The 4.5 Star Challenge

Taken from Rachel at pace, amore, libri! The idea of this challenge is that you choose five books that you think you’ll rate five stars but that you haven’t read yet, and see what happens. I have renamed this challenge as it’s so unusual for me to give out five star ratings – so I’ll be looking for these books to be at least 4.5 stars.

So I don’t add to my reading list, everything I’ve chosen is from my 2019 Reading Plans.

Téa Obreht: Inland. I already wrote about how much I’m looking forward to this, but suffice it to say that (a) Obreht’s debut, The Tiger’s Wifewas one of my favourite books of the last ten years and (b) this is set in the Arizona Territory in 1893, allowing Obreht, whose last novel was focused on folklore and conflict, to ‘subvert and reimagine the myths of the American West’. This is out in August.

Sally Rooney: Normal People. A funny one for me, as I enjoyed Rooney’s debut, Conversations With Friendsbut it didn’t blow me away. However, I adore novels with university settings and, as I am the last person in the world to read this book, I’ve seen lots of glowing reviews.

Allegra Goodman: The Chalk Artist. Again, a bit of a leap of faith. I admired the intelligence and sharpness of Goodman’s Intuition and The Cookbook Collector, but neither novel really came together for me. Still, I’m convinced that Goodman can write, and the premise of this novel – a boy whose life is taken over by an alternative gaming reality – couldn’t be more up my street.

Evie Wyld: The Bass Rock. Wyld’s All The Birds, Singing was also one of my favourite novels of the past ten years, and although I was less impressed by her debut, After The Fire, A Small Still VoiceI loved her graphic novel, Everything Is Teeth. This one tells the story of three unconventional women who live hundreds of years apart. It looks like the publication of this has been pushed to 2020, though, so I might have a while to wait. (It also has no cover yet, so I’ve used a photo of Wyld instead.)

Richard Powers: The Echo Maker. I was hugely impressed by Powers’s The Overstory, which was one of my top ten books of 2018, and have decided to explore his back catalogue. I was most intrigued by this one, which is about a man who doesn’t recognise his own sister after suffering brain damage in a car accident, but sounds like it might take an unexpected turn.

Have you read any of these novels? What did you think, if so?

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16 thoughts on “The 4.5 Star Challenge

  1. I too wanted to like The Chalk Artist, and–unfortunately–did not. But it was exactly the sort of thing that seemed full of potential! I’d also like to read The Echo Maker, since Powers is one of my all-time faves. (Though my favourite book of his is The Time Of Our Singing, which, if I haven’t yet evangelized it to you, is an absolute stunner.)

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    • Ah, this has been my experience with Goodman in the past – great premises, good writing, but the books don’t quite work. I haven’t read any Powers other than The Overstory, so just picked the blurb that appealed to me most. I’ll make a note that The Time Of Our Singing is also one to try!

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  2. Fun post! A couple of books that have lived up to my 5-star expectations this year were East of Eden and Cutting for Stone, both doorstoppers/epics. I’m wary of making explicit predictions like this, though, because I’ve had cases where I thought I couldn’t possibly fail to love a book but ended up disappointed (perhaps most prominently with The Luminaries). For me, success would be 4 stars or above. Unfortunately, most of my “most anticipated” titles of 2019 have turned out to be just 3 stars so far.

    I’m also really looking forward to the Obreht and Wyld books, and need to read more of Powers’s back catalogue (besides The Overstory, I’ve only read Orfeo, which was excellent). I’ll be interested to see what you make of the Rooney — I hoped to like it at least as much as Conversations with Friends but was severely underwhelmed.

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    • I’m sure all these predictions will be wrong, though I’d be happy if they turn out to be four stars! I’m more interested in seeing how good I am at picking books for myself. The failure rate is surprisingly high.

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  3. I love this selection! I had mixed feelings about All the Birds, Singing when I read it a couple of years back but it’s the kind of book that left a strong impression on me and I’d be curious to try more from Wyld. And yay Sally Rooney! I will admit that I much preferred Conversations With Friends but I find it amusing how there doesn’t seem to be a general consensus on which is the ‘better’ novel. I’m so curious to hear your thoughts on NP!

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  4. That’s a challenge and a half for those books – I’ve read none of them (of course!) I didn’t love The Tiger’s Wife – can’t remember why, but this new one appeals much more. I’ve not read Evie Wyld yet, nor Richard Power – although The Overstory is still in my bedside read soon bookcase. I will probably be the last person, even after you, to get round to reading Normal People, although again it’s in my bedside bookcase!

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