Month in Review: February 2024

Literature

I started adding star ratings to my StoryGraph reviews, but I’m not sure about this practice. My feelings about books are often mixed; I might give 5 stars to one aspect but but 1 star to another, and all the possibilities in between. What about the books that I can tell are well-written, but just aren’t to my personal taste? Nonfiction is difficult to rate because I’d want to rate content and artistry separately. A truly outstanding nonfiction book is a work of art, but there’s nothing really wrong with the more pedestrian kind. And another disjunction is between the emotional impact a book has on me, and my objective assessment of its quality. Sometimes I love books that I can see are quite flawed, for reasons that are hard to define or quantify. Some of my childhood favorites fall into this category, but also quite a lot of books I’m reading now.

Here’s what ratings mean to me: 1 star, not recommended at all (I seldom finish these); 2 stars, worth reading but with serious drawbacks; 3 stars, fine but not exceptional; 4 stars, an excellent read that I recommend highly; 5 stars, outstanding, perfect or nearly so, a favorite I’d reread or have reread multiple times.

So I’ve tried to apply these to the books I read in January and February, but began fiddling with half and quarter stars and ended up dissatisfied with the results. I wish StoryGraph would allow readers to rate different aspects of books – that could be interesting and useful!

Have you read any of these? How would you rate them?

Language

I finished Emil und die Detektive! I’m now reading Jim Knopf und Lukas der Lokomotivführer, which was gifted to us years ago, and am impressed that I’m able to decipher it without too much difficulty — looking up the occasional word, rather than every other as it seems I had to do not that long ago. Amazing, I must have made progress in five years.

The story is silly, the adoption of a black baby by white characters giving it an uncomfortable start, and the portrayal of China in the early chapters is horribly sterotypical — the book was originally published in 1960, and it shows. But on doing a bit of internet research I was surprised to find that Ende wrote it as an ANTI-racist fable, aimed against the Nazis. (There is one sentence in which Ende says that people are easily confused and think they need a Führer, which when translated as “train conductor” loses its pointed double meaning.)

This is one book that will be decidedly mixed and difficult to rate, but I’ll just try to enjoy the journey for now.

Jim Knopf production by Augsburger Puppenkiste

Life

My great life landmark this month was the publication of my book, When Fragments Make a Whole. The link is to my post that gives ordering information; now I’ll just have to let go and see what happens. If you do read the book, thank you — I hope you’ll let me know what you think.

Here is one release-day review from Bookish Beck, who called it “a calm, honest, methodical book that will intrigue anyone interested in thinking through how the Bible is applicable to the challenges of daily life.” I hope it will land well with other readers, too.

Linked at The Sunday Post at Caffeinated Book Reviewer, the Sunday Salon at Readerbuzz, and the Monthly Wrap-up Round-up at Feed Your Fiction Addiction

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20 thoughts on “Month in Review: February 2024

  1. I got the book and it is next up for my “spiritual” reading.

    The star ratings: I pretty much go with what you are saying the stars mean for you. However, I don’t rate a book I don’t finish, so I rarely give a 1 or 2, because I seldom finish such a book. Some non-fiction books feel like I cannot rate them. An recent example was A Hidden Wholeness by Parker Palmer. There was great stuff in it, but it didn’t know what I thought of it as a whole or what to tell others how I felt about it. So I didn’t rate it and didn’t feel I could even express anything about it. I marvel at the good reviews some folks can write.

    1. I have to think over my reason for doing the stars. It’s kind of just jumping on the bandwagon. For a while I only starred my 5-star reads and I might go back to that.

      Thank you so much for buying my book, and I’ll be interested in your thoughts.

  2. Congrats on the book publication! I can relate to the stress over star ratings. I don’t put them on my blog because I don’t think they’re super helpful, but I do put them on Goodreads. I mostly use them so I can sort by star rating and quickly see books I loved or hated.

    1. That’s why I started doing it, too. I think I have to distinguish between my personal reaction to the book and some more objective assessment. The clash between those is causing me trouble, but if I focus on the first one it might become more clear.

  3. Congrats on getting your book published! That’s awesome! I think your star ratings are a lot like how I mean on my ratings. I rarely have 1 star ratings, because those are usually the ones I DNF. Two star is pretty rare too, but I do occasionally have them. Hope March is going well for you so far!
    https://lisalovesliterature.bookblog.io/2024/03/01/the-looooong-and-the-short-of-it-february-2024-wrap-up-post-and-looking-forward-to-march/

    1. I wouldn’t usually finish a one star book either, unless I have to for some reason (rare these days, since I read for pleasure not work or school.) Two-star books have something that would cause me to finish them, but also a lot of problems. Thanks for stopping by!

  4. I hope your book’s launch is going well.
    On ratings – as long as you realise they’re a snapshot of what you thought at the time, they’re valid. Sometimes books just stay with you and would get upgraded, other times you’ll read something similar but better and realise you overrated – but that was then. I give points out of 10 on my Read in 2024 page, and yes I do halves. So often a book feels like a 8.5 or a 6.5!

    1. My opinions do change over time, so I have to keep in mind that snapshot idea. And I can change ratings on a reread.

  5. Congratulations on publishing your book! What a wonderful accomplishment.

    I like having ratings, but I often go back and cut a star or add a star to books I read.

    Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz is a book I rated three stars. I wasn’t as wild about it as I was with the first few books in the series, but I liked it.

  6. Congratulations on the publication of your book, I hope it finds a strong readership.
    Your rating scale is pretty much the same as mine. I rate based on my experience of the book, but I don’t give it a lot of thought to be honest.

    Wishing you a happy reading week

    1. I think I’ve clarified for myself that the stars are about my experience of the book, not some kind of attempt to objectively assess its worth. That makes them more useful for me, if not necessarily for anybody else.

  7. I’ve toyed with the idea of adding star ratings to my reviews, but as someone else commented below, I’m not sure they’re all that useful. Also, since I read mostly nonfiction I think I’d want a rating system that somehow reflects more than just how much I liked a book. I’d want to account for the quality of the writing, the quality & novelty of the information or argument, and the breadth of audience it’s aimed at. Maybe I’d need some sort of mathematical formula. Oh dear! this all sounds too much like work … 🙂

    I hope your book does well!

    1. Yes, all those things are important and not really conveyed by the star rating system. Which is why it frustrates me even as I want some handy way to quickly convey how I felt about the book. It can’t be both quick and nuanced.

  8. I know what you mean about ratings – and there are some reviewers who mark the different aspects and then from those numbers come up with an overall rating. Congratulations on your book release and best of luck:)). Have a great week.

    1. Yes, rating different aspects is an option, but as Harry says, that makes it all a lot of work.

      Thanks so much for your good wishes, I appreciate it. 🙂

  9. Congratulations on your book and I hope it’s doing well! I don’t rate my books but I wish I’d tagged them in more detail – too late now to go back and do them all!

  10. Congratulations on your book! Looking forward to reading it. Rating is something I struggle with too and oftentimes my results are arbitrary. I don’t rate on the blog but then NetGalley/Edelweiss require ratings and one tends to use the same on goodreads too.

    1. And I forgot to say, what fun to be able to read Emil in the original. I first read it long long ago in school and thoroughly enjoyed my revisit a few years ago (both times in translation, of course)

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