Recent Reads – August to December 2019 (pt.2): Mixed Reviews, Mixed Feelings, and the Scale of My Indecision

Last week, I wrote about how I don’t often give books five-star ratings.

Even less often do I give one-star.

Of the 91 reviews I’ve written on Goodreads, my average rating is 4.06 stars.  Only one of those was a one-star review.

I almost never hate a book that much, even if I dislike it enough to decide not to finish it.

This makes the one-star rating option largely useless to me.  And since I’m already discerning with my five-star ratings, this basically leaves only three workable rating options.

I’m not alone in my book-rating difficulties.  Even when it comes to those who make liberal use of all the possible stars available to them, a quick scroll through Goodreads reveals countless users doing one or more of the following:

  1. Writing in alternate ratings (e.g. 3.5 stars, 4.25 stars)
  2. Explaining how they personally interpret the five possible ratings (e.g. three stars = a fun, quick read)
  3. Revising their existing ratings (usually to make them lower)

All of these point to the need for a finer rating scale.

In my program evaluation work, whenever designing an evaluation tool, I put a lot of thought into appropriate scales for each of the questions.  The problem with a five-point scale for the question of “what did you think of this book?” is that it’s too insensitive to the subtleties of varying opinions.

A five-point scale essentially equates to “I hated it”, “I didn’t hate it”, “I have no real opinion on it”, “I didn’t love it”, and “I loved it”.  For someone like me who shies away from the extremes (1 and 5), I’m essentially left with a three-point scale.

Most readers, by virtue of the fact that they are, indeed, readers have much more nuanced, complicated feelings about stories than this.

An easy solution to this problem would be the introduction of half-stars to Goodreads.  Doing so would result in a ten-point scale.  Even restaurants and hotels, which also use the five-star rating system, allow for half-stars, and I’d argue there’s far less ambiguity in rating a meal and a bed than a story.

Even a seven-point scale would offer better possibilities.

Unfortunately, I don’t own Goodreads, so like every other user, I’m stuck trying to make the five-point scale work for me as best I can.

This often means a lot of debating with myself—a lot of second thoughts and second-guessing of my mixed feelings, and in the end me having to force myself to just commit to a number.

Of the nine books I completed between August and December 2019, these are all the one’s I struggled to rate (including two where I added my own half-stars).


City of Brass
S.K. Chakraborty
Genre: Adult fantasy
Stars: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ½  (rounded to ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ )

Overall my feelings on this book are mixed.  I really loved the worldbuilding and the politics of the story.  It contained a rich backstory of several warring tribes of djinn and their involvement with the Muslim prophet Suleiman.  Similarly, the dynamics of the ruling royal family were fascinating….  But Nahri as a main character was not an active enough player in all of this.
Read the entire review


Nathan Makaryk
Genre: Historical fiction
Stars: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

I … appreciated his inclusion of three female POVs … to balance out the overwhelming maleness of Robin Hood legend.  The story itself was an interesting reinterpretation, casting aside many of the campy, iconic moments of the traditional tale[.]  However this book was just long….  Every scene seems to go on well past the point it could have ended.
Read the entire review


Ninth House
Leigh Bardugo
Genre: Adult fantasy
Stars: ⭐ ⭐

I expected to be immersed in this dark magical world the way we are into the wizarding world in Harry Potter, but in no way was this the case.  There’s a part in the book where a detective calls the various society members, “All the little children in their robes and hoods pretending they’re wizards”, and this quote sums up my feelings toward this book perfectly.
Read the entire review


The Last of the Wine
Mary Renault
Genre: Historical fiction
Stars: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Mary Renault was clearly a scholar of the ancient world, for all that her worldbuilding might prove rather inaccessible to modern readers lacking basic familiarity with the time period.  This book was published in 1956 and it reads very much like an product of storytelling conventions of old.  It was an overall enjoyable reading experience, if not an especially gripping one.
Read the entire review


A Duke by Default
Alyssa Cole
Genre: Contemporary romance
Stars: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ½  (rounded to ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ )

I really liked Portia.  She was a very realistic, Millennial twenty-something—stylish and a savvy social media user—but with much self-doubt, low self-esteem, and confusion as to what she had to offer the world….  Tavish as a character was okay.  I actually enjoyed the story more before it’s revealed that Tavish is a duke[.]
Read the entire review

Friend or follow me on Goodreads!

(Image source #1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #6)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.