6 weeks, 11 books…

Those figures would say it’s been a good start to my year’s reading. With a yearly goal of 52 books – or an average of one book a week – you’d think I’d easily double my annual target if I kept up that pace.

Yet I know it’s unlikely that I will 🙂

It’s been a relatively quiet start to the year. The weather has been gray and inclement, and while our cameras are robust and designed to cope with less than perfect weather, we don’t usually risk them in the wet. If we were professionals, then we’d have no alternative. But we’re not. We’re happy snappers, amateurs who care for our cameras as valuable resources for enjoyment. We’ve no desire to spend a fortune on unnecessary repairs, or engage in arguments with insurance companies over replacements. So, we’ve been spending quiet weekends at home. And that’s made it easier for me to dip in & out of books throughout the weekend, as well as during the weekday evenings.

A big surprise for me was that most of the authors I’d expect could become 4-star reads weren’t. As the authors who didn’t hit the mark included such literary luminaries as Sebastian Faulks, William Boyd, Kate Atkinson and Elizabeth Strout, I’ve had to wonder if I’ve become too accustomed to their style, or to their high standard and so am expecting more & more from them – which is clearly completely unreasonable of me.

Or it may be just that I’ve been feeling a bit curmudgeonly…

It also highlights that I struggle with the five star rating system beloved of Goodreads and most other places where you can record your reading. How I use stars:

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️Very good

Yes, there is no category for average… for me a book is either good (enough), or it’s not.

I am loathe to award a book only one or two stars unless it has no redeeming qualities, especially when it’s an indie author, as I empathise with the blood, sweat and tears which went into crafting it. I will occasionally resort to them when it’s a book by an established or famous author which is badly written or error strewn. The result is my three star category is overly crowded, containing solidly good reads, the pleasant and enjoyable, and those which are almost good enough to elevate to the four star category of very good, but not quite. I have very few five star reads a year, as they are the absolute pinnacle of excellence.

So, what have I been reading? Well, it’s a bit of a mix…

The three star reads

The Thursday Murder Club, Richard Osmana pleasant, light murder mystery (part 1 of a series).
The Burning Page, Genevieve Cogmana pleasant, light fantasy adventure (part 3 of a series).
When God was a Rabbit, Sarah Winmanan enjoyably light piece of popular fiction, if a touch too heavy on the whimsy.
Amy & Isabelle, Elizabeth Strouta well-written piece of literary fiction.
Suspect, Scott Turowa well-crafted police procedural with multiple strong central female characters.
The Romantic, William Boyda sweeping work of biographical fiction, with a central character I just couldn’t warm to.
Shrines of Gaiety, Kate Atkinsona well-written work of historical fiction set in the 1920s in London’s Soho, filled with lovely period detail.
Birdsong, Sebastian Faulksa famous war and love story, which managed to really annoy me.

The four star reads

The Remains of the Day from Kazuo Ishiguro is a book where very little actually happens in the now, but where everything has happened in the past – some historical, some domestic, some personal – all seen through the eyes of Stevens, previously butler to Lord Darlington. That past being pre-WW2, we see how easily the British aristocracy were wooed by Hitler’s foreign minister von Ribbentrop. Memories being revisited as he travels across country in an act of hope he might have a chance with Miss Kenton, ex housekeeper at the Hall – but he returns alone. Pathos is the word which comes to mind. A remarkable work of subtlety.

In A Month in the Country from J L Carr, Tom revisits the memory of his month in the Yorkshire countryside. Back from WW1 with a twitch which caused people to gaze over his shoulder rather than look him in the face, he’s engaged to restore a wall painting by what turns out to be a truly talented artist. Down on his luck, he accepts the commission and camps out in the church tower, where he is welcomed into the local community, and falls a little in love with the vicar’s wife. I was tempted to read this one by a Goodreads review in my network, and I’m so glad that I acted on that impulse as it was a truly lovely read.

Black Water Sister from Zen Cho tells the story of young, lesbian-in-the-closet, Jess/Min, who returns unwillingly to Malaysia with her parents, having grown up in the US. She has a secret girlfriend who is planning for their new life together in Singapore, but Jess/Min has stuff going on that she’s not felt able to share with her, so puts that in jeopardy. A tale of ghosts and mediums, family stresses and secrets, all playing out in modern day Malaysia where trendy coffee shops mingle with old traditions, culture and religious beliefs. I really enjoyed this – it was fast paced and yet filled with nuance. Huge thanks to Autumn for the recommendation, as I don’t believe I’d have come across it otherwise.

I know I’m regarded as a tough grader, especially in awarding the top two levels of star. Do you categorise your reads against the five star system? Or do you grade your reads via another method? And, as ever, your recommendations please 🙂

17 thoughts on “6 weeks, 11 books…

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  1. Not yet LA. Himself has been given instructions, and is keeping an eye out for it to download (we don’t go to the cinema). I’m also looking forward to seeing the film of Remains of the Day too now, as I have a book first, film second rule 🙂


  2. I’m a generous star giver. If I like a book it is a 4. A 5 if I love it. 3 means it was only ok. 2 means I didn’t like it. 1 usually means it was so bad I didn’t finish it

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I think I’m in the minority and you’re in the majority Tater. I often seen indie writers deeply depressed when their book gets 3 stars, and I have to remind them that on Goodreads 3 stars = good. As a writer, I’d be happy with 3 stars. I’d be thrilled with 4 stars, and absolutely ecstatic with 5 stars. Only 1 or 2 stars would cause me concern.

    I tend not to rate a book unless I’ve finished as I don’t feel it’s fair.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thanks for the shout out! Glad you enjoyed “Black Water Sister.” Your star system is similar to mine–I think 3 stars is pretty positive, but some authors are offended. I put it down to star inflation!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I don’t rate the novels I read with any *official* star system. I just know I like some of them “YAY!” Others I finish reading even if my overall rating is “BOO!” But as I get older I’m inclined to toss aside something that isn’t grabbing me [Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney] so I don’t even get to the BOO stage. Maybe a need a third category!

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  6. “Star inflation” I like that Autumn. I may even steal it 😉

    I used to get book recommendations which were out of my usual from a forum. I found loads of interesting reads there. The problem was I could – quite literally – lose hours & hours of my life browsing, and not only the book pages. The relationships page was absolutely gripping… so I had to give it up.

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  7. I don’t rate the books unless I really like them. I didn’t realize there were eight books in the Invisible Library series. I better get reading!

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  8. Interesting about Sally Rooney Ally. Of course she’s being talked about LOADS, and the adaptation of Normal People had people on Twitter chatting, but I’m just not sure. I can’t be doing with youthful angst, it’s just too damn tiring.

    I’m learning to accept that more of what I read has to go into the DNF (or did not finish) category, sometimes even after I’ve reached halfway. In the past, I’d have struggled on, utterly determined. But, yes, being older – it can be freeing in many ways 🙂

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  9. I used not to bother, but since using Goodreads to track my reading, I’ve bowed to it. I didn’t (and don’t always) write reviews. Although, in truth, my reviews are more what I thought about them than a synopsis of the book, if you see what I mean, so I’m not sure how useful they are to others.

    Janet, it startled me too when I discovered how many there were still to read! Still, it means I’ve a ready source for a light, pleasing read whenever I need one – and I tend to need them regularly in between the heavyweight tomes 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I usually default to crime fiction, but your excellent reviews have inspired me to branch out. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Hi Donna, thanks you:) I hope you enjoy whatever it is you’ve been inspired to read.

    My thanks again for drawing my attention to the new one from Scott Turow which I found most enjoyable, and positively romped through!


  12. I use the 5 star system and it seems to work. But most of my books tend to fall in the 3 and 4 star categories. I think a lot is due to the fact that I typically pick books by the authors I like or the same genre. Usually the ones I don’t like so much are chosen by someone in my book club. (I have a hard time picking something for my book club, because I don’t think they like what I like.) I’m off to a pretty good start this year. Being on a six week “vacation” definitely helps!!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Impressive start to your annual reading list! I’m thrilled to have gotten through six books in less than two months…especially considering how busy my life has been these days. I’m way ahead of my usual pace and hope to keep it up (though all the work we have to do on the house will surely put a small dent in that pace).

    Happy snappers. I like that!

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  14. Linda, I think that’s a good place for the majority of reading material to fall in. I tend to think that 5-stars should only be for the best of the best, which by their very nature, will be few & far between.

    I know what you mean about book clubs. I enjoyed mine very much for a number of years, and had no problem with the occasional book which I didn’t like or struggled to read. But when it got to the stage where I was one of only two who consistently read each & every book selected, and those who regularly selected the books I didn’t enjoy never bothered to read anyone else’s selections, I started to fade away…

    I know that if I ever retire, I hate to think what it would take to get me out of the house and away from books 😀


  15. Yeah Mark, you have been somewhat busy living life. I suspect you will fall off the book wagon once you’ve moved, but then think of all the fun you’re going to be having making it into exactly what you both love!

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Live in hope Debs! Maybe you’ll break the hundred book barrier this year :0) (Maybe skip the Booker Long list though…).

    An eclectic mix of books. Thursday Murder Club is the only one on that list that I’ve read, and that only recently. I think I’d agree with your assessment – you could really see this as a TV series, and there are some interesting characters but…


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