How I Award Stars Now #bookreviews

Originally when I first started rating books I awarded stars based on how much I enjoyed reading the book overall. However, now at 43 years of age in the era of fake news, Brexit and scandals, I freely admit I am rating books on how much (or how little) they annoy me.

A tongue-in-cheek self-reflection, as I ploughed through the list of books I read in the past couple of months, made me realise that there are very few books that don’t have parts that annoy. This should come as no surprise to anyone because life, people and all pastimes have less enjoyable moments and some downright challenging ones. However the annoyance I feel is overshadowing moments of enjoyment more so than ever before.

Maybe due to the volume of books I read I am less patient with characters and superfluous drama and therefore more prone to getting annoyed, who knows? Maybe I’m just a grumpy liberal? Maybe there’s just too many issues surrounding us all that ratchet up the annoyance meter in me a few more notches with which I am comfortable. Whatever it is it has changed what the five star review meter means to me.

This is how I currently award stars:

***** Didn’t annoy me at all or annoyed me so little I don’t recollect.

**** Annoyed me a bit but it didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the book.

*** Annoyed me enough to irritate but it might just be me who lacks the tolerance to enjoy the eccentricities in this book.

** Annoyed me without a doubt but I still finished it. What does that say about me?

* Annoyed me to an extreme and made me livid for the time and effort I spent (trying to) read it that I’ll never get back.

This is the mental checklist that I automatically default to when clicking the number of stars I give a book. Admittedly I don’t award two or one stars very often, I don’t even recall the last book I gave a single star to, but I have noticed I award three stars more frequently now than ever. The whole rating system is based on the arbitrary frame of mind of readers, maybe a better way of seeking enjoyable reads is looking at the number of people who have chosen to rate the book? Or going back to old fashioned personal recommendations? Either way I will continue rating books in this way and maybe when I’m feeling less cantankerous I will start writing my reviews again.

Getting back To My Books

Four days, three hospital appointments, one GP visit, diabetic eye screening, eye test, weekly afternoon group therapy, and three nights of CPAP so far and I can’t deny I am worn out. It was nice to be out and about but getting used to my CPAP mask is still a work in progress. The junior doctors’ strike had no effect on my appointments and it was nice to show support to those picketing. 

I have new medication taking my morning pills to ten different preparations and a total of fourteen tablets, three in the evening and two at night. All things considered these pills although numerous are keeping me well and I have repeat prescriptions and daily medications artfully reduced to a clockwork exercise.

I lost the extended debate with my husband about carrying a mobile and despite the fact I have not had a mobile for over a year, possibly two, I have to now start carrying one. I don’t have many people to call but the phone will be there on my person for emergencies, particularly now that I drive around alone. My carefree, non-contactable moments will now be severely limited, but not too limited as I will steam ahead through my review requests.

So overall the week has seen me net new glasses, a CPAP machine and a new iPhone, making me excited about my new gadgets, tired from a lack of sleep and behind in my reading, well, not actually behind, just not as ahead as I would like to be. Here’s hoping this weekend is sedate and accommodating to my extended reading hours. 

Choosing Books To Review

The life blood of this blog are the wonderful books that come my way for review. At any one given time I usually have over fifty books for review on Kindle. However, as of this week I am down to twenty-three, not because I have a lack of review requests, my email box still has 9527 emails left to open despite me going through May, April and most of March’s review requests.

For months (sorry) I have been by and large dodging review request emails. The majority are still in my inbox and I am going through them now. The reason for my reluctance is not so much choosing books that appeal, but dealing with authors/publicists who send me review requests without ever having visited my blog. These authors/publicists have no interest in whether their book is a fit for my tastes and have even less regard for my supposed grandiose guidelines to submit a book for review, but I cannot just disregard the request and feel every book should be given a chance, which invariably leads to time spent emailing etc, rather than reading.

However, my heart is lifted my the number of authors who do read the blog and attach the correct file making my life infinitely easier and allowing me to get on with the reading, which is what I love to do the most. I am very excited about books that will be coming up for review in the following weeks and look forward to sharing my pick of the crop with you.

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Seasonal Review Disturbance

Regular readers of my blog may have noticed that my rate of posting has slowed recently. This is because I have read a couple of books I didn’t award enough stars to post about here and also I have had the ‘flu for a week now.

My last book review seemed a bit sparse to me and this is because I could not find the words to express how much And The Mountains Echoed touched me. The central theme about two siblings separated resonated with me. However, any separation I have with siblings is voluntary and not as a result of war or poverty. This is very sad indeed and I am far from proud of the circumstances. I own my part in our current estrangement and if I’m being ruthlessly honest, the ball has always been in my court. If only I had the courage to act.

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I hope my usual reading rate resumes soon and I look forward to telling you more about the books I have read.

Reassurance For My Blog Readers and Authors

After much hullabaloo over That Guardian article and resulting blog posts I read I was left feeling bewildered that anyone would take the time to assume an identity to spew such negativity. Is there really any pleasure to be had trashing anything with such vigor?

I really do hope I am not perceived as a “number one critic” by any author, whose book I have reviewed. I can honestly say other than using my real name or blog name, Ajoobacats as a username, I have no other identities I post under in social media and have never felt the need to assume another identity. I see no purpose in starting a campaign against any book or person.

I basically try to write down what I thought of a book. This can be quite difficult for me as an individual, as formulating words to describe emotions evoked within me has barriers I am actively dealing with. Whenever I start reading a book, I start with the hope I will love it, because I love reading. I am disappointed more than I can say when that journey I have chosen to take isn’t what I hoped it would be. This does not make the book bad, but just means it’s not a book for me, it will, no doubt, have other readers who will like/love it and my search for the next great book continues.

I am grateful to authors who have contacted me for or about book reviews. Over the few years I have been writing reviews I have grown as a person and as a blogger. My tastes in books have undergone subtle transitions month-to-month, I have had the pleasure of reading the work of fellow bloggers and taking the leap to do things I would have retreated from a year ago. I thank everyone who has taken any time to read my blog or a review I have written. I hope middle-of-road reviewers like me aren’t judged by the action of the more vitriolic reviewers out there. Everyone is different and should be allowed to be so without censure.

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Book Tour Hosting

After the fun I had hosting Romancing My Love by Melissa Foster, I hope to host a book tour every month on my blog.

Ajoobacats Blog is booked for a November Book Tour, and I am waiting for looking to host for December 2014 and January 2015. The Tours will include a book review and giveaway, so watch this space…

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Reflecting On My Reading And Revising My Use Of The ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Rating System

Come December 31st 2014, Ajoobacats Blog will be 2 years old. The time has flown past in a haze of book review requests, blog posts and my very first hosting of a blog tour, which I enjoyed very much. At this moment in time I am feeling burnt out and a little mentally exhausted. This could be from reading books or it may just be Seasonal Affective Disorder, I don’t know. The result is my mind just won’t function like I want it to resulting in my being in a rut or having a book hangover and rather than ploughing on with my reading and writing a review, I am writing this blog post about my fatigue and a revised star rating system I intend to employ on Amazon, Goodreads etc.

Unfortunately, it happens every year: I read and review, eventually find it harder to review books and then finally have to admit I need to ditch the to-be-reviewed list and do a bit of meditation, reflection and conventional recreational reading the old fashioned way, where I choose books from Amazon like any normal, voracious reader without formulating a review as I read, which is a surprisingly hard habit to break.

I go to the gym daily, crochet a bit, watch 2 hours of TV a day (incidental, not planned), watch movies online and keep weekly appointments but admit I read rather than socialise. Books are just easier than people, usually.

Recently I have been reading blogs and reviews, which I am finding is increasingly more enjoyable to do and helpful when blogging myself. I happened to be reading reviews on Goodreads when I came across a review for a book that is next on my to-be-reviewed pile. The reviewer, I don’t remember who and it really doesn’t matter, awarded the book one star. As I read the review I learned that this reviewer only awards one star or five stars; basically his ethos is the book is either worth reading or it’s not, it can’t be three-fifths worth reading.

I’m not sure I can be as rigid as this, despite much evidence to the contrary in my life, living with clinically diagnosed obsessive-compulsive disorder. I’m not saying this reviewer is wrong, he does have a point, but my current star rating system goes like this:

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Loved it!
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Liked it.
⭐️⭐️⭐️ It was OK…
⭐️⭐️ Did not like it, it isn’t for me.

I usually write reviews for books I award ⭐️⭐️⭐️or above and honestly, I never re-read a book, I already know what happens and don’t have the patience to go through it again even if I love it. However, with the number of books I have reviewed, the influence of this reviewers ethos and my changing opinion of the review system I feel more comfortable switching to:

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Loved it!
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Liked it.
⭐️⭐️⭐️ Didn’t like it enough…
⭐️⭐️ Definitely not for me!

I will not be reviewing books on my blog if I don’t award them ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ or above. I’m hoping this new system will stave off burning out after reviewing 100 odds books and allow me to write reviews for more books that I like, as what I like is becoming a narrower spectrum with age I think.

One of the best books I read this year was I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes. After reading this complex and riveting thriller the very next book I went to had a lot to live up to fairly or unfairly. Unfortunately it didn’t really hit the mark for me as it lacked the skilful sophistication of I Am Pilgrim. I felt apologetically bad about not liking the next book, awarded it ⭐️⭐️⭐️, then wrote a review stating what I found lacking. I got a response from the author that development of certain aspects that bugged me was in the offing and a thanks for my review. It all sounds very constructive doesn’t it?

Under my new system the next book would not get a review and the author will not get constructive feedback but I would have avoided spending my time writing a review for a book I didn’t like and spend more time reading ones I do. Is that better?

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Book Blog News

I am absolutely delighted with the number of people reading my blog and book reviews. This August was the best month for my blog and I am grateful for everyone who has read, clicked and spent their time here reading about what I am reading.

I am challenging myself more by reading out of my comfort zone, currently I am reading a fantasy thriller, The Winter Boy by Sally Wiener Grotta, which is not a book I would usually be drawn to but I obtained a review copy from Netgalley and am pleasantly surprised so far. I am finding it increasingly challenging to lose myself in my default choice of crime thrillers. I still have yet to read The Silkworm (Comoran Strike Book 2) by Robert Galbaith, Cop Town by Karin Slaughter and Eeny Meeny by MJ Arlidge, all very capable thrillers I am told.

I also have a number of Indie books kindly sent to me by authors and various promoters asking for reviews and I am reading my way through those and hope to tell you about my fantastic Indie reads.

The best place, I find, for book recommendations is still The TV Book Club on Facebook where readers are the majority voice and many of them terrifyingly voracious when it comes to books. I hope this Autumn I have some scintillating books to read and tell you about. Thank you for taking the time to read my blog.

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In Defense of the 5-Star Review

Tammie Painter

Aside from landing a huge publishing contract that includes a ginormousstar advance and an all-star-cast movie deal, nothing makes a writer’s heart happier than to receive a five-star review. That’s not to say writers would complain about a three- or four-star review – after all, we’re just thrilled to have people reading our ramblings – but the five-star review is such a brag-worthy ego boost.

So why is there this sudden disdain for the five-star review?

Several forums I’ve visited recently have touted claims about five-star reviews that include…

  • Five-star reviews are fake (as in posted by the author himself).
  • Five-star reviews have been paid for.
  • Five-star reviews are from relatives of the author.
  • And the worst….All five-star reviews should be skipped over because they don’t represent valid opinions of the book.

Really? Who came up with this new rule? Is it some disgruntled writer who never earned a…

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Book Review: The Experiment of Dreams by Brandon Zenner

“Not all Memories are Truths, Not all Dreams are Lies”

A captivating Fringe fiction thriller. Ben leads a solitary life tending bar a few times a week and being paid to partake in medical trials linked to his past history of migraine and sleep studies. He is approached by a private company to take part in controversial trials which uncover things from his past that were hidden from him. The result of this new experimentation leaves Ben unsure of what is real and what he has concocted in his mind.

The fictional technology in this thriller is very original and mind-bending. I was hooked to the story from the start and although some aspects of the story I could see coming a lot of the revelations still kept me on the edge if my seat. Well-written bar a few typos in the mobi file I reviewed, I found this book easy to read, put down and pick up. The characters were adequate, Ben the protagonist being the most complex and you got a grandfatherly feel for Peter Wulfric from the start. The sinister Mr Kalispell is a shadowy villain.

Overall I enjoyed the book and the dramatic conclusion.

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