Star Ratings and Book Reviews

Because of a response I received when I wrote a review on a book and gave a different “star rating” on Amazon than on Goodreads, I decided to do a little survey. Also, because a comment was made to me that “people only look at the stars”.

If you don’t know, the star ratings are different on Amazon than on Goodreads. Of course on both sites, a five-star rating means the reader thought the book was outstanding, fabulous, etc. However, on Amazon a 4-star rating means “I liked it”, whereas on Goodreads a 4-star rating means “I really liked it”. On Amazon a 3-star rating means “It’s okay”, whereas on Goodreads a 3-star rating means “I liked it”, and of course, on both Amazon and Goodreads 2 and 1-star ratings aren’t anything a writer really wants to see, nor will they encourage readers to read such a book.

My little survey consisted of three main questions, but based on the majority of the responses I received, I will be adding two more to this post. By the way, I posed my questions to three groups of readers and writers and received a total of 114 responses. However, if you add all of the responses listed below, you may or may not get a total of 114 because some responses didn’t really answer the questions or only answered one or two questions. Therefore, I am posting the responses that actually answered questions I posed.

Question: Do you only check the star ratings?

Yes — 10

No — 7

Several people said they check both the star ratings AND read reviews. I did not place these people’s answers in either of the specific questions.

Question: Do reviews mean more than stars when deciding to read or purchase a book?

Yes — 42

No — 1

Question: When writing a review, do you share your honest opinion?

Yes — 32

No one said they don’t share their honest opinion, but 13 people said if they can’t give at least a 3-star rating, they will not write a review.

However, 3 people said they would write an honest review even if they had to give less than a 3-star rating, but would be kind or would only share what the book is about.

There were 24 people who said they neither look at “star ratings” nor read reviews. They simply decide whether or not they want to read or purchase a book based on the back cover blurb.

I found this little survey a fun and interesting thing to do and I think it gave me a little insight into “star ratings” and reviews.

One person said, “Why wouldn’t someone write an honest review? The reviews are for the readers, not the writers.”

I found that comment extremely interesting, since so many writers place big importance upon reviews because good reviews can boost book sales. However, another thing quite a few people responded was that they only read books that have been recommended by friends or family members (ah yes, word of mouth — apparently still working today even with all of the technology).

Do you have an opinion? I’d love to hear your responses to these questions and this post. Feel free to leave a comment.


Flash Fiction Friday: Rodeo Love


Photo by Jordan Heinrichs on Unsplash

Rodeo Love
by Kelly F. Barr

Lily Stanton passed through the gate with her friends. A large oval-shaped arena sat before them. On the far left were chutes, cattle, horses, and cowboys.

They passed a large group of cowboys. Her friends flirted. Lily tried to pass unnoticed but a cowboy on her right tipped his hat and smiled at her. She offered a small, tight smile and a slight nod of her head.

The heat of his gaze on her back followed her until she turned the next curve.

Lily and her friends sat on the middle level of the bleachers. She watched the chute area, busy with cowboys preparing for events. There he was—the cowboy who’d tipped his hat to her, straddling the top fence rail, searching the crowd. His eyes met hers. She couldn’t look away. He was strikingly handsome—tanned, weather-worn skin and dark waves of hair peeked from beneath his hat.

During the rodeo Lily was on the edge of her seat every time that cowboy was in the arena. She gasped and put a hand over her mouth each time he fell from an animal, and she whispered a prayer for his safety.

He won first place in bull riding and calf roping and second place in the bucking bronco competition and in steer wrestling.

She and her friends rose from the bleachers and headed toward the exit. As they drew near the cowboys, the same one stopped Lily. “I hope you enjoyed the rodeo, miss.”

“It was very exciting. Congratulations on your winnings. You’re quite talented.” Lily smiled and turned to walk away.

“Would you like to go grab something to eat?”

She turned and met his gaze. “Thank you, but I don’t think so.” She turned and walked away.

Lily waited at the car for her friends. She knew the cowboy would be gone in a couple days, otherwise she’d be tempted to fall in love with him, but she didn’t want to start something he couldn’t finish, leaving her with a broken heart. Those old “love ’em and leave ’em” country songs had some truth to them. He’d probably left a girl with a broken heart in every town. She wasn’t going to be one of them. She wanted a love that would last forever.

When her friends arrived at the car, Lily stood alone in a nearly empty parking lot. Her friends

told her they’d talked with several cowboys and would be meeting them later.

They stopped for a bite to eat at a large restaurant with a western motif. A waitress took their drink orders and returned a few minutes later with their drinks.

A large group of cowboys entered the restaurant, and the waitress became distracted and left without getting their food orders.

The cowboys were led to a long table in the center of the room.

Lily’s heart skipped a beat at the sight of the cowboy she’d spoken to. His eyes met hers and he smiled.

The waitress finally returned for their food orders, and as she left their table, Lily noticed the cowboy rise and stride to the left side of the room where there was a jukebox and a dance floor. He put money in the jukebox and pushed some buttons. A western song began to play, and the cowboy approached her table. He stopped next to her chair and looked down at her. “May I have this dance?”

Her breath caught in her throat. She couldn’t speak, but she took his hand, rose from her seat, and he led her to the dance floor.

After the first song, a slower song began, and the cowboy pulled her into his arms.

“You live around here?” His gritty voice caused goose-flesh to prickle her skin.

“Yes … but you don’t.”

“No, I’m from Wyoming. “What’s your name?”

“Lily Stanton, and you’re Jack Dawson.”

He grinned. “I reckon it was announced often today.”

She smiled. “How long will you be in town?”

“We pull out early Monday morning.”

The music and dance stopped, but Jack didn’t release her. “The rodeo season ends at the end of October. Can I come back and see you then?”

“That’s four and a half months from now.”

He nodded. “You’re the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen. There’s something about you—drawing me to you. I don’t know what it is, but I’d like time to get to know you and find out.”

“I don’t have any plans to leave Ohio, but you’re a rodeo cowboy. You never stay in one place for long … and I … don’t want my heart broken.”

“I don’t plan on breaking your heart. You know, rodeo cowboys wear out and have to quit the circuit eventually.”

She searched his face. “You’re young. You have lots of rodeo years left.”

He looked into her eyes. “There are some things more important than the rodeo.”

“Rodeo is in your blood, isn’t it?”

“Maybe, but you could be in my heart.” He took her hand and placed it on his chest.

Lily felt his heart beat beneath her fingers. Could he be her “forever love”?

“Will you give me your number and address … Lily?” With each word, he lowered his head

closer to hers until their lips were nearly touching.

His breath caressed her lips. Her heart pounded in her chest. She was certain he could hear it.

“Yes.” She whispered.

His lips pressed against hers. His soft kiss grew firmer. He tasted of tobacco and peppermint. Lily’s senses were reeling. She slid her hands down his arms—arms that bulged and curved beneath her fingers. She took a step backward. Jack, still clasping her hand escorted her back to her table.

Lily picked up her purse, pulled out a notepad and pen, and wrote her address and phone number. She folded the paper in half and slipped it into his hand.

“Spend time with me after the rodeo tomorrow and Sunday.”

After a brief pause, Lily said, “I’d love to.”

Tea and Poetry Tuesday

Today’s Tea Tidbit:

The first bowl sleekly moistened throat and lips,
The second banished all my loneliness
The third expelled the dullness from my mind,
Sharpening inspiration gained
from all the books I’ve read.
The fourth brought forth light perspiration,
Dispersing a lifetime’s troubles through my pores.
The fifth bowl cleansed ev’ry atom of my being,
The sixth has made me kin to the Immortals.
This seventh…
I can take no more.

Lu Tung

Life on the Pony Express
by Kelly F. Barr

The horse gallops, my spirit soars
As we kick up dust across the prairie.
My throat grows parched,
Yet I manage my “coyote call”,
Then slide from the saddle,
Mochila in hand–
Upon the saddle horn of a fresh horse to land.
I guzzle a ladle of cool well water,
Then back upon a horse
And off to the next station house.

When I finally arrive at my home station
Across the miles, covered in dust and grit,
I dismount, walk stiff-legged,
And rub my lower back and rump.
Bouncing across the prairie
Tires a body–
But lifts my spirits and lifts my restlessness.
Such is the life of a cowboy like me–
One only left in books on history:
A rider for the Pony Express.

Flash Fiction Friday: A Reluctant Beginning


Photo by Sven Mieke on Unsplash


A Reluctant Beginning

by Kelly F. Barr

Marion’s shoulders sagged and she sighed as she lowered herself onto the seat in her daughter’s car. She looked at her house and kept her gaze upon it until it slipped out of sight and a tear trickled down her cheek. She would miss that home and all the wonderful memories it held. She would no longer feel close to Harold, the husband she had shared forty years with in that house.

Marion turned her eyes to the road before them. Susan, her daughter, reached over and patted her arm. “You’ll be fine, Mom. You won’t be alone anymore and there are daily activities to keep your mind and body active. You’ll make friends quickly. You’ve always been good at that.”

Marion didn’t respond. She didn’t want to live in an old folks home. She didn’t want to have to make new friends and start a new life. She liked the life she had, and what about her children and grandchildren? Would they make time to visit her or would she be abandoned like so many others whose families placed them in a nursing facility, then went about their busy lives forgetting the aged family member?

Susan pulled to a stop in front of one of the new facilities forty-five minutes later. It was an attractive building on the outside. Susan disappeared through the entrance but returned just minutes later with a pretty raven-haired woman whose emerald eyes  sparkled as she smiled and took Marion’s hand.

“Mrs. Randolph, it’s so nice to meet you and welcome you to your new home. My name is Rhonda, and I’m going to help you get settled in.”

Marion tried to smile, but just couldn’t get her mouth to cooperate. Settled in. She used to have a whole house that was hers. Now, she’d only have a room. She’d had to leave so many things behind. Her lips trembled as tears threatened, but she pulled her shoulders back and drew in a deep breath then released it slowly.

A young man had come out the door behind Rhonda pushing a cart and was now helping Susan with Marion’s bags and the few other things she was able to bring to her “new home”.

The quartet walked through the entryway into a large lobby with lots of plump-cushioned chairs, well-polished, dark wooden tables and large green plants. They entered a short hallway where they entered an elevator large enough for the four of them and the young man’s wheeled cart, as well as Marion’s large suitcase on wheels, which Susan pulled.

They rode the elevator to the third floor, entered a long hallway with doorways on either side. They walked about halfway down the corridor and Rhonda stopped to open a door on their right. There was already a small plaque outside the door that held the name “Marion Randolph”.

Marion stepped into the room and tears began to stream down her cheeks. The room was actually a small apartment. Upon entering, she stood in a sitting room—her favorite Oriental rug on the floor, her favorite rocking chair and wing-back chair on the far two corners, her lampstand between them. Her Longaberger Magazine Basket was next to her rocking chair and her oak table with the little drawer was between her two favorite chairs in front of the lampstand. There was also a sofa along the wall and her coffee table was a couple feet in front of it. Her favorite photo of Harold hung on the wall above the sofa, as did a new photo—one of all her children and grandchildren.

“Mom, what do you think?” Susan put an arm around Marion’s shoulders and gave her a gentle squeeze.

Marion sniffled, then offered her first smile that day. “Oh dear, I had no idea. Why didn’t you tell me?”

“Then it wouldn’t have been surprise. Let me show you your bedroom with its beautiful view.”

Keeping her arm around Marion’s shoulders, Susan led her to the next room.

There stood her bed covered with her favorite quilt, her nightstand, and her small, tan, plush chair. Her nightstand held a phone and her favorite photo of her and Harold on their wedding day sixty-two years ago. The back wall held a large bay window with a wide windowsill where pots of her favorite plants sat, and before one end of the bay was her small desk and chair. Along the other wall were three bookcases holding her books.

As she stood before the window with Susan, the view that met her eyes was very inviting. Below was a large courtyard with a small vegetable garden, rose bushes, and a beautiful flower garden with a path and several benches. There were several trees offering shade from the sun during the hottest part of the day as well.

“You still haven’t told me what you think.”

Marion looked at Susan, then kissed her cheek. “It’s much better than I expected.”

“Good. I’m glad you like it, and I’m sure you’ll like it even more as you get to know the other residents. Stan and I will bring the kids to visit as much as we can. Now I’ll leave you to settle in and start exploring and meeting people. I love you, Mom.” Susan kissed her cheek and walked out the door.

Marion’s heart sank once again, wondering how long it would be before she saw Susan and her family again. They lived the closest and had always spent so much time with Marion since Harold had passed away three years ago.

“If you’re all right, I’ll let you rest as well. But if you need anything, just pick up the phone by your bed and punch the number five. Someone will answer and be able to help you with anything you need. Oh, and that little door off from your bedroom, is your private bathroom. There is a medicine cabinet in there with your personal care items. I’ll be back to take you down to the dining room on the main floor. You’ll be able to meet lots of other residents during dinner.” Rhonda smiled one last time, then pulled the door shut behind her.

* * * * *

At dinner that evening, Marion was introduced to Trudy Jamison, Carol Wright, Betty Stewart, Artie Martin, and Elmer Baker. They all sat at a large round table together. Elmer greeted Marion with a dimpled smile and sparkling blue eyes. He had a full head of snow white hair and was quite handsome.

“I hear you’ve got one of the apartments on the third floor with a view of the courtyard. You know those are the most sought after and expensive rooms in this place.” Trudy met Marion’s eyes with a challenging gaze.

“I had no idea. My daughter made all the arrangements. She even surprised me by having all of my most treasured possessions already moved in before I arrived.”

Trudy sniffed. “I see. I haven’t seen any of my children in eight months. They usually only visit once a year.”

“I’m sorry to hear that. That is one of my worries about being here—that I’ll be … forgotten.”

“I know it won’t be the same, but you’ll soon have plenty of friends and activities to keep you busy here, as long as you don’t allow yourself to become a recluse in your apartment.” Elmer winked at Marion.

As dinner ended, Elmer rose and moved around the table to help Marion from her chair. As she rose, he offered her his arm. “Would you care to visit the courtyard before it gets dark?”

Marion, surprised at the flutter in her stomach, placed her hand on it. That was something she hadn’t felt in quite some time. She placed her other hand in the crook of Elmer’s elbow and a jolt shot through her fingers as she felt the warmth of his arm through his shirt. “That would be lovely.”

As they stopped to admire one of the rose bushes, Elmer pulled a pocketknife from his pants pocket, opened it, and cut off a rose, then gently placed it in Marion’s hair. “You’re a beautiful woman, Marion.”

Heat crept into Marion’s cheeks and she hoped he didn’t notice her blush. “I haven’t been told that in years, and I haven’t given love or romance a thought in many years. My Harold’s only been gone three years.”

“I think that’s long enough to at least consider the possibility of love and romance.” Elmer grinned.

Marion’s heart skipped a beat as his dimples deepened.

Elmer escorted Marion back to her apartment. “I’m glad you’re here Marion. I hope to get to know you much better, and even if your family doesn’t visit often … I won’t let you be lonely.” He patted her hand.

She smiled and her eyes filled with tears. “Thank you, Elmer. You’re very kind.”

Marion slipped inside her apartment, shut the door, and looked at Harold’s photo on the wall. “What would you think of Elmer? I never gave thought of another love after you, but maybe it is time. I do miss having the love of a good man.”