Top Ten Books that Surprised Me (In a Good or Bad Way)


Top Ten Tuesday DIFF TYPE

Top Ten Tuesday is an awesomely original weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish, and is now hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl.

1. The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak

The Book Thief Marcus Zusak

A young girl who loves books, set in the backdrop of World War II and narrated by death? Check, check and CHECK. This should be right up my alley, surely?

SURPRISE: Umm… turns out, not. I feel like the only person on the planet who is not in love with this book. I didn’t go into it with any particular expectations but had basically never seen a poor review of this. While I enjoyed the story and its twists and turns, I was surprised that I never developed any kind of emotional connection with it or the characters.

2.  The Mortal Instruments Series by Cassandra Clare

City of Bones

ABOUT: Angels and Demons and Shadowhunters…Oh My!

WHY I WAS SURPRISED: I was a serious latecomer to this series. I knew of it but had never been interested in picking it up because I’d never gotten on with the ‘fallen angels’ thing. However, the praise kept racking up so I decided to give book 1 a go in 2015. I wasn’t convinced at first, but by the second book all the sass and dramatic drama overtook the sensible side of my brain which cringed at some of the writing; I was gobbling it up. I even purposely spaced out the books to stop me reading them all at once! They also became my ‘travel’ books that I took on many an adventure.


3. We All Looked Up by Tommy WallachWe All Looked Up

ABOUT: Several teenagers discover they only have two months to live (due to pending death by asteroid).

I WAS UNPLEASANTLY SURPRISED: This book, ACK. The internet told me it would be profound and poignant. There was a lot of hype around this one when it was released, BUT IT WAS ALLLLL LIESSSS.
Unfortunately, I failed to find one redeeming feature in this and almost DNF’d it. It’s the worst book I’ve read in a while. The storyline was bizzare, the characters hollow and vapid, and none of them felt sincere. Good premise, poor execution.

4. The Shambling Guide to New York City by Mur Lafferty

The Shambling Guide to New York City

ABOUT: On paper, The Shambling Guide was everything I ever wanted in a book, it’s like the blurb was written for the sole purpose of getting Becky the Bookaholic to pick it up and read the heck out of it. I mean, a supernatural travel writer?! Story based in New York? Lots of different ghosts, ghouls and demons? YUSS. Oh and the totally awesome comic book style cover? I was expecting Buffy in a book.

SURPRISE, YOUR DREAMS HAVEN’T COME TRUE, YET: Unfortunately, I set my hopes too high and was surprised to find that the supposedly kick-ass protagonist was a whiny whatsit who couldn’t even protect herself from a New York cockroach. Oh, and her travel writing was TERRIBLE. 😦

5.  Little Women by Louisa May Alcott (Review)

ABOUT: 4 sisters finding their way through the perils of growing up in the 19th Century.

Little Women

I WAS PLEASANTLY SURPRISED: I wasn’t expecting to love this as much as I did. For many years, I’ve been making my way through as many classics as I can, but Little Women was pretty far down on the list. I had seen the movie with Winona Ryder, and thought the main character Jo seemed whiny, ungrateful and arrogant. However, I got a free copy of the book from the Radio Times magazine which prompted me to give it ago. Turns out, the book was super sweet and endearing, and not at all what I was expecting!
Note to reader’s: the 2017 TV mini-series is MUCH better than the movie!

6. More Than This by Patrick Ness

More Than This Patrick Ness

ABOUT: A boy who drowns… and then wakes up again. Is it heaven? Is it limbo? Or is it something else altogether?

WHY I WAS SADLY SURPRISED: I read and loved Ness’s A Monster Calls. It was powerful, immersive and a brain sensation. More Than This was… odd, and not what I was expecting. It was way more sci-fi for starters, there’s a kind of ‘villain’ in it that bordered on the ridiculous, I never got invested in the characters and the plot was repetitive. Basically, I just wasn’t able to buy into the concept of this one. I could tell that it was supposed to be philosophical and thought-provoking but I just found it… annoying and flat. I was gutted!

7. The Universe Versus Alex Woods by Gavin Extence

ABOUT: An unlikely friendship between a teenager and a widowed elderly gentleman.

Universe Versus Alex Woods Gavin Extence

I WAS HAPPILY SURPRISED: I didn’t know much about this book but I’d read good reviews. Pair that with the blurb hook of a 17 year-old getting stopped in customs with some strange cargo – marijuana and an urn full of ashes, and how can you not read on to find out how the heck he got there? Yes, this was a sweet book portraying a brilliant friendship between generations, but what surprised and excited me was how science-related it was. Alex loves physics and astronomy and visiting museums. He also spends hours talking with Neurologists, University professors and fans of Kurt Vonnegut. It was a refreshingly unexpected aspect of the book, and I had never read about such a scienc-ey character before! As a science-inclined person myself, I loved learning all sorts of random facts the characters blurted out!

8. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde The-Picture-of-Dorian-Gray-by-Oscar-Wilde.jpg(Review)

ABOUT: The Picture of Dorian Gray is, of course, a well known classic about the perils of vanity. A man who stays the same, but his portrait grows old. How’s that for a spooky tale?

SURPRISE, IT WASN’T THAT SPOOKY: Well, I could not get on with this novel. At. All. I normally LOVE Gothic literature from this time period, but Oscar Wilde’s writing was more flowery than dark and dramatic, and I found myself recoiling from it, hissing, like a vampire faced with sunlight. This novel just wasn’t for me!

9. Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas
Crown of Midnight Sarah J Maas

A dagger wielding, sword swinging, sass slinging assassin.

LUCKILY I WAS SUPRISED… OR THE INTERNET WOULD HAVE SHUNNED ME: I did not like book 1 of this series (Throne of Glass). Not even a little bit, and the internet looooves this series. Luckily, book 2 was a lot better. It built on the world building, the plots started to weave and become more complex, and the action was way awesome. Surprisingly, I was a convert and I will soon be starting book 5. Bring it on!

10. American Gods by Neil Gaiman

American Gods Neil Gaiman

ABOUT: American Gods follows a man named Shadow whose wife dies in a car accident the day that he is released from prison. On his way back home he meets a Man named Sunday, who claims to be an ancient God.

WHY THIS SURPRISED THE HECK OUT OF ME: This book surprised me in every chapter, but I still don’t even know whether it was in a good or a bad way! In fact, I still can’t decide how I actually felt about this. I mean, the writing was exquisite, the characters were fascinating, the plot kept me engrossed, and it gets super philosophical, but guys, SO MANY WEIRD THINGS HAPPEN IN THIS BOOK. I MEAN, A MAN GETS SWALLOWED BY  HIS DATE’S LADY PARTS IN THE FIRST FEW CHAPTERS. I WAS NOT PREPARED FOR THAT.
In fact, I think this may be the weirdest book I’ve ever read, and I still can’t work out if American Gods was genius or just made no sense whatsoever. Readers, is all Neil Gaiman’s work like this? The only other book of his I’ve read is Stardust. All I know, is I definitely want to read another book by this author, but I’m not too sure why? Or whether it’s advisable!

~ * ~

Now, it’s your turn. What books have you read recently that have surprised you? Was it for a good reason or a bad reason? Have any of the above books surprised you? Let me know in the comments!

14 thoughts on “Top Ten Books that Surprised Me (In a Good or Bad Way)

  1. Great post! For me, number 1 and 2 are switched. I absolutely fell in love with The Book Thief while I initially thought it wasn’t for me. I hated City of Bone – had to practically force myself to finish reading it and never continued the series. I feel like I’m the only one in the world who doesn’t love Cassandra Clare!

    • Thank you. 😀
      City of Bones is a weird one for me… it’s one of those books that I end up endlessly critiquing, but at the same time I also irrationally enjoy it! For me, it’s one of those unusual heart over head scenarios. It’s almost like reading it allows me to turn off my higher cognitive functioning and just go with the flow, LOL.

      I am sure you are not alone in your dislike, you’ll have an ally somewhere in the blogosphere!

  2. I had initially wanted to read We All Looked Up, partly due to hype, but after hearing about all of the shenanigans of the author—yikes, who knows if I’ll end up picking it back up. But speaking to the story, that’s unfortunate to hear that the execution of the characters lacked something of substance to hold on to considering I would imagine it to be a character driven story!

    Joey @ Thoughts and Afterthoughts

    • Unfortunately I picked We All Looked Up off the shelf before I heard about the authors shenanigans. Whether an author’s work should be read in spite of their misbehavior is a whole other blog post…. but it’s certainly something that makes me uncomfortable. I don’t think I would have picked it up if I knew that beforehand.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment. 🙂

  3. Isn’t Alex Woods just amazing? I never expected to love that book so much and my heart ached when it was over. One of the best feelings in the world is falling in love with a random book you have absolutely zero expectations for.

  4. [SEMI-SPOILER] I really liked the Book Thief.. but it is one of those books that I might give a lower rating upon a re-read today (I rated it a 4) .. I feel like it is one of those books that… I “know” is “supposed to be” a good book and everything was.. good.. but because it reveals a major fact about the book’s ending half-way through the book.. I was a bit underwhelmed and kept hoping there is something else .. some other “major twist” that happens..and it never does.

    • That’s very interesting to hear. I’ve definitely read some books like that too where so much of it is about the unknown ending or the ‘shock factor’. I guess some books are only destined to be read once. 🙂
      I also completely agree, I was waiting for more to happen too. I just closed the novel feeling kind of unsatisfied?! I felt it have a lot of unfulfilled potential!
      Thanks for commenting. 🙂

  5. The most recent book I read that surprised me was Girl With All the Gifts by MR Carey. I didn’t expect to enjoy it as much as I did and the plot twists were surprising too.

  6. I felt exactly the same way about The Book Thief and We all Looked Up. Cookie cutter characters in the second, and I’ve read far better Holocaust stories than TBF.

    More Than This seemed a gem of a story, very typically Ness for me…pushing on the fourth wall of storytelling.

    Dorian Gray was a fun read for me…except for the middle where he drones on for about three chapters about collecting rocks.

    I think the biggest surprise for me recently was Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. There are pages in there which are nothing but numbers, and the writer drew parallels between 9/11 and the bombing of Dresden which I didn’t think actually existed.

    • That’s interesting, you’re the first person who’s felt the same way about the Book Thief. It wasn’t that it was bad… I had just read better like you say.
      I’m starting a o wonder if I was just in the wrong mood when I picked up More Than This because I am so far into the minority, or maybe it’s because A Monster Calls that I loved was a very different kind of story. I have this other books on my shelves so hopefully I will like them more!
      Ack, yes, I remember that!
      Ah, I want to read ELIC! That’s interesting. I have seen the film though which may ruin it a bit…

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