Recently, I spotted a Twitter thread by Austine at NovelKnight discussing her frustration around the stigma of three star books. To quote her: “The WORST a 3 star book is for me is that I wasn’t a fan because the book just wasn’t for me BUT I still thought it was a good read and would recommend it to others.” For me personally, three stars can mean that a book had some flaws, but I still enjoyed it, or it could simply mean I found the book a pleasant read but it wasn’t life-changing. In other words, most of the time a three-star read is a book I LIKED.
There are many, however, who see a three star rating and dismiss the book out of hand. Given there are so many hours in the day, I respect those who want to limit their reads to four or five star rated books. But as Austine stated above, a three star might mean the book just wasn’t for the reviewer. One person’s three star could be another person’s five star. Or perhaps, like myself, you’re in the mood for something quick and easy, and you don’t particularly mind if you’ve forgotten most of the plot within a few days of finishing. Books are entertainment after all, and that comes in all levels and form. In the same way, I have a few TV shows in my DVR that will only take minimal concentration.
Today, I wanted to spotlight a few three star reads I’ve read in the past that are worth checking out. These books were a fun ride and/or well-written and/or had an interesting premise, but just didn’t tick the meter into the four star “wow” or the five star “WOW.” Sometimes I’m well-aware that a book has a devoted following, but for whatever reason it didn’t resonate with me in the same way. These are still books I thought were well-done enough to pass along, even if I’m not shouting it from the rooftops. I may do more of these in future, particularly as I only recently started blogging and there are many books on my Goodreads I’d still love to share!
HEROINE COMPLEX by Sarah Kuhn
I picked up a free copy of this book (first in a trilogy) at SDCC a few years ago. When I finally sat down to read it, I had just finished reading Neal Stephenson’s SEVENEVES, a gargantuan 700-page hard sci-fi book full of apogees and orbital calculations and enough science to fry my brain for weeks. HEROINE COMPLEX was just the antidote I needed. Evie Tanaka is personal assistant to superhero (and best friend) Aveda Jupiter. As if managing a superhero’s life wasn’t stressful enough, Evie is starting to develop powers of her own, and she’s not quite sure if she’s ready for the spotlight. This was an absolutely fun (and light) read that I blitzed through in just a few days. Did I give it three stars? Yes. Did I recently buy the sequel as the tonic to future brain burnout? Absolutely.
SEVENEVES by Neal Stephenson
Speaking of SEVENEVES, it also got three stars from me! And if there’s one entry on this list to convince you that 3-Star reviewed books need a serious consider before skipping, this is the one. SEVENEVES is a good book and I know there are people out there who are going to love it. Me personally, I am not a hard sci-fi fan, so every time the narrative broke to explain the math and science behind what was happening (which was often) my eyes glazed over slightly. But this book takes a genuinely interesting concept (the Earth is going to be destroyed in a meteor shower in two years – how do we survive?) and explores various phases of acceptance, politicking, and community-building that the human race goes through.
THE WRATH AND THE DAWN by Renée Ahdieh
Here is an instance where I know the book clicked for others but didn’t resonate with me (it currently sits at a 4.16 on Goodreads). A re-telling of Shahrzad, there was romance and intrigue aplenty in this tale of a woman who stays off the threat of execution by weaving tales for the Caliph. I honestly think part of the reason I decided this was merely “fine” was that I went in thinking this was a standalone book (it’s the first in a duology), and was surprised when the book ended on an abrupt cliffhanger. I would not be opposed to trying this book again with that in mind, and I recommend to those looking for a Middle Eastern-inspired romance.
MADE TO KILL by Adam Christopher
MADE TO KILL takes the 1940s noir detective vibe and says “What if it was basically the same, but a robot was the PI?” In a lot of ways this character reminded me of Valentine from FALLOUT 4. The first of three books, this is a brisk 237 pages and will take you through a twisty turning mystery in Hollywood. I remember very little about the plot (it’s been a few years) and while I wasn’t motivated to continue onwards, I can see this series fitting the bill for some people.
ROSEMARY AND RUE by Seanan McGuire
This is a series that I may go back and give another go when I can binge a few at once. I was intrigued by the concept of a half-fae woman who gets sucked back into court politics. This first book felt like a fairly broad strokes set up for a larger world that just didn’t hook me right off the bat, but I didn’t hate it. Fans of the urban fantasy genre should give a peek, as it’s fairly highly rated on Goodreads, and if you like it, there’s another eleven books to read!
That’s it for this first installment of Three Star Reads! I hope some of you have been encouraged to check out some things you might have been inclined to overlook. Have opinions about ratings and stars? Let me know in the comments!