I wasn’t planning on doing another round of five-star predictions this year. But back in August, I was feeling not very excited about all of my planned reading, so I decided to pick some books from the list I had to get to (for various reasons) to help me get more excited about reading them – click here to check out my original post. I’ve been blogging these as I read them, and I did manage to finish them all (I’m sure by the time this is published, you will have a pretty good idea of how insane my reading year has been). So let’s see if they were actually five-star reads.

The Hidden Palace by Helene Wecker

This is the sequel to one of my favorite books of all time, The Golem & the Jinni, and one of my most anticipated books of the year. Honestly, I put it on this list to kind of force myself to actually get to it this year – with all of the reading I’ve done for posts, some of the books I want to read for fun have kind of fallen to the wayside. So I wanted to give this one priority because I have already waited eight years for it.

And it was worth it. I just really love Helene Wecker’s writing. It’s absolutely gorgeous and creates such an immersive and beautiful atmosphere. I will say I didn’t quite love The Hidden Palace as much as The Golem and the Jinni. There were just some things about the first story that I loved that didn’t continue into this book. But even though I didn’t love it as much as the first book, I still loved it. Five stars. I’m not sure if this series will continue, but I will definitely continue reading if it does.

Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer

So when the pandemic started almost two years ago, I got really into watching and reading about Mount Everest for some reason. Probably inspired by that anxiety-inducing viral photo. So I had heard of the 1996 disaster that resulted in the deaths of eight people. I had also read a book by Jon Krakauer before (Missoula) and was interested in reading another. So this seemed like a perfect one to pick up.

It’s no surprise that three of the five books on this list are nonfiction – I just really love learning things, and feel like nonfiction books are more likely to be five-star reads (I could be totally off, maybe I’ll actually look into my stats when I have time). Either way, this book definitely supports my theory, because it was another five-star read. I stayed up way too late reading this because if I’d gone to bed on time, I would have left everyone right at the top of the mountain and I needed to know what happened. I’m still thinking about this one a couple months later.

Elastoe by Darcie Little Badger

I had been hearing so many great thins about this book from a lot of people who have similar reading tastes to mine. So I was really excited to read it. Obviously, since I included it on this list. It’s a supernatural murder mystery that ties in Indigenous culture – I actually included it in my reading experiment where I read five books by Indigenous authors, so go check that out if you haven’t already.

Not sure why, but I initially thought this book was middle grade. Which was already a little bit of a stretch for me to include in my five-star predictions (I don’t remember the last time I gave a middle grade book five stars as an adult). But everyone was raving about it, so I thought it might just be that good. Except this was not middle grade, it is YA. Which, again, isn’t a huge issue – I read books meant for all ages. But what became an issue for me was that it was written like middle grade.

This actually read a lot like Victoria Schwab’s City of Ghosts, which is solidly middle grade. So it threw me off a lot that the main character is seventeen. If she had been like twelve, I think this would have been an awesome middle grade book. But there was just a disconnect between the writing and the characters for me. I think the story would have worked either way, but I just wish this had either been middle grade or a more mature young adult. Sadly, this prevented it from getting a five star rating from me. It was still really good though – I ended up giving it four stars (which is maybe a round-up from three and a half).

The Girl Who Smiled Beads: A Story of War and What Comes After by Clemantine Wamariya and Elizabeth Weil

This is the memoir of a girl who escaped the Rwandan genocide when she was just six. She then spent the next six years in seven different African countries with her sister before finally being granted asylum in the United States. You might also recognize her from the surprise reunion with the other members of her family on Oprah.

This was really good. I feel a little bad saying this, but it’s not exactly something new to me to read memoirs about wartime – in the same month I read this book, I read another memoir by a refugee from Africa, this one having fled the war in Congo as a child. So this story didn’t stick with me quite as much as I had hoped it would. Still, I can’t give it anything less than five stars. It was incredibly well-written, very interesting, and really readable. It just didn’t make a huge impact on me for whatever reason.

Hidden Valley Road: Inside the Mind of an American Family by Robert Kolker

Finally, we have this story about a family that has been through the unimaginable. Don and Mimi Galvin had twelve children between 1945 and 1965. And by the mid-70s, six of their ten boys had been diagnosed with schizophrenia. This book delves into the hardships this caused on every member of the family, how scientists used them basically as a case study to better understand the disease, and their stories as a family going through all of this.

This was not an easy read at all. If you want to give it a go, make sure you look up trigger warnings for this book (I’m probably forgetting some, but definitely mental health, sexual abuse, and violence are big ones). What this family went through was unimaginable. Their story was pretty difficult to get through. But this book is so well written and interesting that it was also hard to put down. This was an easy five-star read for me.

And that’s it for my five-star predictions. I feel like four out of five isn’t too bad. I read some great books, even though they are mostly sad. Why is it that we like reading sad books so much?

Let me know what you thought of this post! Have you read any of these books? Based on my reading tastes, what book(s) do you think I should include if I decide to go for another round?

Check out my bookshop, where you can go and buy books and also shop my curated collections of my personal favorites AND all of the books I’ve read for my reading experiments.Or you can just buy whatever books you want to. I get a small commission at no extra cost to you, and you get to support your choice of indie bookstores – it’s a win all around! 

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5 thoughts

  1. Loving to learn is definitely a great thing. I do want to read more nonfiction, do you have any good recommendations besides these five-star ones? It’s a cool idea to predict your rating and reflect on it later.

    Liked by 1 person

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