Recent Reads – August to December 2019 (pt.1): A Five-Star Extravaganza

I’ve mentioned before how I review every book that I read.

It surely goes without saying that I love writing five-star reviews best of all.

A five-star review means that I underwent a thrilling reading experience.  It means a gripping story—be it fiction or nonfiction—that transported me to another place inside another body.

It means I learned something—either about writing craft, the human condition, or myself, if not all three—and that, in all likelihood, I sacrificed any number of other hobbies and responsibilities to afford myself the most time possible to keep reading.

Yet, I don’t write five-star reviews that often.

It’s not that I don’t want to; I don’t grade my reading on a curve.  For all that it means I’d likely get nothing else done, I wish every book was a five-star book.  I wish publishing focused at least as much on art as it does sales.

To date on Goodreads, I’ve written 91 reviews, with an average rating of 4.06 stars.  Usually the lowest rating I give is three stars because I’m pretty easy to please.

I’ve also said before that so long as a story follows a standard narrative arc and makes me feel a little something for the characters, I’m all but guaranteed to at least like it.

The easiest three stars any author has ever earned.

As my average rating attests, a four-star review is equally easy to get from me.  This is literally a three-star review with a twist—a little (or maybe a larger) something more than mere enjoyment.  A four-star book is a great adventure in its own right, just much less all-consuming.

The difference between a four-star and a five-star review, however, as my above description attests, is a leap.  It’s simultaneously a surprise, a relief, and a gift to discover such books.

Of the nine books I completed between August and December 2019, here are the ones I awarded five stars.


Sleepless, Volume 1
Sarah Vaughn, Leila del Duca (Artist), Alissa Sallah (Colorist), Deron Bennett (Letterer)
Genre: Fantasy graphic novel
Stars: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Although short and only the first part of a two-part story, Sleepless contained an enjoyable mix of magic, court politics, and slow-burning romance.  The artwork was bright and colourful.  I loved Poppy’s beautiful, medieval-style gowns and the realistic texture of her hair for a biracial, dark-skinned, half-black character[.]
Read the entire review


The Bird King
G. Willow Wilson
Genre: Historical magical realism
Stars: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Fatima and Hassan’s journey is both harrowing and magical, this book being a work of magical realism in which they’re aided by the djinn and threatened by an ancient evil occupying the body of an already dangerous enemy.  The story parallels the Sufi poem The Conference of the Birds[.]
Read the entire review


The Peloponnesian War
Donald Kagan
Genre: Historical nonfiction
Stars: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Although long, it is intensely readable and at times truly riveting, laying out the battles and surrounding political events of the war with great tension and pacing.  It also brings to life and deeds and personalities of key historic personages on both sides[.]
Read the entire review


Pillars of Light
Jane Johnson
Genre: Historical fiction
Stars: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

[A]n epic tale of that portrays the siege in its increasingly devastating horror over the two years it lasted, including famine, violence, disease, squalor, and death among both the besieging Europeans and Akka’s defenders.  It’s story of endurance through adversity, and the understanding and acceptance between people who are different that often arises as a result of this.
Read the entire review


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(Image source #1, #2, #3, #4, and #5)

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