Saturday, 22 March 2014

Five Star Me!

I write, I read. I review. The first is easy, the second less so. The third is the most difficult of the lot.

It ought to the the easiest, because someone else has done the hard work and turning out a review (Amazon likes them short but I don’t think this does a book justice, alas) takes very little time. Yet somehow, it’s something I don’t seem able to get my head round.

In real life, of course, I review all the time. “You must read this book,” I tell my friends; or, if they ask me what they should take on holiday I might think about what I’ve just finished and shake my head: “I don’t think I’d bother with that.” Or (because reviews like this are very personal: “I loved it but I don’t think it’s your type of book.”

I was brought up with the mantra that if you can’t say anything nice you shouldn’t say anything at all. So, if I can’t in all conscience give a book five stars I won’t review it. This brings problems of its own because I don’t really have time time to review all the books I’ve read so there are plenty of five-star books out there that I haven’t got round to reviewing - and not a few friends will now be chewing their fingernails thinking I didn’t like their book when actually something else came between me and the Amazon page just at the wrong moment.

At this point I’m in a trap of my own making. If I only give books five stars, and I only review books by my friends, then then it looks as if I’m giving the book five stars because they’re by my friends. But because I choose books I think I’ll like, most of the books I read would get a review of at least four stars anyway. Otherwise I wouldn’t bother.

The first book I reviewed was Anne Stenhouse’s Bella’s Betrothal. I didn’t intend to read it because I’m not really into Regency but I bought it because Anne’s a friend and when I read it it surprised me and made me laugh. Five stars. Then it was Jenny Harper’s Face the Wind and Fly. I’ve watched this book creep through different edits and different tiles, battle with self-publishing and emerge the other side. And it’s a good book. Truly it is. Five stars again.

Two more five stars are coming up, for Myra Duffy’s Endgame at Port Bannatyne and John Erwin’s The Last Will and Testimony of Jedediah P Carpenter. And maybe I’ll try and extend my reviewing, and try and be a bit more brutal as I do so, or even review books by complete strangers. Watch this space…


  1. Hi Jennifer, I read your great review of Bella's Betrothal, but I don't believe I knew it was your first ever. I'm doubly honoured, thank you. anne stenhouse

    1. Well, Anne, I think you set me on a slippery slope!

  2. Reviewing is difficult, Jennifer, and I won't review a book I don't like enough to award 4 or 5 stars. By the way, I really enjoyed your book so will try and get that review up soon!