Under the Wire
Cleansing Breath

Seeing Stars

As many of you have noticed, I read a lot.  Like. . . a lot.  I'm always reading something.  I really love books -- the feel of them, the look of them, the smell of them.  I even purchased my current house because it has a "library."  (Well, that and the fireplace.)  These days, I tend to do much of my reading by listening to audiobooks.  While it did take a little getting used to, once I got the hang of it, I love this new method of reading -- mainly because I can do other things WHILE reading.  Things like knitting or walking or household chores.  Having a good book in my ears can make even the most mundane chores pleasant and engaging.  And, with so many books on my to-read list, this makes the choosing between competing activities much less stressful.

Anyway, I keep track of what I'm reading (actual book and audio book) in the sidebar of my blog.  When I complete a book, I give it my personal star rating.  I got thinking about my star rating system this week, as I was reading a book that kept slipping. . . slipping. . . .slipping. . . until it nearly fell out of the universe altogether!   I thought it might be fun to share the thinking behind my star rating system with you.

FIVE STARS -- The Holy Grail of my personal star rating system!  A Five Star book is rare for me; I reserve these stars for a book that, ultimately makes me gasp.  What are the elements of a Five Star book?  Compelling characters; dialog that sings; surprises and unexpected connections; a plot that just . . . unfolds, and, of course, language, language, language!  A Five Star book stays with me . . . for a long, long time.  (Examples:  A Prayer for Owen Meany and  The History of LoveStill thinking about them - with an occasional gasp!).

FOUR STARS -- Because I'm, well, particular (some might say "picky" or even "snobby") about the books I read - and because I rely heavily on book review sources and other readers I trust for referrals - most of the books I read tend to be in the Four Star range.  Four Star books are Excellent Books; books that keep me fully engaged; books with compelling characters, wonderful dialog, beautiful language, and interesting - sometimes surprising - storylines.   (Examples include The Widower's Tale, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Cutting for Stone, and The Elegance of the Hedgehog.)


THREE STARS -- There are plenty of things to love about a good, old Three Star book -- engaging dialogue, interesting characters, a plot that "fits" together in a beliveable and (usually) unforced way.  Three Star books tend to be entertaining, light, kind of fun to read; something that captures the imagination, but doesn't necessarily stretch the mind!  The problem with most Three Star books is that they start to wander into that realm of . . . predictability.  Too often, you can see the resolution of the story coming -- from the opening chapters  You know they'll end up together in the end, for example, or that they'll forgive each other, or she'll find her true calling. . . etc.   There are few surprises in a Three Star book, but they are fun to read.  (Examples include The Help, The Broken Teaglass, Major Pettigrew's Last Stand.)


TWO STARS -- Ah, the Two Star books!  Here's where I tend to get into a bit of trouble.  I have my own personal give-it-time rule -- or what I refer to as The 75-Page Rule.  Life is too short to read crummy books -- so, I never make myself complete a book that I really don't like.  But I always make myself read the first 75 pages before putting it down.  (There have been Four- and Five Star books that really needed those first 75 pages to get going!  It's not always love-at-first-sight!)  Anyway, if I find myself "talking back" to a book I'm reading, it's probably going to do no better than Two Stars!  If the plot tedious and predictable; if the characters are tedious and predictable (AND unlikeable); if the dialogue is forced; if I feel like the author is dragging me along a path to the story's (already painfully obvious) conclusion. . . I'm likely to start making comments.  Out loud.  If I'm listening on my iPod, and you can actually hear me saying. . . "oh, brother!" or "oh, what a surprise!" . . . you can bet it's a Two Star book!  So. . .why am I reading a Two Star book if I hate it so?  Why. . . I made it past the 75-page mark and feel somewhat committed!  (An example is Hotel On the Corner of Bitter and Sweet.)

ONE STAR -- Totally tedious.  Totally predictable.  Sophomoric plot.  Forced dialogue.  Stupid characters.  One star books. . . never make it past page 75!  (Only one recent example -- The English American.  Don't waste your time!)

So.  Read any good books lately?