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Currently Reading: Ultima by Stephen Baxter

Discussion: On book ratings…

…and why I don’t use them anymore on my blog.

A while ago I’ve noticed how much I enjoyed reading book reviews which do not contain a rating system. As soon as I see a rating lower than 4 I skim the post as I know the reader did not liked the book. However, in my reviews, though I do not like a book, I know some people might and I give my honest feedback without shaming the book or the author. This is quite rude considering the amount of effort writers put into their books, fan fiction included. So I decided to stay away from rating on my blog when reviewing a book and concentrate on the facts. On goodreads I will still rate them as part of my own shelving system and because this is the way the website works.

Sometimes I enjoy a book a lot and yet I do not entirely agree with some elements of it. This I know is not a problem for others who would otherwise love the book. So I think rating it would be unfair as I did enjoyed it but I did not like some actions or ideas in it. Would this be a 4 or a 5? I would only read books with a 3.8 score or more on goodreads, preferably 4.5+. However I have found books I’ve loved with a bit of a 3.0 rating on goodreads and this got me thinking, are ratings even valid though there are subjective? I have found out, review content has more validity for us to evaluate if we will like a book than a simple number. Books after all, just like us, are very complex creatures.

When I used to score a book a 5 I did it on levels of enjoyment. Did I live through the characters' emotions? Did I cheer for them? Did I even feel for the villains? Did I want to kick my boyfriend away just so I could finish one more chapter? These books deserved 5 stars for me. But lately I’ve been encountering books on which, though I experience all of this, I am more conscious of the writing elements in it and it kind of ruins my idea of “perfection”. A 3/5 book would be basically a book of which idea I loved but the characters failed to deliver. Sort of. And well a 2/5 would be a book in which I found myself skimming, yawning and going WTF every time the characters opened their mouths.

So these are my thoughts on rating systems and book reviews. If you read book reviews on newspapers or magazines, they also limit themselves to the facts while not ruining the reader’s experience with negative feedback or a rating system. This is my aim now with this blog. To recommend and talk about my reading experience and make the readers curious enough as to read the book themselves.

What has been your experiences with book ratings? Do you chose a book because it has a higher rating? Do you give low rated books a chance? If you do, have you been surprised about it? Do you think rating systems are fair considering there are highly subjective? Let me know!

The Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simons

A book review

I write this piece with a bit of shame, also with a bit of pride, if that makes sense. I have to confess I do not rave over romance books. Though I do like romance, the exaggerated ideal of it in some books makes me cringe. My expectations for The Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simons were quite high; a sin I often commit when choosing what to read and of which I am trying to distance from. However, this book presented with a lot of promises, and at some point some failed to deliver. I state in advance, this is not a bad book, it is not, it just presents at some point that part of ideal romance books that I dread so much. So to summarize it, my heart was divided in this book. Keep reading to find out why, stop if you don’t want to be spoiled of the feelings I am about to share.

“Good-bye, my moonsong and my breath, my white nights and golden days, my fresh water and my fire. Good-bye, and may you find a better life, find comfort again and your breathless smile, and when your beloved face lights up once more at the Western sunrise, be sure what I felt for you was not in vain. Good-bye and have faith, my Tatiana.”
Tatiana and Alexander are indeed one of the most romantic and tragic characters I’ve ever read, more so than Romeo and Juliet to be honest. Their love and devotion goes far beyond the logic of what a relationship could be. This situation mainly fueled by Leningrad Blockage, one of the cruelest and longest sieges in history during WWII. The scenes presented as Tatiana survives will give you nightmares, I sure had some. The pain they suffer as the story goes on will break your heart, as it did mine. But once the pain is gone, here comes the loving tender scenes long awaited like a torrential shower after a drought, which instead of satiating thirst, it leaves you drowning and wishing for it to stop. This is the best I can describe the period of Tatiana and Alexander after they reunite.

“What little I had was all for you. It was you who was everybody else’s. But I was only yours.”
I researched a bit on the other books, and I decided I will not read them as this torrential drama of combustible skin contact and foolish selflessness heartbreaks continues. I did enjoyed the first half of the book, though slow and morbid, as I felt for them, I truly felt for each one of the characters and even at some point found myself shouting at them while on the couch… but the other half was short from what I expected, too much skin, too little heart. It is not for me. For romance readers this is a must have, must own, must read and must treasure series. You are not a true romance fan if you have not read about Tatiana and Alexander. I, on the other hand, will continue my love for unexplored worlds and discoveries beyond our galaxy.

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Cloud of Sparrows by Takashi Matsuoka

A book review
Old Japanese traditions always captivate me. Even so that this has become our dream holiday. The dedication and the loyalty, the simple slow life. Every moment and every space counted for them, always dedicated to living in the now.

This and more is captured in Cloud of Sparrows. The theme centers on loyalties and the future, quiet ironically. The great lord of Akoaka, Genji, just like his grandfather, welcome foreigners bringing the word of Christianity, this mainly due to the visions of the future they shared in their lineage. The way religion is thought of by the Japanese when the outsider arrives is captivating. Such as, as long as people have something to believe in to give them hope, all that matters is the peace of their hearts.

“You saved my life. You must let me thank you with a gift.”
“I could just as well say you saved mine. Neither of us would have survived without the other.”
“Then you owe me a gift as well. I will give you Apple Valley. What will you give me?”
Among the chapters the author jumps from present to past and even to future with the visions they have. It might be confusing at first and soon it becomes much like watching a movie with flashbacks. Narrations from character to characters become memory scenes instead of dead dull dialog. And the horrors they live through makes you wonder if you would be capable of handling it as well. Hoping never to find out.

The characters all have their merits, though their depths is left to interpretation, their essence is perfected. The samurai way is deeply explored and explained at some points during the battles, though I could not envision so much blood. The first time I read such a bloody scene I closed the book immediately, I needed a break. I turned to my boyfriend and said “that's too much blood”. He just nodded (he liked it so much he is re-reading it.)

A historical fiction with magical realism elements in it, filled with romance of the most subtle kind as well as plenty of action. Not a moment is dull. I truly enjoyed it as I thought I would. However, the editing style was not to my liking. Lack of dialog clarification in memories, lack of clarification of what a memory was, as well as jumping from head to head in the middle of a paragraph. This kept me having to read back to find my place again. Other than that minor defect, I truly recommend this book to historical fiction fans.
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