Because I like controversy, here’s a few books I was expecting to be great but ended up being variations of OK to downright terrible. Sorry if any of your favourites are on this list!
The Light of the Fireflies by Paul Pen.
I actually started out really loving this book. Its Room-esque plot was intriguing and I found the writing style easy and interesting to read. It’s about a family living in what we assume is a basement or a nuclear bunker, where they have been living for years without ever going outside, and suddenly the daughter is pregnant – so we know something’s up.
The ending was such a disappointment. After an exciting, sinister read, I was fully expecting to give this book 10 out of 10 – when suddenly it ends in a shower of victim-shaming. The daughter has been bullied and abused by other members of the family, yet somehow it is she who gets her comeuppance, not her abusers, and she is painted as the villain.
If you’d like to read my review of The Light of the Fireflies, click here.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon.
I did enjoy this book, but after hearing so many good things after all these years, I was expecting to become very emotional after finishing it. However, I found it a bit ‘meh’. I didn’t react to it in any special way apart from thinking it was OK.
I might re-read it one day, as I feel like I’m missing something. Maybe I just wasn’t in the right frame of mind at the time.
Salem’s Lot by Stephen King.
I finished this one over a year ago so can’t remember much about it now. All I remember is that it really didn’t live up to what I’ve come to expect from King’s novels.
I haven’t enjoyed everything I’ve read by him, but usually if I’m not enjoying one of his books, I just put it down and don’t bother, because I do find that some of his books just aren’t for me. However, I just had a feeling this one was going to be really good and I know it’s a lot of people’s favourite King book, so I forced my way through it hoping that it would pick up.
It didn’t, though.
The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Sparks.
My love for the film version kind of guaranteed I would be disappointed by this book. There’s often been films I’ve seen and loved where I’ve then read and loved the book even more – Percy Jackson, The Hunger Games etc – but if you REALLY love the film version then sometimes it’s better just to steer clear of the book, because often films go in a completely different direction.
The story did differ slightly in the book than the film, but it was more the style I didn’t like. It wasn’t as humorous as the film, at least not to me, and I didn’t empathise with the characters as much. In the film, despite the fact that she’s a bit of a cow, I do sympathise with Miss Brodie. However, in the book she’s just a bit of an arsehole.
Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard.
I HATE when this happens. I downloaded a sample of Red Queen when everyone was going crazy over it, and really liked what I read. I still think that first chapter is excellently written, and the characters are set up to be really interesting.
However, as the book goes on – once you’ve paid for the bloody thing and can’t go back – you quickly realise that, while the writing is still good, the plot is lacking and the characters are selfish, flat and two-dimensional. Mare Barrow was set up to be the new Katniss Everdeen, but she turned out to be Effie Trinkett. (But not as cute and funny as Effie.) Despite the fact that her country is falling down around her, the whole book becomes about her love triangle. She doesn’t think about anything else. There’s a rebellion going on, but she kind of goes along with it, half-heartedly, while hoping she’s going to get to kiss one of the boys – doesn’t really matter which one – soon.
Also, when she’s taken away from her parents, she literally doesn’t think about them once. Sometimes she thinks about her brother but she literally could not give a fuck about her mum and dad.
Wicked by Gregory Maguire.
This was another disappointment because I loved the musical first and then thought the book would be just as good.
The book and the show are COMPLETELY different. I know the book came first but the musical is so much more effective. It’s a lot more compact, for a start – this is a fairly long book and not much happens in it. The characters are also a lot less likeable in the book.
Also, no songs.
The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith.
From what I remember, this book did get pretty good reviews before it was revealed who the actual author was (J. K. Rowling, in case you haven’t heard). However, I can’t see why. It’s not a particularly sophisticated murder mystery – I guessed who the murderer was, and I’m really not good at predicting endings – and the writing and characters are pretty bland. Obviously this was a disappointment, because I’m used to amazing writing and amazing characters from JKR.
I will try to read the rest of the trilogy as I’m hoping it’s better, but if you’re looking to read something by J. K. Rowling that isn’t Harry Potter, I’d recommend ploughing through The Casual Vacancy because, even though it’s slow to start with, it is so worth it in the end.
The Boy Who Could See Demons by Carolyn Jess-Cooke.
I feel like my Kindle app doesn’t really know me that well. This came up on my recommendations after reading Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend, which I adored and which this book is apparently similar to. But it’s not similar. Yes, it’s a fairly comparable premise, but the plot, which promised to be so interesting, is ineffective. I abandoned this for a long time before finally picking it up again and forcing my way through it, but it wasn’t really worth it. I didn’t add anything to my life by reading this book, apart from a vague sense of annoyance whenever I think about it.
I can see how some people might like it, but after Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend, I wanted something in that vein that would make me feel something.
Us by David Nicholls.
AAAAAARGH this book.
One of my all-time favourite books is One Day by David Nicholls; I’ve read and re-read it so many times. Now, I’ve read other books by him and not enjoyed them as much (looking at you, The Understudy) but nonetheless, I have enjoyed them. And Us had such rave reviews.
But it’s so boring! It was a MASSIVE disappointment. I didn’t buy it for a long time because it was expensive and then I found it at the library, so I was really pleased and really excited to find a new favourite. But nooooo. The main conflict is that Connie, the main character’s wife, wants to leave him after their next family holiday, and he wants to use the holiday to convince her to stay. But she’s such a horrible person that I didn’t want him to get back with her, and therefore couldn’t get on board with the aim of the plot – and therefore didn’t enjoy it.
f I will never read this book again and I honestly forget that Nicholls wrote this, because it’s so unlike his other works.
Honourable Mentions (can you tell I like WatchMojo videos?) –
We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson
The Jane Austen Book Club by Karen Joy Fowler
Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux
Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee.
Oh, Harper Lee, you make me sad.
If I absolutely HAD to pick a favourite book, it would be To Kill a Mockingbird. I love One Day, as we’ve established, and I kind of think of Harry Potter as being separate to the rest of the books I’ve read because they mean so much more to me than just any old series of books. But To Kill a Mockingbird is just on another level to all the other non-Potter books I’ve read.
I went to the midnight launch of Go Set a Watchman at my local Waterstones and watched the film of To Kill a Mockingbird with a bunch of other Scout Finch fans. It was great. We were all so excited.
But man, that book was awful.
It took everything that was wonderful about TKaM and turned it all upside-down and inside-out. It had none of the charming simplicity of TKaM. Jem isn’t even present. Even the flashbacks to Scout’s childhood weren’t reminiscent of what I loved about the first book. The plot was nonsense, and barely existent. Right at the end, Harper Lee just suddenly changed her mind about where the book was going, and it was almost as if we ended on a ‘And it was all a dream’ moment.
This book is a prime example of why you should leave things alone. It honestly ruined TKaM for me for a time. Luckily, it’s been long enough now that I can read it again, but I really couldn’t pick up TKaM for ages because my love for it had been soured by this monstrosity, this epitome of greed.
You know what else really pisses me off? The cover is orange. Orange is my favourite colour. It’s like it was meant to be on my shelves. But I threw that bastard out.