‘But they said it was good!’ – Book Hype and Disappointment

One of my pet peeves as a book lover is books that everyone reads because of the hype that aren’t actually good books. My friends inevitably read these books (despite my warnings) and then are disappointed. If you’re looking for quality reading, don’t read these over-hyped bestsellers.

  Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

It’s a movie from a book, so you want to read the book first right? Well, normally I’m in total support of this. But on this one? Well, just don’t bother. If you read the book you’ll like it at first and end up annoyed by the end. You may even feel you wasted your time. You may sit there at the end going “Really? That’s how it ended? Really? That’s what the characters ended up as?” over and over until your friends tell you to shut up or leave the coffee shop because this is a public place and people are staring. This was definitely a book I felt had potential, but it ran out of steam (and flew off in various directions) the more it went on. The characters fell flat and ended up disappointing me in their inability to evolve or have original thought. Save yourself the time, just watch the movie, I hear it’s pretty good. But then, I heard that about the book too.. and look how that ended up.

  Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert 

This book pisses me off. Seriously, it slightly enrages me. And I’m saying “slightly” because I don’t want you to think I’m a crazy person who walks around shaking her fist and fuming over a book years after it’s been released, but that may all be true. I read this book because so many people spoke well of it and I love traveling books and I love books that don’t depict women as helpless creatures who need saving, so I was all in. At first. Then I read the damn thing and was so angry.

Firstly, it’s badly written. The initial part (Eat) was pretty interesting and kept me pretty engaged. She goes to Italy, she eats food, experiences new culture and finds a little independence. Great! But then the book spiraled downward. The writing became tedious and less descriptive. The actual action of the book became almost non-existent. Suddenly, nothing was happening for chapters and chapters and yet she still had to fill that space because she made the trip with the contract to write a book about it, which is totally backwards because now she had to manufacture some kind of plot to fill those pages.

The worst was Pray, it was incredibly hard to get through. A lot of prattling on with no discernible point. And then, to top it off, after starting the book because of the premise – a divorced woman finding herself becoming independent while traveling the world – she ends with her finding happiness because she hooks up with a new guy. See: enraged. If you’re going to write a book about finding contentedness within yourself, being alone and experiencing the world, then do it. But don’t pretend to do it and then take it all back at the end because you found a new flame. Geezis.

  Twilight by Stephanie Meyer 

I can’t. It’s just. So. Awful.

My faith in humanity almost died for eternity after Twilight became a best-seller. Badly written, horrible grammar, non-sensical descriptions, trite plot. And then to add grievous insult to injury, Bella spends all the books crying, wailing and waiting for some male to save her. It’s everything I’ve ever loathed in a book. And it somehow sold millions. COME ON AMERICA! What were you thinking? I read it because friends (who I now wonder why we are friends, because really? You thought this was a good book? A lot of trees DIED for this piece of crap you know.) told me to read it before I judged it, so I did. And I do. Judge it. Greatly.

 Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese

Some friends and I decided to read this book at the same time so we could all talk about it. We heard it was really well written, inspiring and had great storytelling. So much hype, for so little reward. It was well written, I’ll give it that. The descriptions, the imagery, the prose, all very well done. But the story itself broke down over and over. I’d be interested for a couple chapters and then he’d lose me completely. I’d barely be able to scrape my way through the next 50 pages and then suddenly, it was great again! I loved this book! And then.. once again, I could barely the turn the page. It felt a lot like reading a broken down car that starts and stops unexpectedly. In the end, I couldn’t finish it. Maybe someday I’ll try again, but this book was still one of the biggest disappointments for me in the past few years.

Now that I’ve ranted a bit, what are some books you were excited for because of the hype but ended up disappointing you? Add to my list! I’d love to hear about it.

Top Ten Underrated Books

Top Ten Tuesday was created and is hosted by The Broke And The Bookish. This week’s topic is Top Ten Underrated Books

I’m not sure how underrated these books are in the book community, maybe you’ve all read them and love them. But I feel like I often get the question of “what? who?” when I talk about them. So here goes, my list of possibly underrated books that I’d like others to read so they can exclaim with me over their amazingness.

1.   Sleeping in Flame by Jonathan Carroll

Or really anything he has written. I remember loving these books when I read them and being unable to put them down. Disturbing, beautiful, haunting, twisted. They were always unexpected.

2.   Anything by Barabara Kingsolver that ISN’T The Poisonwood Bible 

So maybe I’ll talk a little bit about overrated books too? I didn’t enjoy The Poisonwood Bible. Not sure why, I just couldn’t get into it. But I did love (love love love!) all her other books. So, I usually try to get people to branch out into her other novels. I swear, they are completely worth it.

3.   Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World by Haruki Murakami

Anyone who goes to read Murakami always seems to leap for his The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, which again, was not my favorite. I’ve read most of Murakami’s books and loved them. Out of all his books, this one has really stuck with me. Maybe because it was my first Murakami, maybe not. Either way, I wish more people had read this one too.

4.   Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen by Christopher McDougall

This is an awesome book with amazing reviews. Somehow though, most people I’ve talked too have never heard of it. So here I am doing my part, read this book! Whether you love to run or not, if you love to read, I think you’ll enjoy it.

5.    Winterdance: The Fine Madness of Running the Iditarod by Gary Paulsen

When I began to read this book I didn’t have any idea what the Iditarod was or that it even existed. Once I read this book, I knew it would stick with me for the rest of my life. The Iditarod is the world’s largest sled race in Alaska. People endure days of racing over dangerous mountains and valleys, extreme cold, lack of food, frostbite, injuries and sometimes even death to run this race. Paulsen gives his first hand account of training and running it for the first time. He is funny, intelligent and engaging. I loved this book.

6.   84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff

I know I’ve put this book on lists before but I’m going to say it again. If you are a book lover, you must read this book. You will cherish it.

7.   The Uncommon Reader: A Novella by Alan Bennett

An adorable little novella about the Queen of England discovering a love for reading and putting off running the country to read books.

8.   Have a Little Faith by Mitch Albom

Everyone has read (or heard of) The Five People You’ve Met in Heaven. Well let me gesture wildly as I point out, Albom has other books! This is yet another I-enjoyed-this-book-more-than-the-one-he-is-famous-for book. Have a Little Faith is a smart, touching and well written book. I am not religious in the least and I enjoyed this book immensely. Its all about love, understanding and respecting the belief’s of others.

9.   The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery   

This book is about a concierge in a building in Paris. Though she may come off as cranky and uneducated when interacting with the rich people in her building, secretly she is sophisticated, intelligent and lovely. She begins to interact with a new tenant and show her true self through his kindness and kinship.

10.   Bradbury Speaks: Too Soon from the Cave, Too Far from the Stars by Ray Bradbury

So you’ve read his famous novels, but have you read this collection of personal essays? If you haven’t, you must! Bradbury fans will enjoy this intimate peek into Bradbury’s life and thoughts. I really loved learning more about one of my favorite authors.

How to Slay a Dragon by Bill Allen

“Greg held his breath as they passed and silently congratulated himself for not screaming, even if his ability to keep quiet was largely due to the tightness of the hand Nathan clamped over his mouth. In moments the danger was gone.”

Scrawny, scared, twelve-year-old Greg Hart likes to write in his journals about grand adventures. In real life, he is more likely to be seen running at top speed from a bully than fighting one. One day much like any other, he is running away from one of his main tormentors, Manny Malice, when he is magically pulled into the world of Myrth. The people of Myrth tell him they brought him there to fulfill a prophecy.  The prophecy says that “Greghart” (not to be confused, of course, with Marvin Greatheart, who lives in Myrth and is a dragonslayer by trade) will rescue a princess and slay the dragon. This terrifies Greg because he knows he cannot conceivably do either. Greg protests that he isn’t a hero and can’t fight a girl successfully (much less finish this quest in one piece) but he is ignored. Everyone good-naturedly tells him he is being silly, of course he can slay the dragon, rescue the princess and live to tell the tale. They shoo him off onto his adventure and Greg goes mostly because he can’t seem to get anyone listen to him.

Although it starts off a bit slow, Bill Allen’s How to Slay a Dragon becomes a charming fantasy story full of humor and amusing encounters. Greg is a great character because he is practical, realistic and ultimately terrified of everything. He keeps trying to get out of the adventure by constantly pointing out to people the various ways he won’t survive.

Despite his protests, everyone on Myrth believes fully in the prophecy which causes Greg to doubt every decision they make, as each one seems to lead him closer and closer to being incinerated by the dragon. Since he is new to the world of Myrth, he can’t help but look for danger or magic around every corner. In response, the characters of Myrth have a dry sense of humor that is delightful to experience.

(In this passage Greg is getting ready to go meet with the evil Witch and his friends are helping him to prepare.)

“I want you to take this with you” Nathan said, holding out his weathered staff. “Be careful with it though.  I want it back in one piece when you return.”
Greg took the proffered staff and held it out at arm’s length. “What is it?”
“A stick,” said Nathan.
“I can see that. I mean what does it do?”
“It doesn’t do anything. You just hold it while you walk. It helps you balance and hop over puddles and things.”
“Really, Greg,” said Lucky. “Haven’t you ever used a walking stick before?”

This book is a great read for youngins who are looking for a light adventure on a rainy afternoon. A note to young adult literature enthusiasts, it is definitely written for Greg’s age group and may not appeal to all ages. I guarantee though, your 9-12 year-olds will enjoy Greg’s antics and the heaps of trouble he constantly falls into, whether he likes it or not.