating of 4/5 stars but you gave a lower rating.
Sweep of the Blade got 3 stars from me, which did absolutely nothing to its 4.53 average. I had absolutely adored the previous entries in the Innkeeper Chronicles, and had brushed away the clunky writing and hetero-centric narratives because I enjoyed the story, the characters and the world so much, but reading this installment just broke me. The vampires were all…MEN ARE MEN and the women were vicious and powerful and also very much women (and lesser than while still being Powerful) and I just could not do it. I struuuuuggled through and it felt that Maud was a bland mixture of Ilona Andrews’ previous badass characters. It was a similar feeling to several other of this writing duo’s recent releases, notably Blood Heir, and I am so sad to be falling out of love.
Obsidio was the lackluster finale to the Illuminae Files, which started off strong (albeit a YA version of The Expanse), petered out in the second book, and dragged its way to a finish with this book. I had a review that perfectly captured my annoyance with the ending and allll of my feelings, but Goodreads deleted it and I am sad. Regardless, two stars for this one (4.48 GR average), and the authors owe me a dollar for every use of the word cherry.
Also, can I ban an author for writing about military personnel when they are so awful at it?
8. Choose two books that have an average rating of 2/5 stars but you gave a higher rating.
I don’t have any! Apparently, the lowest book I’ve rated has a 3 average. Life is too short to pick up a low-rated book unless I have a very compelling reason to do so.
9. Do you tend to agree or disagree with GR average rating and do you use GR as a guide for books you want to read?
The fun thing about reading is that everything (for the most part) is subjective. My takeaways for a book are going to be different from yours, because we have not journeyed through this world in the same way. I might see something that you didn’t—or disagree with—and likewise. My experiences make me more nuanced to some things than others, just as my privilege makes me less likely to spot or identify other things.
Which is a round-about way of saying the answer is a yes and a no? I have found that the GR average tends to influence my overall approach to a book (although I have learned to take these with a grain of salt since I read a lot of ARCs and many have over-inflated ratings—hey, we all do it), but I definitely use GR as a guide for what books I want to read. Life is short, and I don’t want to waste my time reading things I don’t think I’ll enjoy (enjoyment can mean many things here, not just pleasure).