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5-Star Predictions Wrap-Up and New Predictions #4

“Halfway through his twenty-fifth year, and to his acute relief, Prince Kadou became an uncle.”

First line in A Taste of Gold and Iron by Alexandra Rowland

I have read all my 5-star predictions from last year so now is the time to look back and see how I did. I’ve done terribly all the other times I’ve attempted this and you might think “certainly she’s getting better, right?”

A Ladder to the Sky by John Boyne

Rating: 5 Stars

Great start! I’ve read several books by Boyne and I was intrigued by what he could do with an unlikable main character and I was not disappointed. It’s the way that we slowly had this character revealed to us that made it so unputdownable. That way of exploring him was very efficient in making the reader aware of how real he still is despite his despicableness, so he never came off as a caricature to me.

A Taste of Gold and Iron by Alexandra Rowland

Rating: 4 stars

This was the one I had the highest hopes for so I was very sorry that I had to settle for a (generous) 4 stars. It leaned too much into the fantasy romance genre for my taste and it made the plot feel like an afterthought. Also, a sure way to make me bored is to write characters with little to no flaws but instead, highlight how wholesome they are. Please no. I still love Rowland’s writing and truly adore their other books so I’m hoping this was just a tiny hiccup.

Ordinary Monsters by J. M. Miro

Rating: 2 stars

And we have the first real miss. The writing style was the real problem here because it felt so detached from everything. It did not make me care about the characters or make me feel what they were feeling. The writing was just listing off events like that would be enough. But when I don’t care whether the characters live or die, you’ll just have me anxious to be done with the book.

Honeybee by Craig Silvey

Rating: 4 stars

The topics of this book were right up my alley as we followed a transgender teen in a home with poverty and violence. I also loved most of the book but it felt rushed in places and the characters weren’t allowed much time to develop and change. It made some aspects of the plot come off as rather convenient and I couldn’t really excuse that in a story like this.

Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke

Rating: 4 stars

This book was such an experience and I genuinely loved reading it because of the imaginary magic and extreme Englishness. It’s very dense but mostly in a good way because this kind of dry writing is just what I like. My only complaint is that it did not need to be that long because some parts weren’t as engaging as others.

So how did I do?

Books given 5 stars: 1
Books I’m also counting as a win: 0

This seems to be the only result I can get but I only had one true miss this time with Ordinary Monsters. Like, I’m not going to complain about reading 4-star books but that 2-star read hit hard. Don’t let yourself be fooled by the fact that the cover of Ordinary Monsters look like the cover of Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell and that the two books sound like they have a similar vibe. They don’t. Other than that, I’m only actually disappointed with A Taste of Gold and Iron because Rowland wrote my favorite book of last year but this one was very far from that.

I’m unable to stop doing this despite numerous failures so here are five new books I expect to be 5-star reads!

Gods of the Wyrdwood by RJ Barker

In a world locked in eternal winter and haunted by prophecy, a young boy trains for years to become the Chosen One, only for another to rise and claim his place in the start of an unmissable epic from a rising star in fantasy. 

The northlands of Crua are locked in eternal winter, but prophecy tells of the chosen child – who will rule in the name of their God, and take warmth back from the South. Cahal du Nahere was raised to be this person: the Cowl-Rai, the saviour. Taken from his parents and prepared for his destiny. 
But his time never came.
When he was fifteen he ceased to matter. Another Cowl-Rai had risen, another chosen one, raised in the name of a different God. The years of vicious physical and mental training he had endured, the sacrifice, all for nothing. He became nothing. 
Twenty years later, and Cahal lives a life of secrecy on the edges of Crua’s giant forests – hiding what he is, running from what he can do. But when he is forced to reveal his true nature, he sets off a sequence of events that will reveal secrets that will shake the bedrock of his entire world, and expose lies that have persisted for generations

The Hands of the Emperor by Victoria Goddard

An impulsive word can start a war.
A timely word can stop one.
A simple act of friendship can change the course of history.

Cliopher Mdang is the personal secretary of the Last Emperor of Astandalas, the Lord of Rising Stars, the Lord Magus of Zunidh, the Sun-on-Earth, the god.
He has spent more time with the Emperor of Astandalas than any other person.
He has never once touched his lord.
He has never called him by name.
He has never initiated a conversation.

One day Cliopher invites the Sun-on-Earth home to the proverbially remote Vangavaye-ve for a holiday.

The mere invitation could have seen Cliopher executed for blasphemy.
The acceptance upends the world.

A History of Loneliness by John Boyne

Propelled into the priesthood by a family tragedy, Odran Yates is full of hope and ambition. When he arrives at Clonliffe Seminary in the 1970s, it is a time in Ireland when priests are highly respected, and Odran believes that he is pledging his life to “the good.”

Forty years later, Odran’s devotion is caught in revelations that shatter the Irish people’s faith in the Catholic Church. He sees his friends stand trial, colleagues jailed, the lives of young parishioners destroyed, and grows nervous of venturing out in public for fear of disapproving stares and insults. At one point, he is even arrested when he takes the hand of a young boy and leads him out of a department store looking for the boy’s mother.

But when a family event opens wounds from his past, he is forced to confront the demons that have raged within the church, and to recognize his own complicity in their propagation, within both the institution and his own family.

A novel as intimate as it is universal, A History of Loneliness is about the stories we tell ourselves to make peace with our lives. It confirms Boyne as one of the most searching storytellers of his generation.

Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart

Shuggie Bain is the unforgettable story of young Hugh “Shuggie” Bain, a sweet and lonely boy who spends his 1980s childhood in run-down public housing in Glasgow, Scotland. Thatcher’s policies have put husbands and sons out of work, and the city’s notorious drugs epidemic is waiting in the wings.

Shuggie’s mother Agnes walks a wayward path: she is Shuggie’s guiding light but a burden for him and his siblings. She dreams of a house with its own front door while she flicks through the pages of the Freemans catalogue, ordering a little happiness on credit, anything to brighten up her grey life. Married to a philandering taxi-driver husband, Agnes keeps her pride by looking good–her beehive, make-up, and pearly-white false teeth offer a glamourous image of a Glaswegian Elizabeth Taylor. But under the surface, Agnes finds increasing solace in drink, and she drains away the lion’s share of each week’s benefits–all the family has to live on–on cans of extra-strong lager hidden in handbags and poured into tea mugs.

Agnes’s older children find their own ways to get a safe distance from their mother, abandoning Shuggie to care for her as she swings between alcoholic binges and sobriety. Shuggie is meanwhile struggling to somehow become the normal boy he desperately longs to be, but everyone has realized that he is “no right,” a boy with a secret that all but him can see. Agnes is supportive of her son, but her addiction has the power to eclipse everyone close to her–even her beloved Shuggie

Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro

From her place in the store, Klara, an Artificial Friend with outstanding observational qualities, watches carefully the behavior of those who come in to browse, and of those who pass on the street outside. She remains hopeful that a customer will soon choose her, but when the possibility emerges that her circumstances may change forever, Klara is warned not to invest too much in the promises of humans.

In Klara and the Sun, Kazuo Ishiguro looks at our rapidly changing modern world through the eyes of an unforgettable narrator to explore a fundamental question: what does it mean to love?

Once again, I’ve tried to pick books from authors who have given me 5-star experiences before such as Douglas Stuart, John Boyne and RJ Barker. Victoria Goddard comes highly (!!) recommended by Alexandra Rowland, an author I love, so that should be okay too. The only risk I’m taking is with the Ishiguro one because that can really go either way. If you’ve read any of these books, both the old and the new predictions, I’d love to hear your thoughts on them!

Also, happy Eurovision week!

5 thoughts on “5-Star Predictions Wrap-Up and New Predictions #4

  1. I do think you’re getting better at this, though! I mean, you only had one real dud, so I’d say that isn’t too bad 😜

    Not having read any of these, I can’t really give you any opinions, but I’m very interested to see what you’ll think of Ishiguro. I’ve read two of his books so far, The Buried Giant and Never Let Me Go, and in both cases I felt like the books were trying so hard to be deep and lyrical that they lost some of the character depth in the process πŸ˜… They were okay, but didn’t blow me away… However, Ishiguro has this slow, WTF-is-going-on style of writing that I can totally see you loving more than me, so I’m intrigued to see your final verdict!

    Also, Cora’s comment has kind of convinced me that I need to try Shuggie Bain 😁 Although I should probably get to Young Mungo first because that’s been waiting in my StoryGraph queue forever πŸ€”

    Anyway – I really hope all these predictions will end up being five-star reads! I mean, I need to get good future recommendations from you to keep my excellent reading luck up, right? πŸ˜‚

    Liked by 1 person

    1. True, slow progress is still progress I guess πŸ˜…

      Reading about Klara and the Sun I did sense that WTF-ness and it’s my main reason for reading it, so I’m glad you can confirm that it’s part of his style 😁

      Cora’s comment was also a great motivation for me! Young Mungo is also tough in some places so I do think you should read that too πŸ˜„

      Liked by 1 person

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