Monday, January 7, 2019

Books Read in 2018: Three Star Fantasy and Horror

From Steph, yesterday - "I'm going to answer Marilyn's question about stars, if that's not too presumptuous." On the contrary, I thank you profusely for articulating perfectly what I think of as three-star criteria. Steph"For me, a three star book is competently written, maybe more workmanlike than artistic, but potentially enjoyable for other reasons. Or it could be very well written book that's not particularly enjoyable either because it wasn't the right time for me to read it, or maybe it could never be the right book for me under any circumstances, but I still recognize something worthy in it. A bad book is two stars or less".

Yep. Goodreads designates a three-star rating as meaning "I liked it", and that's exactly it. It was a good book, not a bad book, not quite a great book, or if it was, it wasn't the time for me to read it and find it great. I wouldn't tell anyone not to read it (well, I very seldom say that about any book, but especially not a three-star book). 

Three Star Time Travel 


Rewinder (Rewinder #1) by Brett Battle: Synopsis from Goodreads - You will never read Denny Younger’s name in any history book, will never know what he's done. 
But even if you did, you’d never believe it.
The world as you know it wouldn't be the same without him. 
Denny was born into one of the lowest rungs of society, but his bleak fortunes abruptly change when the mysterious Upjohn Institute recruits him to be a Rewinder, a verifier of personal histories. The job at first sounds like it involves researching old books and records, but Denny soon learns it's far from it. 
A Rewinder's job is to observe history.
In person.
Embracing his new duties with enthusiasm, Denny witnesses things he could never even imagine before. But as exciting as the adventures into the past are, there are dangers, too. For even the smallest error can have consequences. 
Life-altering consequences. 
Time, after all, is merely a reference point.


Yes, there's a whole category for time travel. I think I read four this year. I'm a sucker for time travel as a conceit. This was one of the more pedestrian entries to the genre - probably more like two and a half stars. It was a pleasant diversion, but fairly shallow with pretty two-dimensional characters. There are scenes that should have inspired deep feelings of rage and pity, and they just... didn't. I won't be in a hurry to read the next entry. No, I WON'T read the next entry. I'm taking a page from Hannah (HI HANNAH) and not reading books that aren't excellent. I keep saying that and yet I still have trouble not finishing books. I probably didn't need to finish this one. Okay, now I feel like I'm stepping on my own three-star rating. I'M SO CONFLICTED.

Every Anxious Wave by Mo Daviau: Synopsis from Goodreads - Good guy Karl Bender is a thirty-something bar owner whose life lacks love and meaning. When he stumbles upon a time-travelling worm hole in his closet, Karl and his best friend Wayne develop a side business selling access to people who want to travel back in time to listen to their favorite bands. It's a pretty ingenious plan, until Karl, intending to send Wayne to 1980, transports him back to 980 instead. Though Wayne sends texts extolling the quality of life in tenth century "Mannahatta," Karl is distraught that he can't bring his friend back.
Enter brilliant, prickly, overweight astrophysicist, Lena Geduldig. Karl and Lena's connection is immediate. While they work on getting Wayne back, Karl and Lena fall in love -- with time travel, and each other. Unable to resist meddling with the past, Karl and Lena bounce around time. When Lena ultimately prevents her own long-ago rape, she alters the course of her life and threatens her future with Karl.
A high-spirited and engaging novel, Mo Daviau's EVERY ANXIOUS WAVE plays ball with the big questions of where we would go and who we would become if we could rewrite our pasts, as well as how to hold on to love across time.


Urghhhh, I don't know. This was definitely better than Rewinder, so I'll say three and a half stars. The actual time machine was among the coolest ever. The beginning was kind of madcap and fun, then things got weirdly serious and confusing and I wasn't sure what exactly the author was aiming for. It was nice that the female love interest wasn't thin, and it wasn't really a big deal, then it was kind of a big deal in a weird way - I should admit that I started the book thinking the author was a man, then read the description of Lena and thought it definitely had to be written by a man, then checked and it was actually a woman, so what the hell do I know.  There was also the issue of a rape that the male protagonist almost doesn't decide to prevent because the 'time machine' should only be used to see old rock shows which, what the fuck? Then there's an asteroid. And then I put it down for a while and then picked it up and finished it, and kind of liked the end and felt glad I'd read it anyway. I apologize for this review. I'll show myself out.

Three Star Fantasy/Dark Fantasy/Horror


Dr. Edith Vane and the Hares of Crawley Hall by Suzette Mayr: Synopsis from Goodreads - Dr. Edith Vane, scholar of English literature, is contentedly ensconced at the University of Inivea. Her dissertation on pioneer housewife memoirist Beulah Crump-Withers is about to be published, and she's on track for tenure, if only she can fill out her AAO properly. She's a little anxious, but a new floral blouse and her therapist's repeated assurance that she is the architect of her own life should fix that. All should be well, really. Except for her broken washing machine, her fickle new girlfriend, her missing friend Coral, her backstabbing fellow professors, a cutthroat new dean—and the fact that the sentient and malevolent Crawley Hall has decided it wants them all out, and the hall and its hellish hares will stop at nothing to get rid of them.
Like an unholy collision of Stoner, The Haunting of Hill House, Charlie Brown, and Alice in Wonderland, this audacious new novel by the Giller Prize–longlisted Suzette Mayr is a satire that takes the hallowed halls of the campus novel in fantastical—and unsettling—directions.


A friend and I saw this on a list of Exciting New Books and resolved to read it together, and then discovered deflatingly that it was not published yet, so I was excited to finally get to read it, and then..... *sounds of balloon deflating*. From the title I thought it was going to be about a madcap royal and hijinks in a stately home. It... was not. I initially gave it one star, but that seemed too mean. I really didn't like it, but it wasn't poorly written or a bad book. Obviously a lot of people thought it was wonderful. I'm not a great fan of most satire - it tends to have to exaggerate things to the point where it makes the subject under scrutiny ridiculous, but to me this also tends to make the work at hand ridiculous. I have spent some time in academia - it would be interesting to have my professor friends read this and see what they think. The issues described are definitely not made up, but the hyperbolic treatment of them just made me roll my eyes. And Edith, poor Edith. She's a woman of colour and a lesbian (I think? Maybe bi) and a borderline alcoholic and treated very poorly by everyone in her institution, and as such she is written very, very well and I could not have been more exasperated with her. This is unfair, because such people do exist and in real life I would have nothing but sympathy for her, but I HATE reading about this kind of character. So, ergo, in sum, to conclude - it's not the book. It's me.

How to Stop Time by Matt Haig: Synopsis from Goodreads - "The first rule is that you don't fall in love, ' he said... 'There are other rules too, but that is the main one. No falling in love. No staying in love. No daydreaming of love. If you stick to this you will just about be okay.'"
A love story across the ages - and for the ages - about a man lost in time, the woman who could save him, and the lifetimes it can take to learn how to live
Tom Hazard has a dangerous secret. He may look like an ordinary 41-year-old, but owing to a rare condition, he's been alive for centuries. Tom has lived history--performing with Shakespeare, exploring the high seas with Captain Cook, and sharing cocktails with Fitzgerald. Now, he just wants an ordinary life.
So Tom moves back to London, his old home, to become a high school history teacher--the perfect job for someone who has witnessed the city's history first hand. Better yet, a captivating French teacher at his school seems fascinated by him. But the Albatross Society, the secretive group which protects people like Tom, has one rule: never fall in love. As painful memories of his past and the erratic behavior of the Society's watchful leader threaten to derail his new life and romance, the one thing he can't have just happens to be the one thing that might save him. Tom will have to decide once and for all whether to remain stuck in the past, or finally begin living in the present.
How to Stop Time is a bighearted, wildly original novel about losing and finding yourself, the inevitability of change, and how with enough time to learn, we just might find happiness.


So to begin with, I read this book mistakenly thinking it was by Matt Ruff, not Matt Haig - if you're thinking I do this kind of thing rather more often than is understandable and allowable, you are entirely correct. Matt Ruff has written several books I have very much enjoyed, and I was looking forward to his treatment of this plot. Matt Haig has written some other books, one of which I read and the review included the phrase "desperately awkward and sad". In addition, when I looked at this book on my list I wondered why it was three stars since I thought I remembered enjoying it much more than that. That turns out to have been another book, which I will be reviewing in the four-star section. Sensing a theme? Anticipating a review anyway? Sorry to disappoint you. 


Dark Debts by Karen Hall: Synopsis from Goodreads - The Supernatural Thriller of the Decade
Every few years, a book bursts onto the scene that captures the imagination so powerfully and singularly that it takes on its own life in the minds of millions of readers: The Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy; The Secret History by Donna Tartt; The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty.
Dark Debts is such a book. Author Karen Hall masterfully combines horror, southern gothic, romantic comedy, and theological mystery in the form of a supernatural thriller. Terrifying, irreverent, and deeply spiritual, Dark Debts grabs the reader from the very beginning and doesn't let go until the last remarkable page.
A superstar among television writers, the only woman ever to work on the staffs of M*A*S*H and Hill Street Blues, Karen Hall spent five years creating this vividly original story of faith confronting evil in Atlanta and Los Angeles. Her characters include:
*Michael, a sexy Jesuit priest who is having an affair with a beautiful New Yorker editor.
*Cam, a reclusive southern writer who survived a murderous family only to leap to his death under mysterious circumstances.
*Randa, an obsessive newspaper reporter on the trail of Cam's family secret.
*Jack, a lost soul who meets the love of his life just as he realizes he's losing his mind.
Dark Debts will give readers nightmares and fantasies, provoke fear and laughter, inspire doubt and faith.


The supernatural thriller of the decade? I don't know. It felt extremely dated to me, so maybe it was literally a supernatural thriller FOR that decade. It had the feel of what my old audio publishing boss used to call a "thumping good yarn", but it also sort of smelled of cigarettes and scotch and sexism, you know? A sexy Jesuit priest having an affair with a beautiful New Yorker editor? The plot was solid and followed through, although the romance felt a little too forced to me - in part because circumstances actually did conspire literally to force it. and for some reason I hated the name Randa, but I realize that's not really a valid criticism. Apparently the author has written a thoroughly updated version 25 years later, including a new major character and a reworked ending. I'm kind of interested in what she changed, but not sure I really care enough to find out. 


The Last Final Girl by Stephen Graham Jones: Synopsis from Goodreads - "The Last Final Girl is like Quentin Tarantino's take on The Cabin in the Woods. Bloody, absurd, and smart. Plus, there's a killer in a Michael Jackson mask." - Carlton Mellick III, author of Apeshit
Life in a slasher film is easy. You just have to know when to die.
Aerial View: A suburban town in Texas. Everyone's got an automatic garage door opener. All the kids jump off a perilous cliff into a shallow river as a rite of passage. The sheriff is a local celebrity. You know this town. You're from this town.
Zoom In: Homecoming princess, Lindsay. She's just barely escaped death at the hands of a brutal, sadistic murderer in a Michael Jackson mask. Up on the cliff, she was rescued by a horse and bravely defeated the killer, alone, bra-less. Her story is already a legend. She's this town's heroic final girl, their virgin angel.
Monster Vision: Halloween masks floating down that same river the kids jump into. But just as one slaughter is not enough for Billie Jean, our masked killer, one victory is not enough for Lindsay. Her high school is full of final girls, and she's not the only one who knows the rules of the game.
When Lindsay chooses a host of virgins, misfits, and former final girls to replace the slaughtered members of her original homecoming court, it's not just a fight for survival-it's a fight to become The Last Final Girl.



Should have been right up my alley. The concept was cool and all the right notes are here, but the screenplay conceit made things a little confusing. I'm intrigued by the concept of the final girl - still looking for someone to do a really great job of fleshing it out.

We Will All Go Down Together by Gemma Files: Synopsis from Goodreads - Every family has its monsters...and some are nothing but. In the woods outside Overdeere, Ontario, there are trees that speak, a village that doesn't appear on any map, and a hill that opens wide, entrapping unwary travellers. Music drifts up from deep underground, while dreams - and nightmares - take on solid shape, flitting through the darkness. It's a place most people usually know better than to go, at least locally - until tonight, when five bloodlines mired in ancient strife will finally converge once more. Devize, Glouwer, Rusk, Druir, Roke - these are the clans who make up the notorious Five-Family Coven. Four hundred years ago, this alliance of witches, changelings, and sorcerers sought to ruin and recreate the Earth in their own image, thwarted only by treachery that sent half of them to be burned alive. Driven apart by rage and hatred, their descendants have continued to feud, intermarry, and breed with each other throughout the centuries, their mutual dislike becoming ever more destructively intimate. But now, from downtown Toronto to the wilds beyond, where reality's walls grow thin, dark forces are drawing the Coven's last heirs to a final confrontation. Psychics, ex-possessees, defrocked changeling priests, shamans for hire, body-stealing witches, and monster-slaying nuns - the bastard children of a thousand evil angels - all are haunted by a ghost beyond any one person's power to exorcize unless they agree to stand together once more - at least long enough to wreak vengeance upon themselves!

Well. First of all, I love Gemma Files. I used to read her columns in the free papers when I lived in Toronto, and when I started reading her fiction I was vastly impressed - it was really well-written and right in the genre I really enjoy. I don't think I've ever come across one of her stories in an anthology and not been blown away. I've also read several other mosaic novels - short stories all in the same universe - and liked them. In the end this was, I don't know - too much of a muchness, maybe. I liked the first few stories quite a bit. Then it all went on, and on, and on, and I started to lose track of who was in which family and there seemed to be a lot of information dumps, and by the end I was just desperate for it to be over. I guess I'll go back to her stories one by one in anthologies, or reading other stuff between stories. 

Frozen Charlotte by Alex Bell: Synopsis from Goodreads - We're waiting for you to come and play. Dunvegan School for Girls has been closed for many years. Converted into a family home, the teachers and students are long gone. But they left something behind...Sophie arrives at the old schoolhouse to spend the summer with her cousins. Brooding Cameron with his scarred hand, strange Lilias with a fear of bones and Piper, who seems just a bit too good to be true. And then there's her other cousin. The girl with a room full of antique dolls. The girl that shouldn't be there. The girl that died. 

Three and a half stars. A "light" Gothic horror YA. Nicely creepy little tale. I read it for a Bingo square that was "A weather term in the title". Warning - there are dolls. 


The House Next Door by Darcy Coates: Synopsis from Goodreads - I live next to a haunted house.
I began to suspect something was wrong with the gothic building when its family fled in the middle of the night, the children screaming, the mother crying. They never came back to pack up their furniture.
No family stays long. Animals avoid the place. Once, I thought I saw a woman's silhouette pacing through the upstairs room... but that seems impossible; no one was living there at the time.
A new occupant, Anna, has just moved in. I paid her a visit to warn her about the building. I didn't expect us to become friends, but we did. And now that Marwick House is waking up, she's asked me to stay with her.
I never intended to become involved with the building or its vengeful, dead inhabitant. But now I have to save Anna... before it's too late for the both of us.


Three and a half stars. I think Hannah recommended this (HI HANNAH). This is a bona fide haunted house story - scary without being melodramatic - with the added bonus of a great story of female friendship. I really enjoyed it and will look for more from the author. 


The Best Horror of the Year Volume 9 Edited by Ellen Datlow: Synopsis from Goodreads - An elderly man aggressively defends his private domain against all comers—including his daughter;a policeman investigates an impossible horror show of a crime; a father witnesses one of the worst things a parent can imagine; the abuse of one child fuels another’s yearning; an Iraqi war veteran seeks a fellow soldier in his hometown but finds more than she bargains for . . .
The Best Horror of the Year showcases the previous year’s best offerings in short fiction horror. This edition includes award-winning and critically acclaimed authors Adam L. G. Nevill, Livia Llewellyn, Peter Straub, Gemma Files, Brian Hodge, and more.
For more than three decades, award-winning editor and anthologist Ellen Datlow has had her finger on the pulse of the latest and most terrifying in horror writing. Night Shade Books is proud to present the ninth volume in this annual series, a new collection of stories to keep you up at night.


Okay, I reread the first few stories in this last night and they were flat-out brilliant (just thinking about The Nesters by Siobhan Carroll made me shiver just now - terrifyingly vivid eco-horror), so basically I don't know what the hell I was on about giving this four stars, and I would remove it and place it in the other post right now but I'm too lazy and I don't think anybody really cares that much. Ms. Datlow, I apologize profusely. I buy or borrow these anthologies every year as soon as they hit the shelves, and they're amazing. 


Black Mad Wheel by Josh Malerman: Synopsis from Goodreads - From the author of the hit literary horror debut Bird Box(“Hitchcockian.” — USA Today ) comes a chilling novel about a group of musicians conscripted by the US government to track down the source of a strange and debilitating soundThe Danes—the band known as the “Darlings of Detroit”—are washed up and desperate for inspiration, eager to once again have a number one hit. That is, until an agent from the US Army approaches them. Will they travel to an African desert and track down the source of a mysterious and malevolent sound? Under the guidance of their front man, Philip Tonka, the Danes embark on a harrowing journey through the scorching desert—a trip that takes Tonka into the heart of an ominous and twisted conspiracy.Meanwhile, in a nondescript Midwestern hospital, a nurse named Ellen tends to a patient recovering from a near-fatal accident. The circumstances that led to his injuries are mysterious—and his body heals at a remarkable rate. Ellen will do the impossible for this enigmatic patient, who reveals more about his accident with each passing day.Part Heart of Darkness, part Lost, Josh Malerman’s breathtaking new novel plunges us into the depths of psychological horror, where you can’t always believe everything you hear.


I think I might just have to accept that I don't click with Josh Malerman. Bird Box seemed to tick all the right boxes for my favourite kind of scary book, and yet it left me cold. Same thing here - interesting premise, but the reading experience felt sterile. The characters are kind of flat - I feel like there wasn't really enough interaction to give a sense of them as bandmates, or even as people, so it was hard to feel for any of them when horrible things happened, which is what good horror really is for me. There were threads and themes here that could have been very effective if employed more evenly - the whole war as a wheel thing - but as it was they felt sort of dropped in, like seasoning when a meal is already nearly cooked.

The Night Parade by Ronald Malfi: Synopsis from Goodreads - First the birds disappeared.
Then the insects took over.
Then the madness began . . .

They call it Wanderer's Folly--a disease of delusions, of daydreams and nightmares. A plague threatening to wipe out the human race. 
After two years of creeping decay, David Arlen woke up one morning thinking that the worst was over. By midnight, he's bleeding and terrified, his wife is dead, and he's on the run in a stolen car with his eight-year-old daughter, who may be the key to a cure. 
Ellie is a special girl. Deep. Insightful. And she knows David is lying to her. Lying about her mother. Lying about what they're running from. And lying about what he sees when he takes his eyes off the road . 


This was an intriguing attempt, along the lines of Stephen King or someone else that I thought of while I was reading it and didn't write down and now can't remember. It has some good elements - a frightening epidemic, a good family man on a journey to protect his daughter, a tragic back-story. Just one of those times when I couldn't quite put my finger on why I liked it but didn't love it. 


Strange Weather by Joe Hill: Synopsis from Goodreads - A collection of four chilling novels, ingeniously wrought gems of terror from the brilliantly imaginative, Joe Hill
Snapshot is the disturbing story of a Silicon Valley adolescent who finds himself threatened by “The Phoenician,” a tattooed thug who possesses a Polaroid Instant Camera that erases memories, snap by snap.
A young man takes to the skies to experience his first parachute jump. . . and winds up a castaway on an impossibly solid cloud, a Prospero’s island of roiling vapor that seems animated by a mind of its own in Aloft.
On a seemingly ordinary day in Boulder, Colorado, the clouds open up in a downpour of nails—splinters of bright crystal that shred the skin of anyone not safely under cover. Rain explores this escalating apocalyptic event, as the deluge of nails spreads out across the country and around the world.
In Loaded, a mall security guard in a coastal Florida town courageously stops a mass shooting and becomes a hero to the modern gun rights movement. But under the glare of the spotlights, his story begins to unravel, taking his sanity with it. When an out-of-control summer blaze approaches the town, he will reach for the gun again and embark on one last day of reckoning.


More like two-and-a-half. Overall this made me quite sad. Obviously Joe Hill is welcome to write whatever he wants, but I'm frankly baffled as to why he started out writing literate horror with a fresh, subtle voice and then seemingly turned to emulating his father to a ridiculous degree. I mean, one story - one novel, even - I would have considered a blip. But this? A "Different Seasons" called "Strange Weather" instead? It would be funny, but since there's nothing in here that rivals Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption or The Body, it's just disappointing.

"Snapshot" is a good-enough story (even though it faux-cleverly rips off Stephen King's "The Sun Dog"), but it feels like it's missing an entire middle section - the introduction is good, the conclusion is fine, but there's no slow build-up to the climactic confrontation. It begins, then it ends.

"Loaded" is certainly timely, but it feels a little too on-the-nose, as if it's a straight working-out of Hill's feelings about gun violence. And I hated the ending.

"Aloft" was probably the most interesting, and I don't have any specific quarrel with it. Just didn't blow me away.

"Rain" felt like a straight riff on The Mist - bewildering natural phenomenon starts killing people, survivors behave badly or well, the end - but actually gave a bit more of a satisfying conclusion.

I'm done buying Hill's stuff. I will keep hoping that he cuts out this gimmicky bullshit and returns to the promise of Horns and Heart-Shaped Box, so I'll keep reading, but only from the library.


Here, for comparison between two three-star reviews, is Steph's review from Goodreads: I agree with my friend Allison (hi, Allison!) that this book reads a lot like Stephen King. It's not just the structure of a four-novella collection (like Different Seasons) or the story about a haunted polaroid camera (like "Sun Dog"). It just feels like a Stephen King book. The writing is so similar. And the author photo even looks like a young Stephen King. Of course, Joe Hill looks like his dad, that's just natural. But the haircut, the glasses, the beard, the coat. It looks just like the illustrations of Stephen King, the meta-fictional character at the end of the Dark Tower books. So that's kind of a weird thing to do.

But I don't know if I should complain about all this or not because I've only read a couple Joe Hill books and while I remember liking them overall, some of the stories ("Button Boy" maybe? -- I don't really want to go back and check) were too disturbing for me. Plus, I like Stephen King. I like him a lot.

All this aside, I did enjoy the book, all four novellas. The protagonists of "Snapshot," "Aloft," and "Rain" were appealing (there's no real protagonist of "Loaded") and the stories unfold at a nice pace. I didn't think the end of "Snapshot" quite made sense and "Loaded" was a little heavy-handed in its message, but I see what he was trying to do-- to show all the things that can go wrong when guns are too easily available, and I mean ALL--so there's no subtle way to do that. I think I liked "Rain" best. I appreciated how all the disperse elements came together in the end in a surprising and satisfying way. In "Aloft," my second favorite, I liked how even in the most extraordinary circumstances he's experiencing, Aubrey keeps dwelling on his very ordinary backstory. It's how people are, the mundane emotional upsets of your life have outsize importance to you because they're yours.

I wavered between three and four stars, but I fell on the three side.

She is NOT WRONG about Button Boy - Allison

The Dazzling Darkness by Paula Cappa: Synopsis from Goodreads - A secret lies buried beneath the haunting statuary in Old Willow Cemetery. In Concord, Massachusetts, the surrounding woods are alive with the spirits of transcendentalists Emerson, Thoreau, and Alcott. Elias Hatch, the cemetery keeper, is the last of modern-day transcendentalists. Does he know the secret power buried in Old Willow Cemetery? Would he ever reveal it? 
Next door to this cemetery is a lovely gabled house. When the Brooke family moves in, the secret of Old Willow strikes. On a cold afternoon in March, five-year-old Henry Brooke does not arrive home from the school bus stop. Antonia Brooke is frantic her child is missing, or—the unspeakable—stolen. Adam Brooke spends a harrowing night searching the Concord woods, fear gripping him as hours pass with no leads. 
Finally, a police dog tracks Henry’s scent inside Old Willow Cemetery. Detective Mike Balducci suspects that Elias Hatch knows the truth about what happened to Henry. Balducci knows Hatch’s metaphysical beliefs. What Balducci discovers buried in the cemetery is beyond the grave, beyond apparitions or shadowy drifts rushing through the pine trees. 
There are the dazzled faces in the darkened air … and their secret.
The Dazzling Darkness is a supernatural mystery that parallels science with spirituality by exploring consciousness, death, and the afterlife.


This was pretty cool, actually. A little missing-child mystery, a little whiff of the supernatural, and a little something extra. It wasn't quite like anything I'd read before, which, well, I read a lot, so it's refreshing to find something like that. 

2 comments:

Steph Lovelady said...

I feel famous now.

The Edith Vane book does sound promising, sorry it didn't deliver. I have to be careful reading books about academics. I never know when they're going to give me a case of the melancholy what-ifs, especially in August and January (new semester months).

Marilyn (A Lot of Loves) said...

Just to keep the 3-star conversation going - would you read a book that is rated 3 stars - lets say rated 3 stars by a friend? For me, I rate a book 3 stars because I think it's ok, but not amazing - essentially what you and Steph both said, but if I've had my eye on a book and a friend on GoodReads rates it a 3, I tend to mentally put it on the backburner. I don't totally write it off forever, but it's put waaaaaaay down the list. Other ladies at my book club say ANY 3 star rating for a book means they won't even bother.