Top Ten Tuesday: Exceeded/Failed Expectations

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish. Each week we will post a new Top Ten list that one of our bloggers here at The Broke and the Bookish will answer. Everyone is welcome to join.

This week, we’re revealing the ten books we thought we would like more (or less) than we actually did!

1. “The Book Thief” by Markus Zusak.  I didn’t think I minded experimental lit, but I couldn’t finish “Book Thief.”  It was just too weird.  And considering how much the blogosphere loved this one, I feel kinda guilty that I didn’t like it.  Maybe I’ll try again someday.

2. “1Q84” by Haruki Murakami. It was just so boring!  Boring, and repetitive, and overwrought, and too descriptive…I only made it about 100 pages.  The supporting cast is full of unique, funky characters, but the portrayal of both main female characters was just weird, and my other reason for dropping the book.

Take Aomame.  She had an impromptu lesbian experience as a teenager, something all edgy literary women apparently do; she has a fetish for balding men, something that came across as a trait added to appeal to older male readers; and she demands sex in a way that Murakami might think is empowering – and it might have been, in 1880.  Plus she’s a deadly assassin who kills abusive men.  All in all, it just felt like a potential Zach Snyder adaptation, and that’s not a compliment.

3. “The Virgin’s Lover” by Philippa Gregory. I loved the first two Gregory books I read (“Other Boleyn Girl” and “Constant Princess”), so “Virgin’s Lover” was a huge letdown.  I don’t have much patience for love triangles, illicit affairs, etc, which is why I also hated “Shakespeare In Love.”  I wind up shouting “Keep it in your pants!!” at the screen and/or page.

Plus there was a moment where Dudley reveals his secret to keeping Elizabeth from getting pregnant: a leather condom, decorated with bows. Nooo.

4. “The Once and Future King” by TH White.  I was expecting more of a stodgy classic when I tried to read this, I guess, because once young Arthur left on his magical adventure with Robin Hood, I was done.  It probably deserves a second attempt, though.

5. “Midnight’s Children” by Salman Rushdie. The blurb is about magical children born at midnight on the day of India’s independence; the book itself is a boring slog through multiple generations of one Indian family.  There may have been more, but I couldn’t stand to read it all.

6. “Divergent” by Veronica Roth. Everyone absolutely raves about “Divergent,” but even trying to keep my expectations low, I was a little disappointed.  Tris is a cool character, and her relationship with Four was the perfect level of steamy (once he stopped treating her like a jerk), but the world-building was not nearly thorough enough.  I’ve heard “Insurgent” answers some of my questions about why the world is the way it is, but in my opinion, putting vital information like that in the second book instead of the first is lazy writing.

7. “Dark Angels” by Karleen Koen. This was one of my first forays into historical fiction that wasn’t set in WWII or Elizabethan England, and it was kind of a letdown.  Not a massive disappointment, just very “meh.”

Let’s wrap up with a couple that exceeded my expectations:

8. “East of Eden” by John Steinbeck. I’ve always liked Steinbeck and I’d heard great things about “East of Eden,” but I wasn’t expecting to love it as much as I did.  I was reading a borrowed copy, but about a quarter of the way through, I bought my own copy because I knew I’d want one.

9. “Never Let Me Go” by Kazuo Ishiguro. It was so gorgeously written.  There just isn’t anything else I can say.  Go read it.  It’s incredible.

10. “The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society” by Mary Ann Shaffer. This one also came extremely highly recommended, but unlike “Divergent,” this one made me squee and dance around the room.  It’s not excellent, but it’s very very enjoyable.

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6 thoughts on “Top Ten Tuesday: Exceeded/Failed Expectations

  1. I had quite a bit of trouble getting into 1Q84, in fact it is still sitting on my shelf half read and I have no desire to pick it back up. East of Eden is a favorite of mine.

    Now I am curious how I will feel about The Book Thief. I have one person who says it is a must read and one (you) who says give it a miss. We will see…!

    • You made it further in 1Q84 than I did! I hope you enjoy Book Thief – I intend to try it again someday, I just felt like the story didn’t pick up very quickly, or that it got lost in the smug-feeling experimental language.

  2. I felt the same way about Murakami’s Wind-Up Bird Chronicles. Boring and frustrating and the mysterious parts of it felt obnoxiously oblique rather than weird and fascinating like mysteries should be. Similarly-titled, I HAAATED Paolo Bacigalupi’s The Wind-Up Girl. Awful awful awful.

    On the surprised/impressed side of things, I too was blown away by Never Let Me Go–and also by MT Anderson’s Thirsty, which made me feel some of the same things as Never Let Me Go, ending-wise. It takes guts for an author to end their book on such a despairing note and apparently I LOVE IT even as it makes me cry.

    • Wind-Up Bird is the only other one I’m tempted to try…maybe I won’t waste my time. I actually didn’t mind Wind-Up Girl, although there were certainly aspects of it I didn’t enjoy, and I’m not in any hurry to re-read it. It’s one of those that I bought, read, debated giving away a couple times, and have held onto in case I re-read it someday and decide I actually like it.

      I will have to check out Thirsty! There’s a fine line for me between good-crying and I-hate-the-world-crying – Never Let Me Go was the former and Handmaid’s Tale was the latter.

    • I don’t mind having details unveiled over a long period of time – that is good writing and it keeps the reader interested. I’m only a couple chapters into “Insurgent,” but one detail I’ve liked so far is that Amity is kept so cheerful by being drugged. That was a great hint that the entire society is messed up, much more so than just the two factions that went bad in “Divergent.” What I’m wishing Veronica Roth had even hinted at is what led to the development in the factions in the first place – I get the idea that there was an environmental crisis of some kind, but that’s it. And after reading “Delirium” and “Legend,” which had pretty solid world-building, “Divergent’s” lack of background info was kind of disappointing.

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