I hear all kinds of opinions about what goes into a review or a critique. I hear some people say that they only give good reviews, others complain about the bad review they got. Here's my perspective as an author. The most useful reviews/critiques I've gotten have been the harshest. Sure they hurt. But from that pain comes growth both as an author and a person. I don't believe that I've ever written anything deserving of five stars. I hope to one day. To me, a five is the best of the best. So save those for "To Kill a Mockingbird", "The Old Man and the Sea" or "The Grapes of Wrath". Are fours more common? Sure. J K Rowling, Steven King and any number of others have written several. Let's face it, the average book is a three. One of my favorite authors, Louis L'Amour wrote them by the dozen. But even with his vast experience and publishing success I wouldn't credit him with more than a handful of fours, if any.
If a book is well written, has no obvious plot holes, has three dimensional, likeable characters, holds the reader's interest and makes me want to read more then it's a three. Giving a higher rating to a book or story which didn't earn it, is just as unfair to both the reader who is sucked into buying and wasting their time and the author who is lulled into believing that his sub-par performance has put him at the top of his craft so he quits striving and reaching for better.
Just as I would reserve a five for the Creme-de-la-Creme, so would I reserve a one for books or stories I could find little or no redeeming qualities in and, good or bad, I would always state why I gave a particular rating.
For those who say that you will simply not write a review if a book is bad, this is just as unfair as giving a five star to a three. It skews the system allowing more weight to friends and family and giving less credence to those who have done the hard work of giving an honest review.
To authors who whine about their poor reviews, you're missing the point, and you're making the rest of us look bad. Have enough pride in yourself and your craft to suck it up, learn from it and move on. We'll all be glad you did.