Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Thought I’d Like More/Less than I did

A couple of hours later than intended; I had most of this written yesterday afternoon, then time got ahead of me and I needed to head out across London for a gig.  So, hosted by the lovely folks at The Broke and the Bookish, here is my Top Ten Tuesday for this week, just a day late!

Books I liked less than I thought:

1. Gayle Forman – Just One Day. I loved (LOVED) If I Stay and Where She Went; given the importance of music in my life, I set the bar high when it comes to how it’s represented in fiction, and in those books she manages to get to the heart of it perfectly. So I was quite disappointed with Just One Day, I don’t seem to have ‘got’ it in the same way as everyone else. I liked Allyson; I thought her shyness and growth were realistic. I loved Dee. But I really didn’t understand the attraction of Willem, and found the ending to be somewhat out of kilter with the rest of the second half of the book. I’ll still be interested to read Just One Year, to see what it adds to the story, but this didn’t quite hit the (high) heights of Forman’s previous series.

2. Cassandra Clare & Sarah Rees Brennan – What Happened in Peru (Bane Chronicles 1). Having realised mid-way through book 4 of Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments series that the warlock Magnus Bane was my favourite character (shouting at the book you’re reading makes that clear!), I was really quite excited to hear that along with Sarah Rees Brennan and Maureen Johnson she was writing a series of short stories about him. However, the first short story was supremely disappointing. It didn’t have the same tone or feeling as the rest of the series, and actually felt quite lazily written. There were too many unnecessarily repeated phrases, especially those relating to Magnus’ bisexuality – I think the target audience certainly gets that by now. I’ll try again when the Mortal Instruments characters become involved, but until then, this is something I won’t be bothering with, sadly.

3. Moira Young – Rebel Heart (Dustlands 2). I loved Blood Red Road; very engaging read, well written, really strong but empathetic lead female character…and was disappointed not to find the same in the second book in this series. Middle books in a series are traditionally tricky, so I’ll be reserving some judgement until I’ve finished the series, but I just felt that Saba wasn’t the same character I’d come to know and love. She was still hot-headed and impulsive, yes, but that very much overawed the other facets of her character that came through in the previous novel. It’ll be interesting to see what Moira Young does in book 3.

4. Joe Dunthorne – Submarine. I’m not very good at enjoying films of books that I love, so I prefer to watch before reading, as it allows me to appreciate the differences in each media’s representation of the story. In the case of Submarine, I actually felt more of a sense of the characters in the film; sometimes the book was just a little too much. Plus I loved the colour palette used by Richard Ayoade – Jordana in red made such a striking image, and the end scene with the two main characters stepping into the sea was just beautiful.

5. David Levithan & Jonathan Farmer- Every You, Every Me. I’m a massive fan of David Levithan; barring some short stories, I think I own everything else he’s put out. And it’s not that I don’t enjoy when he changes the format; The Lovers’ Dictionary is just beautiful, and The Realm of Possibility is definitely fighting it out for the title of my favourite by him. I really liked the idea behind this book, I just didn’t find the characters as identifiable as his other works.

6. Paolo Giordano – The Solitude of Prime Numbers. I picked up this book on my last big solo adventure; something about the concept of prime numbers appealed to the maths geek in me, and the representation of the two lead characters as twin primes seemed like a potentially heartbreaking, but wonderful idea. I enjoyed the first half of the book, but as the characters aged, and didn’t really grow, it became quite frustrating.

Books I liked more than I thought:

7. Maggie Stiefvater – The Scorpio Races. I love Maggie’s work. But given my usual apathy towards such horse-centric books, I wasn’t sure how well this would go down. In fact, it actually shares with Shiver the lofty title of my favourite of her books. The world she creates feels so real (I imagined it being the west coast of Ireland), and with only two narrators, there’s a much stronger sense of each character. I loved both Puck and Sean, and must admit there was a little something in my eye towards the end.

8. George Eliot – Middlemarch. I’m not usually one for classics; a) the language and world can sometimes be off-putting, and b) I don’t always like the assumption that they’re necessarily better than books being released today. So it was with some trepidation that I began reading this (it being 800+ pages probably helped), and I was quite pleasantly surprised. Once I settled into language and style, I found that it actually related shockingly well to today, and grew to love Dorothea more and more as the novel progressed. Plus there’s this: “If we had a keen vision and feeling of all ordinary human life, it would be like hearing the grass grow and the squirrel’s heart beat, and we should die of that roar which lies on the other side of silence.” Just genius.

9. Melissa Marr – Carnival of Souls. As much as I tried, I really wasn’t a fan of Melissa Marr’s Wicked Lovely series; the idea was great, but I always struggled to get into the books. So Carnival of Souls was a very pleasant surprise – it was a much smoother read, and the balance between world building and creating a likeable character was much more organic. In the author’s note, she states that she didn’t intend to write the book, it just happened, and I think that this comes across in the best possible sense.

10. Margaret Atwood – The Year of the Flood. It’s not that I didn’t think I’d like this, I just didn’t realise how much. I liked The Handmaid’s Tale, and the same with The Year of The Flood’s predecessor Oryx and Crake, but in a pleasant way, where once I’d finished, that was that, and I moved on. This book has really stuck with me; I’ll be reading other dystopias and something will spark a reminder, or, more worryingly, there’ll be something in the news, or in general conversation that will make me think of the events in the book. Both the female leads are well-written, well-rounded characters – I really can’t wait to see what happens to them in the conclusion of the trilogy.

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