Blogging Other

What shape is your rating system?

I have been think a lot about rating systems recently, and wondered how other people’s rating system work. The scientist in me likes to use diagrams to demonstrate this – so please bare with me as I try to explain!

My rating system is shaped a bit like this:


I would rate almost all the books in the world as one star (blue). They have no interest to me, and with any luck I won’t even start to read one of these books. Occasionally I am unlucky enough to read one, but most of those books on car engines, knitting, the benefits of plastic etc. will remain on the shelves, unread by me.

The majority of the books on my blog will be 3 or 3.5 stars (orange). These are average books. Reasonable reads, but nothing outstanding about them. If I had my time again, I probably wouldn’t read them – I like to try to find the rarer 4 star (yellow) or almost impossible to find 5 star (red) books.

I think of 5 star books as being masterpieces. They are the ones which grip you from beginning to end, alter your thinking on an issue and stay with you forever. I don’t find many of these books and they account for only a very tiny percentage of all the books ever published.

What does your rating system look like?

Are you ratings evenly spread like this?


or a less severe version of mine?



….or a different shape entirely?!

I’d love to hear what you think about this!


The Japanese Literature Challenge 3!


I have been looking forward to the start of Dolce Bellezza’s Japanese Literature Challenge for a while. I have loved every Japanese book that I have read and this challenge is a great way to discover new books, which are otherwise quite hard to find reviews for.

I have saved up a few Japanese books ready for the start of this challenge, so in the next 6 months I plan to read as many of these as possible:


The Wind-up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami

I love Murakami, but have somehow managed to miss his most popular book.


The Love We Share Without Knowing by Christopher Barzak

Nymeth’s review was so powerful, that I ordered a copy straight away.  I’ll probably read this one first.

The Tale of Murasaki by Liza Dalby

I’m currently reading The Tale of Genji, so plan to read this biography of it’s author before finishing this marathon read.

The Tale of Genji by Murasaki Shikibu

I have been reading this classic for a few weeks now. I hope to finish it at some point during this challenge.

Tokyo Year Zero by David Peace

I love the sound of this book, but don’t know whether the repetitive noises in this book will wind me up too much!

There are a few other Japanese books that I really want to read including The Housekeeper and the Professor and Grotesque, but as I don’t own copies of these they’ll have to wait!

Do you love Japanese literature?

Are you planning to take part in this challenge?

What is your favourite Japanese book?


2008 Other Prizes Recommended books

The Other Hand – Chris Cleave

 Note: This book is published as Little Bee in the US.

It has been a long time since a book has moved me to tears, and even longer since one this length (375 pages) has been compelling enough to read in a single sitting, forcing me to stay up late into the night to finish it.  

This book is one long emotional roller coaster. The horrific lows enhanced in intensity by the touching, laugh out loud highs. The poignancy of the book was increased for me, by the fact that my eldest son is a very similar age to the little four-year-old boy in the book. My son’s character is so similar to his,  so I kept picturing my family when reading the book, with moving results.

The book is set in Kingston-upon Thames, which is only a few miles from my house, further increasing my relationship with it. The story focuses on two women, one a mother leading a supposedly normal life in England; the other a young woman from Nigeria who has come to the UK seeking asylum. After meeting each other their lives are never the same again.

I won’t give away any more of the plot, but just be assured that this is going straight into my top 20 books of all time.

Highly recommended.


I have just discovered Chris Cleave’s blog and it has instantly become my favourite author blog. His humour and observations are so original. I wouldn’t be surprised if Chris Cleave becomes one of my all-time favourite authors on the publication of his next book.

Have you read this book?

Have you read a more emotional book this year? Ever?


Win a copy of Kill-Grief by Caroline Rance

A few days ago I reviewed the brilliant, but disgustingly realistic Kill-Grief by Caroline Rance. I am now pleased to announce that I have a copy to give away, so you can experience the gore and smells for yourself!

To enter, just leave a comment below before midnight GMT on 12th August.

The competition is open to EVERYONE, no matter where in the world you live.

I have never read a book which captures the squalor of 18th century England so realistically, so I asked Caroline a few questions about her research in the comments section of the review. Some of you may have missed them, so I’ve copied them here:

Do you enjoy reading about the medical procedures of this time period?

I loved doing the research. The starting point was the actual records of Chester Infirmary in the 1750s – these showed how the hospital was run, and I used some of the names of real-life staff. For the more gruesome aspects, I read 18th-century surgical textbooks and visited medical history museums to see things like the instruments used. I find all that stuff really interesting.

How did you manage to capture the smells so realistically?

I think I must have an unusually strong sense of smell, as that’s often what I notice first about a place. I find modern life quite smelly too, so it was fairly easy to imagine the smells in all the new situations Mary finds herself in.

Did you visit any sick people to observe their pus? LOL!!!

I have seen a fair bit of blood and pus while looking after horses for the past 20 years, so had some first-hand experience of that!

Thank you Caroline! I am impressed by your sense of smell, and look forward to reading your next book about a Victorian freak show.

Booker Prize Other

The Booker long list 2009 has been announced…..

The long list this year is….

The Children’s Book by AS Byatt  stars3h
Summertime by JM Coetzee
The Quickening Maze by Adam Foulds
How to Paint a Dead Man by Sarah Hall
The Wilderness by Samantha Harvey  stars51
Me Cheeta: The Autobiography by James Lever
Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel stars1
The Glass Room by Simon Mawer
Not Untrue and Not Unkind by Ed O’Loughlin
Heliopolis by James Scudamore
Brooklyn by Colm Tóibín stars3h (review coming soon)
Love and Summer by William Trevor
The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters stars4

I have read 5 of the list, counting Wolf Hall which I didn’t manage to finish.

I have just ordered the rest of the list, so I’m afraid you’ll have to put up with quite a few Booker books on my blog for the next few months.

I am so happy that Wilderness made the long list. I really hope it wins, as it is one of my favourite books of the year so far.

What did you think of the list?

Are you planning to read them all?

2008 2009 Other Prizes Recommended books

Blackmoor – Edward Hogan

Winner of the Desmond Elliott Prize 2009

Blackmoor is a small mining village in Derbyshire, England. The book is set during the 1990s, a time of fast decline for the mining industry, which eventually ends in the closure of the pit. The tight-nit community struggle to deal with the loss of employment, but have the added problem of methane building up beneath their homes.

Vincent is a teenager growing up surrounded by these problems, but the mystery of his past is a more pressing concern for him. Why did his mother die? Why is his father so distant from him?

The book flicks backwards and forwards, slowly revealing his mother’s secrets and snippets of Vincent’s confused life.

Vincent’s mother, Beth, is an amazing character. She is an albino, suffers from post-natal depression and is the source of much gossip within the village. The depiction of her strange behaviour was always respectful and gave a great insight into the mind of someone suffering from this type of depression.

Vincent was also amazingly well drawn. The confusion and innocence of a teenager’s mind was perfectly captured.

This is a really good book. The writing is simple, but it grabs your attention from the start. It is packed with twists and turns and had a very satisfying ending.

If you’d like to find out more about a very different side to English life then this is a great choice – it’s a really good first novel, and I will be looking out for more books from this author in the future.