A lot of books that came out this year were books I’d read in 2014 and books I’d added to my TBR without a second thought beforehand.
But, unfortunately, the hype behind them almost ruined them for me.
Whenever I find a book I want to read, my expectations are always high. For me, each book is a possibility for it to become a new favourite, a book I would want to shove down my friends’ throats, a book I would want to reread a hundred times a year and never get sick of (so far, the only ones I’ve found are Harry Potter, The Raven Cycle series by Maggie Stiefvater and the Off Campus series by Elle Kennedy). So when I’ve been dying to read a book and finally get my hands on it, I expect it to be awesome.
Which is my mistake. Because when I expect a book to be awesome, it usually lets me down. And I usually expect it to be awesome, and I’m dying to read it, because fellow readers have adored it and called it the best book of the year and the year has only just begun.
Here are three books that I was excited for, and didn’t quite live up to my expectations:
The Stars Never Rise by Rachel Vincent.
Sixteen-year-old Nina Kane should be worrying about her immortal soul, but she’s too busy trying to actually survive. Her town’s population has been decimated by soul-consuming demons, and souls are in short supply. Watching over her younger sister, Mellie, and scraping together food and money are all that matters. The two of them are a family. They gave up on their deadbeat mom a long time ago.
When Nina discovers that Mellie is keeping a secret that threatens their very existence, she’ll do anything to protect her. Because in New Temperance, sins are prosecuted as crimes by the brutal Church and its army of black-robed exorcists. And Mellie’s sin has put her in serious trouble.
To keep them both alive, Nina will need to trust Finn, a fugitive with deep green eyes who has already saved her life once and who might just be an exorcist. But what kind of exorcist wears a hoodie?
Wanted by the Church and hunted by dark forces, Nina knows she can’t survive on her own. She needs Finn and his group of rogue friends just as much as they need her.
The Stars Never Rise scored 2.5 stars from me. Although it was a fast paced read that had me on the edge of my seat at times, it failed to hold my attention for more than five minutes at a time. Not only that, but the heroine went from kick-ass, I-don’t-need-no-man to swooning over the love interest in no time, which is a colossal no-no for me. I like my heroines to be independent, women who don’t need men to save them and can kick butt all by themselves. It was a very hyped up book, one that set my expectations far too high, which meant the fall was a lot more painful to endure.
On the plus side, many of my friends seemed to enjoy this one and they all gave it 3 stars or higher. So maybe it was just me?
Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard.
The poverty stricken Reds are commoners, living under the rule of the Silvers, elite warriors with god-like powers.
To Mare Barrow, a 17-year-old Red girl from The Stilts, it looks like nothing will ever change.
Mare finds herself working in the Silver Palace, at the centre of
those she hates the most. She quickly discovers that, despite her red blood, she possesses a deadly power of her own. One that threatens to destroy Silver control.
But power is a dangerous game. And in this world divided by blood, who will win?
The hype surrounding this book was the main reason I requested an ARC copy from the publisher. Many bookblogging friends described it as “refreshing”, “new” and “unputdownable.” Of course, I had to see for myself and with a description like that (and that cover), how could I resist?
And it was a good book. I gave it 3.5 stars but it somehow didn’t live up to this great image I had in my head. For the most part, it followed a plot-line that I’d seen quite a few times before, and therefore wasn’t “refreshing.” I loved the idea, the characters and the meld of magic in the future, but it definitely wasn’t “new.” Many pointed out that Red Queen was quite similar to Pierce Brown’s Red Rising, but I haven’t read it, so I can’t compare, but just by looking at the two descriptions, the similarities are already there.
As for “unputdownable”… Well, I’m a fast reader. If I can finish a book in a day, then I will, but Red Queen was only edge-of-my-seat fantastic in its last 10-20%. Which is a long time to wait for something awesome to happen.
The Girl at Midnight by Melissa Grey.
Beneath the streets of New York City live the Avicen, an ancient race of people with feathers for hair and magic running through their veins. Age-old enchantments keep them hidden from humans. All but one. Echo is a runaway pickpocket who survives by selling stolen treasures on the black market, and the Avicen are the only family she’s ever known.
Echo is clever and daring, and at times she can be brash, but above all else she’s fiercely loyal. So when a centuries-old war crests on the borders of her home, she decides it’s time to act.
Legend has it that there is a way to end the conflict once and for all: find the Firebird, a mythical entity believed to possess power the likes of which the world has never seen. It will be no easy task, though if life as a thief has taught Echo anything, it’s how to hunt down what she wants . . . and how to take it.
But some jobs aren’t as straightforward as they seem. And this one might just set the world on fire.
The Girl at Midnight is another ARC I was dying to read, thanks to the hype surrounding it on both Goodreads and the general blogosphere, and couldn’t resist requesting it the second it popped up on NetGalley. But again, it followed a storyline that was far too similar to Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor for my tastes. Where Taylor had created a lyrical, poignant story of love and loss and choosing what is “right”, Grey weaved a similar story, but failed to make me care very much about the characters or, for that matter, the world.
Even Echo’s sassy personality and no-nonsense attitude seemed like a carbon copy of Taylor’s Karou. Even the big reveal, the big ‘twist’ was predictable and very Taylor-ish, and it had me going ‘Oh’ in a disappointed way, rather than a big ‘Ohhh my God’ that I was expecting. It scored 3 stars from me.
An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir.
Laia is a slave.
Elias is a soldier.
Neither is free.
Under the Martial Empire, defiance is met with death. Those who do not vow their blood and bodies to the Emperor risk the execution of their loved ones and the destruction of all they hold dear.
It is in this brutal world, inspired by ancient Rome, that Laia lives with her grandparents and older brother. The family ekes out an existence in the Empire’s impoverished backstreets. They do not challenge the Empire. They’ve seen what happens to those who do.
But when Laia’s brother is arrested for treason, Laia is forced to make a decision. In exchange for help from rebels who promise to rescue her brother, she will risk her life to spy for them from within the Empire’s greatest military academy.
There, Laia meets Elias, the school’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias wants only to be free of the tyranny he’s being trained to enforce. He and Laia will soon realize that their destinies are intertwined—and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself.
An Ember in the Ashes was one of my most highly anticipated reads of 2015. I was told it was brutal and fantastic, with characters that could break and mend your heart and… well, it was sort of like that. If it hadn’t been for the last kick-ass 20% that woke me out of my semi-coma, An Ember would have gotten no more than 2 stars.
For 80% of the book, I was bored out of my head. I kept spending more time browsing through Goodreads, playing Skyrim and writing my own notes than paying attention to the story. I would read a page or two, pause to make a cup of coffee and then completely forget about it until the next day.
As it stands, the last 20% really picked up and turned the entire story round. I ended up giving it 4 stars, and I was honestly surprised. However, the hype surrounding it set my expectations too high, and I was let down.
A book that I had low expectations for and that ended up surprising me in the best of ways:
All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven.
The Fault in Our Stars meets Eleanor and Park in this exhilarating and heart-wrenching love story about a girl who learns to live from a boy who intends to die.
Soon to be a major motion picture starring Elle Fanning!
Theodore Finch is fascinated by death, and he constantly thinks of ways he might kill himself. But each time, something good, no matter how small, stops him.
Violet Markey lives for the future, counting the days until graduation, when she can escape her Indiana town and her aching grief in the wake of her sister’s recent death.
When Finch and Violet meet on the ledge of the bell tower at school, it’s unclear who saves whom. And when they pair up on a project to discover the “natural wonders” of their state, both Finch and Violet make more important discoveries: It’s only with Violet that Finch can be himself—a weird, funny, live-out-loud guy who’s not such a freak after all. And it’s only with Finch that Violet can forget to count away the days and start living them. But as Violet’s world grows, Finch’s begins to shrink.
This is an intense, gripping novel perfect for fans of Jay Asher, Rainbow Rowell, John Green, Gayle Forman, and Jenny Downham from a talented new voice in YA, Jennifer Niven.
The moment I saw “The Fault in Our Stars meets Eleanor and Park”, my eyes rolled so hard that I think I pulled something. As one of the few people that didn’t like TFiOS, I discarded the idea of reading this book immediately. “No way am I subjecting myself to that again,” I said. “No way in hell.”
And then I saw it in the store. It was half-price, and it looked really lonely on an almost empty shelf, so I picked it up.
I read it in a day.
All the Bright Places deals with mental illness, bullying and trying to fight against a tide that is threatening to overwhelm you. Jennifer Niven wrote about the problems surrounding mental illness that even today aren’t handled by society, or aren’t handled well. I found myself teary-eyed and heartbroken when I reached the end, and I could sympathise with the characters and all of their actions. It’s one of my Top 2015 reads, and I am so glad I gave it a chance.
What book let you down this year? And which book surprised you?