Sunday Post #42: Ratings

Sunday Post

Greetings on this frigid Sunday in New England. My wonderful hubby actually ventured outside today to help our neighbor jump start his car. I told him, and I meant it, that he’s a good neighbor. He said the air felt like frozen knives. I am glad it’s warming up before I have to go back to school after the holiday weekend.

I have been giving some thought to book ratings. I find that Amazon’s ratings are sometimes a bit on the high side, and otherwise, they can be a mixed bag in terms of helpfulness as many customers rate things like packaging. I find that infuriating because it doesn’t tell me anything about the book. Of course, the more popular a book is, the more accurate the ratings seem to be.

Goodreads, on the other hand, has a rating system that works as follows:

Rating: ★★★★★ = it was amazing
Rating: ★★★★☆ = really liked it
Rating: ★★★☆☆ = liked it
Rating: ★★☆☆☆ = it was ok
Rating: ★☆☆☆☆ = did not like it

I don’t really like this rating system, so on my Goodreads profile, I explain what my own ratings mean. To me, 3 stars is a bit low for a book that I liked. To me, that’s an okay book. I think 2 stars is low for an okay book. To me, that’s “I didn’t like it.” I reserve 1 star for books I hate. I don’t give 1 star ratings often because I don’t finish books I hate very often. Same with books I don’t really like. So I have a lot of higher ratings, or at least a lot of ratings from 3-5 stars. I know a lot of folks who reserve 5 star ratings for the best books of all time. I don’t. I give 5 stars to books I love. They might not even be my favorite books, but if I loved reading them, then they get 5 stars. I suppose we all need to figure out our own system for rating books, and I don’t usually hear much from others about my ratings. However, a few years back, a Goodreads friend (someone I don’t know well) commented about my higher book ratings. I didn’t unfriend him over it, but I thought about it because I thought he was rude. I disagree with many of my friends’ ratings, but our responses to books are personal, and no two people ever read the same book, so it’s natural that we will feel differently. I don’t let anyone shame me into “grading harder.” I think that’s ridiculous.

I don’t know why that was on my mind, but it was. Today, I recorded my last lesson for the online guitar class I have been taking through Berklee College of Music and Coursera. It has been a lot of fun. The instructor is quite good, and I found I learned a lot more theory this time around than I did when I took guitar classes in high school and college. Actually, I learned more theory than all the years I was in school band, come to that. I found it really fascinating, and now I want to take the music theory course on Coursera. I would really like a more advanced guitar course, but I am not sure there are plans to create one. I’m not the only student who is interested, though, if the forums are any way to judge. I am starting to get some good callouses on my left hand fingers.

I am glad I have a three-day weekend. I am hoping to catch up on some reading tomorrow. I am nearly finished listening to the third book in the All Souls Trilogy by Deborah Harkness, The Book of Life. I might be able to finish it tomorrow some time, in which case I’ll post a review here (with my own star rating, too). I have been trying to finish Marie Antoinette: The Journey by Antonia Fraser. It’s hard to tell because I’m reading on Kindle, and the book has a lot of end notes, but I think I’m getting close to the end. At any rate, the Bastille has been stormed and the royals have been forced to the Tuileries. I am not really sure how I’m feeling about I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson. I can tell you I don’t like the really long chapters. I feel like I have to stop in the middle of something because I can’t read chapters that long in a go. I’m also not grabbing the book when I want to read, which is telling.

I am turning in. I need to do a bit of planning tomorrow, and I want to read a bit before I go to sleep. I hope everyone had a lovely Valentine’s Day.

The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Caffeinated Book Reviewer. It’s a chance to share news, recap the past week on your blog, and showcase books and things we have received. See rules here: Sunday Post Meme. Image adapted from Patrick on Flickr.

Ditching Shelfari?

Goodreads and ShelfariI am contemplating the idea of ditching Shelfari. I don’t really use it as a social network near as much as I use Goodreads, but it has two features I like:

  • It lets you count re-reads, and you don’t have to delete your previous reading date to do it. You can simply add a new date. Goodreads makes you delete the previous date if you want to count the latest date. Lots of folks re-read. Not sure why a re-reading feature hasn’t been implemented.
  • It has pretty shelves that you can display on your blog if you like or just look at.

I ditched LibraryThing some time back with no qualms. It limits the number of books you can put in your library for free. But Shelfari, I’m just not sure about. The first reason, re-reads, is the main reason I keep using Shelfari. If Goodreads ever implemented re-reads, I’d be all set, and as soon as I saved my re-read data to Goodreads, I’d leave Shelfari in a heartbeat.

Apparently Goodreads is weighing incorporating this feature, but frankly, from what I understand, there has been a lot of thinking and not much movement when it comes to the re-reading feature. A lot of people want it, if the thread I linked is any indication. I even joined the feedback group for the express purpose of adding my opinion to the conversation.

I really wish that Goodreads would just add the re-reading feature. I know it would mean making some database changes. I am growing a little tired of keeping track of books on Shelfari altogether mainly because I just don’t use its features, and I don’t seem to have as many reader friends who use and with whom I connect on that site.

What do you think? Do you use either Goodreads or Shelfari?

WWW Wednesdays

WWW Wednesdays—October 5, 2011

WWW WednesdaysTo play along, just answer the following three (3) questions…

  • What are you currently reading?
  • What did you recently finish reading?
  • What do you think you’ll read next?

I haven’t done WWW Wednesday in a while; I skipped it for the entire month of September. I guess I’m back today!

I am currently reading several books. Despite what DailyLit says over there in the sidebar, I fell behind with [amazon_link id=”1466273089″ target=”_blank” ]The Man with Two Left Feet[/amazon_link] by P.G. Wodehouse and still haven’t finished it yet, though I have enjoyed it very much. I am also still reading [amazon_link id=”1439170916″ target=”_blank” ]The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer[/amazon_link] by Siddhartha Mukherjee. I haven’t picked it up in a while. I think it’s perfect for dipping into occasionally.

I am also still listening to/reading along with [amazon_link id=”9626343613″ target=”_blank” ]Sense And Sensibility[/amazon_link] read by Juliet Stevenson. Oh, how I love crazy, flighty Marianne and admire steady, dependable Elinor. Wish I could be more like her. What a great friend she would be, too.

I am currently engaged in a battle with my daughter over [amazon_link id=”0385534639″ target=”_blank” ]The Night Circus[/amazon_link] by Erin Morgenstern. See, I bought it with an Amazon gift card I received for my birthday. Hence, it is a birthday present. She grabbed it while I was reading [amazon_link id=”0441020674″ target=”_blank” ]Those Across the River[/amazon_link] by Christopher Buehlman (review) and started reading it. I say I should get first dibs because it’s my birthday present. She argues she started reading it first and has also offered me two of her books to read. I also contend waiting for her will take too long. We nearly arm wrestled for it yesterday. We have an uneasy truce and have agreed to share it. For now.

I’m not sure what I’ll read next. Maybe something witchy like [amazon_link id=”B003P9XMFI” target=”_blank” ]The Hangman’s Daughter[/amazon_link] by Oliver Pötzsch or perhaps [amazon_link id=”1416550550″ target=”_blank” ]The Forgotten Garden[/amazon_link] by Kate Morton. I have a rather large stack of books in my TBR pile. I also just received [amazon_link id=”1565126297″ target=”_blank” ]When She Woke[/amazon_link] by Hillary Jordan from a Goodreads giveaway, and the cover is so cool:

[amazon_image id=”1565126297″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”large” ]When She Woke[/amazon_image]

I have to admit it’s caught my eye. I also have a weakness for picking up books I just got instead of turning to my TBR pile.

I am in the mood to continue reading something gothic or creepy for RIP, though. Which would you pick?

Friday Finds

Friday Finds—June 24, 2011

Friday FindsI found a lot of interesting books this week! My department chair recommended Jennifer Donnelly’s [amazon_link id=”0312378025″ target=”_blank” ]The Tea Rose[/amazon_link], which happens to be the first in a trilogy—the other two books are [amazon_link id=”1401307469″ target=”_blank” ]The Winter Rose[/amazon_link] and [amazon_link id=”1401301045″ target=”_blank” ]The Wild Rose[/amazon_link]. I can’t wait to read these books.

Amazon sent me a mailer recommending some historical fiction that looks interesting. [amazon_link id=”0312144075″ target=”_blank” ]The Samurai’s Garden[/amazon_link] by Gail Tsukiyama has over four stars on Goodreads after thousands of ratings. That looks promising, even if some of my Goodreads friends didn’t care for it. A reviewer said of [amazon_link id=”B004VD3XQU” target=”_blank” ]The Lotus Eaters[/amazon_link] by Tatjana Soli that if you’ve never read a book about the Vietnam War, this is a good one to start with. Sounds good to me. Alan Brennert’s [amazon_link id=”0312304358″ target=”_blank” ]Moloka’i[/amazon_link] is about the leper colony in Hawaii and also has a high rating on Goodreads.

I can’t decide if [amazon_link id=”1599952025″ target=”_blank” ]The Yellow House[/amazon_link] by Patricia Falvey us up my alley or not. It’s set in Northern Ireland during the Revolutionary period, and I would like to read more about that time, but it also features a main character torn between an Irish political activist working to help Ireland achieve independence from Britain and the black sheep son of a wealthy Quaker family that owns the mill where she works. It reminds me a bit of the scenario presented in all those teen historical romances published by Sunfire in the 1980’s. The girl almost always chose the guy who was more rebellious and dangerous. The only exception I can think of is in the novel [amazon_link id=”0590331566″ target=”_blank” ]Danielle (Sunfire, No 4)[/amazon_link]. I quit reading the novels after a while because they were too predictable—even if I did learn a lot about history from them. In fact, I probably have them to thank for my love for historical fiction. I need to write a Life in Books post about those novels soon. I am suddenly overcome by a wave of nostalgia.

After reading [amazon_link id=”0345521307″ target=”_blank” ]The Paris Wife[/amazon_link] by Paula McLain (review), I sought out [amazon_link id=”143918271X” target=”_blank” ]A Moveable Feast[/amazon_link] and discovered a newly restored edition published in 2009. I am interested to read it after reading the story of the Paris years from Hadley’s point of view.

Browsing around on Goodreads for books set in Paris, I found [amazon_link id=”1596914254″ target=”_blank” ]Paris: The Secret History[/amazon_link] by Andrew Hussey. It’s not about Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. It’s more about the prostitutes, street urchins, opium addicts, and artists. Looks really good.

[amazon_image id=”0312378025″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]The Tea Rose: A Novel[/amazon_image] [amazon_image id=”1401307469″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]The Winter Rose[/amazon_image] [amazon_image id=”1401301045″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]The Wild Rose[/amazon_image]

[amazon_image id=”0312144075″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]The Samurai’s Garden: A Novel[/amazon_image] [amazon_image id=”B004VD3XQU” link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]The Lotus Eaters: A Novel (Reading Group Gold)[/amazon_image] [amazon_image id=”0312304358″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Moloka’i[/amazon_image]

[amazon_image id=”1599952025″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]The Yellow House: A Novel[/amazon_image] [amazon_image id=”143918271X” link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]A Moveable Feast: The Restored Edition[/amazon_image] [amazon_image id=”1596914254″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Paris: The Secret History[/amazon_image]

So did you find any good books this week?

Musing Mondays

Musing Mondays—May 30, 2011

Musing MondaysThis week’s musing asks

Describe the last time you were stumped for something to read, and you took measures to remedy that—either by going to the bookstore, the library, or shopping elsewhere. What book did you choose? Did it get you out of your slump?

My problem is never lacking for something to read, but I often have trouble choosing what to read next. One thing I have done to solve my dilemma in the past is to lay my choices in front of my daughter Maggie and ask her to choose for me. The last time I asked Maggie was a long time ago, and I can no longer remember what she chose for me. I also asked readers to vote on my next book once when I was stumped. They chose [amazon_link id=”0060558121″ target=”_blank” ]American Gods[/amazon_link]. Most recently, I have also used the Randomizer after assigning numbers to around five choices. It chose Melanie Clegg’s [amazon_link id=”B004R1Q9PI” target=”_blank” ]The Secret Diary of a Princess[/amazon_link], which I was leaning toward reading next anyway. I can’t really say I’ve been in a slump for a very long time. I just read whatever I have on hand or I download something new on my [amazon_link id=”B002FQJT3Q” target=”_blank” ]Kindle[/amazon_link].

Speaking of going to the bookstore, you know, I can’t remember the last time I went to one. I usually order books from Amazon or download them on my Kindle. I know I should frequent indie stores, but the closest one I know of (besides the used bookstores) is one all the way over in Decatur, and whenever we go to the Decatur Book Festival, we do in fact visit the Little Shop of Stories. However, I also note that I pay more for books in places like that. As an Amazon Associate, I earn a bit of a commission whenever people buy books I link to or visit Amazon and purchase items after following a link from my site. Most months, my commission is enough to buy two books. Some months, it’s more than that. I consider it fair trade for all the business I throw their way, and in turn, I use the gift certificates I earn from Amazon to purchase more books. It’s more cost effective for me to shop at Amazon than it is an indie store—on a variety of levels. And bottom line? I am a happy customer. They’ve always been good to me; even after I broke my Kindle, they asked no questions and replaced it free of charge. I have never had a complaint with them. My only quibble is that they won’t allow associates to delete associate ID’s they no longer use, and I have about three of those.

I haven’t been to the library in a long time either. Here is my problem with libraries: I don’t like the time pressure to finish books, and I am almost always late returning books. I also like to be able to keep books I liked and perhaps even mark in them. Libraries are so important. They perform critical functions in our society. Keeping up with library books nowadays isn’t all that difficult. I can check my account online. I have just found it one more thing I have trouble keeping track of.

I don’t often buy books from other types of stores. The selections are just too sparse and not usually to my taste. One place I do find lots of good books is from other book bloggers. I heard about most of the books I’ve picked up lately from a fellow book blogger or from Goodreads.

The Reader—Renoir

Reading Update: Goodreads

The Reader—Renoir
The Reader by Pierre-Auguste Renoir

I’m giving Neil Gaiman’s American Gods a longer chance than normal on Jenny’s advice. It is beginning to pick up, but I was preparing to put it aside. I am going to take Finn out of the rotation for the time being. Maybe I’ll pick it up soon, but I keep seeing all these other books I would rather read. I just purchased Madame Tussaud: A Novel of the French Revolution by Michelle Moran and One of Our Thursdays is Missing by Jasper Fforde, a favorite writer of mine. Today in the mail, I received my first “win” from Goodreads:

The Rebellion of Jane Clarke

Isn’t it pretty? The paperback comes out April 26, and I want to try to read it by then so I can share my review. I didn’t realize until very recently that Goodreads sponsored giveaways. What a great way for publishers to connect with regular readers! This book was the first one I requested, so I was excited to have success right off the bat.

If you are a reader and not a member of Goodreads, you should check it out. It’s easily my favorite reading social network. Shelfari is very pretty, but it doesn’t allow users to easily integrate their blogs like Goodreads does. I have my Goodreads profile set up to publish the feed to this blog. I don’t know whether any readers have signed on here because of my Goodreads profile, but it can’t hurt. Shelfari also doesn’t allow HTML in their reviews. LibraryThing limits users to 200 books unless they opt for a paid account. I don’t see the draw unless I’m missing something—Goodreads is free. I trust Goodreads reviews over other sites, too, as the readers can be more conservative in their stars and praise than, say, Amazon. If I’m on the fence, I read a few reviews on Goodreads, and I can often make up my mind. And now with giveaways, there’s no reason not to try them out.

I’m going to pick up The Rebellion of Jane Clarke tonight and go back to Massachusetts. I loved our visit there this past summer. But first I need to put the kettle on for a cup of tea.

Do You Write a Book Blog?

Goodreads has an interesting poll up that could potentially lead you to some new book blog reads.

Goodreads Stalker

moments for oneself VI

At the risk of creeping all my blog readers out, I’m coming clean. I am a Goodreads stalker. Goodreads has a feature that allows you to search for users in your area, and I did that once. I found this woman’s profile, and I instantly knew that if we knew each other in read life, we’d be BFF’s because her reading tastes are just like mine. She even has Professor Snape as her profile picture. I love Professor Snape. I scanned her bookshelves and discovered that we have read so many of the same books, it’s a little scary. We rate the books similarly, too. Usually within a star, but more than that, and I find myself scratching my head wondering why we didn’t agree. I sent a friend request, and she accepted. She doesn’t get on Goodreads much (she probably figured out I’m stalking her). We’ve never interacted. But I find myself wondering about what she does. We are the same age. We have some Goodreads friends in common, and I keep wondering how we wound up with common friends. Well, two of the friends are writers, so I imagine they just requested friendship with both of us, but the third is a teacher I’ve actually corresponded with.

When I mark a book as “to read,” sure enough, she is one of my friends who has already read it or who has also marked it “to read.” When I finish a book and link to my review, I notice it’s on her “read” or “to read” list. In fact, it’s a little spooky, and I think that’s why I find her interesting. She never really writes reviews. She just stars books. Maybe she also has a book blog out there somewhere. Who is this person who reads like me?

So you think I’m creepy now, don’t you?

photo credit: procsilas

Goodreads and Shelfari

Goodreads and Shelfari

Goodreads and ShelfariDo you use Goodreads or Shelfari? Or both? I use both services. Each has features I like, but neither one does everything I want a reading social network to do.

Sharing Progress

Goodreads gives readers the option to share their progress through status updates either with page numbers or percentage read, which is great if you’re reading on an e-reader. I really like this feature. I think Shelfari should add it. Both sites do a great job cataloging multiple versions of books so that you can add the version you are reading to ensure the descriptions, page counts, etc. all match your particular copy.

Linked to Social Networks

Goodreads also allows users to share updates via Twitter and Facebook, which is a nice feature. Facebook can be integrated nicely with Goodreads. One of my Facebook friends told me he joined Goodreads because of seeing my updates on Facebook. My status updates show up on Twitter, and occasionally, people who follow me on Twitter ask me about what I’m reading, so the integration is a nice feature. Shelfari isn’t linked up with social networks. I think it would be a good feature for Shelfari to add.

Look and Feel

Shelfari’s site and bookshelves are beautiful. Shelfari allows users to select a material out of which to construct their shelves (wood or metal, etc.). Book covers are displayed on the shelves in a way Apple’s iBooks emulated for their app. Shelfari also makes beautiful shelf widgets for users to put on their blogs. In terms of look and feel, Shelfari scores big marks over Goodreads. I’d like to see Goodreads beautify their look and feel, too, but I suspect it would involve a major overhaul, and the site is perfectly functional as it is.

Re-Reading Books

Shelfari has much better support for re-readers than Goodreads. On Goodreads, you can mark a book as “Read” or “Currently Reading,” but not both. Shelfari allows for those users who re-read to mark a book as both. It would be a simple feature for Goodreads to implement, I should think, as it would mean changing the radio buttons they currently use to check boxes that allow for multiple selections. In addition, Shelfari allows users to add new “finished” dates each time a reader finishes a book. If a user has read a book three times, he or she can add three different finished dates. Goodreads allows only one, and you need to either keep the first finished date, or change it to a new one. Again, I think this is a feature that Goodreads could easily add.


I like the community at Goodreads. They are serious readers. If you want the true skinny on a book, their reviews are often more helpful than Amazon’s. Users can also add trivia questions and join groups. I am a member of several groups on both Shelfari and Goodreads, but not too active. I think Shelfari could add some features to foster a livelier community. I think starting with social network integration would be a good idea, but further than that, I like the idea that users can add quotes and trivia to Goodreads. If Shelfari added these features, they might keep users on the site longer. Both Goodreads and Shelfari allow users to add content to book descriptions and change book information. On Goodreads, you need to apply to become a librarian. I haven’t noticed any egregious vandalism of books on the more open Shelfari, but perhaps it’s not a terrible idea to set some kind of bar. Goodreads just asks that users who want to become librarians have 50 books on their profile. It’s a good way of keeping occasional users or non-committed users from making random changes they shouldn’t.

Book Tallies

Goodreads and Shelfari both tally your total number of books, but Shelfari has a nice feature that you see on your home page when you’re logged in: the total number of books you’ve read this year. I love this feature. I try to read more books each year, and Shelfari totals the number you’ve read and compares to your reading during the previous year. If you have not read as many, it will tell you you’re behind your pace. If you’ve read more, it tells you you’re ahead of your pace. It’s a nice little pat on the back to log in and see I’ve nearly reached the total number of books I read last year, and it’s only August. I think Goodreads could add this feature, too.


Both sites allow users to post reviews, but I like that Goodreads allows HTML in their reviews because I simply link back to my reviews here on this blog. As an English teacher, I appreciate being able to italicize titles using HTML, too. I think Shelfari should add the ability to use HTML in reviews. I don’t like leaving a blank review on Shelfari, so I usually copy and paste my reviews into their review space. But I often have links and other HTML in my posts that does not transfer. Both sites also allow you to assign starred ratings to books, but neither has 1/2 stars. The plugin I use to rate books here on this site allows for 1/2 stars, and I like that. Sometimes a book is not a 3 or 4. It’s a 3.5. It would be nice for Goodreads and Shelfari to give wishy-washy reviewers like me who can’t come down on a 3 or 4 the option of a 3.5.

The Bottom Line

Both sites have some great features, but each of them could be much better with a few simple changes. I have an account with LibraryThing, but I don’t use it. I don’t agree with their restriction of 200 books for free accounts. When Shelfari and Goodreads have excellent features for free, it seems silly to pay for LibraryThing. I don’t really understand Shelfari’s “Should I Read X?” feature. I should think users should be able to read reviews and figure out for themselves if they should read a book. It seems superfluous to me. Goodreads has a lot of authors on board, and it can be fun to interact with them. I’ve even seen Lev Grossman reply to reviews of his work.

What do you think? Do you use Goodreads, Shelfari, or even LibraryThing? If so, what features do you wish they had? Oh, and feel free to “friend” me on Goodreads or Shelfari.

Shelfari and Reading Updates

Before I curl up with my books, I wanted to mention two things. First, I joined Shelfari today. I resisted joining another network because I am very happy at Goodreads. I am a member of LibraryThing, but unless you agree to pay for a membership, you are limited to only 200 books, so I am not at all active at LibraryThing. You might not remember this, but back in 2007 a controversy erupted over the fact that Shelfari did not used to allow users to easily uncheck the names of contacts they did not want to invite to use Shelfari. Tim Spalding, CEO of LibraryThing, also caught Shelfari astroturfing. However, I’ve not heard any criticism of Shelfari for two years, now, so I joined up. The interface is beautiful, and the community is more in charge. At Goodreads, you can apply to become a “Librarian” and edit book information, but Shelfari allows all community members to do so, which is both more risky and more open. Goodreads easily allows users to connect their accounts to Twitter, and it also allows me to share blog posts, but that may be because I’m a Goodreads author. As far as I can tell, Shelfari doesn’t allow you to do either of those things. So anyway, I’ve joined up, and we’ll see how it works out. Considering the time investment today, I hope it will be worthwhile. You can see my bookshelf in the sidebar to the right, and feel free to be my friend on Shelfari (and Goodreads, for that matter, but don’t expect too much if you become my friend on LibraryThing).

Second, I have begun two reading challenges: the Bibliophilic Books Challenge and the All About the Brontës Challenge. with my first selection, Syrie James’s The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Brontë. It should be obvious how the book meets the Brontë challenge, but in case you were wondering how it meets the Bibliophilic Challenge, it is the fictionalized diary of Charlotte Brontë, and at only about 50 pages in, James has already mentioned Rochester and Jane and discussed the juvenile writing of the Brontës, as well as Branwell Brontë’s poetry, so I decided it met the criteria for the challenge.

I’m also in the midst of re-reading the Outlander series. I have not read the last three books, and it has been so long that I think I had better re-read the first four before I try to pick up the most recent books. I am currently working on the second (and my favorite) book in the series, Dragonfly in Amber. I am continuing to read Crime and Punishment through DailyLit, and when I have to turn out the lights, I’m reading Mansfield Park on the iPhone with Stanza.