Great Expectations: Books That Let Me Down

Posted December 2, 2015 by Aly in Tea Party // Random Thoughts / 20 Comments

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 PotterThe 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.

The Stars Never Rise (Untitled Series, #1)

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.

Red Queen (Red Queen, #1)

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 bookI 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.

The Girl at Midnight (The Girl at Midnight, #1)

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.

An Ember in the Ashes (An Ember in the Ashes, #1)

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.

All the Bright Places

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?


20 responses to “Great Expectations: Books That Let Me Down

  1. I think there’s nothing worse when you’re really looking forward to a book and it just falls flat for you. I myself really enjoyed Red Queen, but I definitely didn’t find it a new concept. As for An Ember in the Ashes, I must admit my expectations for that one are quite high, though I’m in no hurry to read it. I loved both TFiOS and Eleanor & Park when I first read them, so was dying for All the Bright Places to be published…I received it for Christmas last year and I still haven’t read it – I’m glad it surprised you though!

    • Aly

      Hi! Thanks so much for your comment. 🙂

      It really is the worst. Since writing this post, I reread Red Queen and enjoyed it a lot more, maybe because I went in with that lingering disappointment, only to be pleasantly surprised. It’s odd how we readers work, hahaha. I am looking forward to the second book, though, because rumours have it that it goes in a completely different direction. We’ll see!

      Oh my gosh, All the Bright Places… just thinking about it makes me all teary and choked-up. I hope you get round to reading it soon, it’s so worth it!

  2. That’s too bad that all these books didn’t work out for you. Red Queen & The Girl At Midnight are both books I have heard a lot about but with very mixed reviews. Sometimes high profile books scare me off, because I don’t want to fall victim to the hype train!

    • Aly


      It’s so hard to not follow the hype and get excited about new books. When Queen of Shadows was coming out (I’m a HUGE fan of the ToG series), and a lot of people received their preorders early, I had to stay away from GR mostly because there was a lot of negativity surrounding it. And it seemed that the more people didn’t like it, the more hyped up it got. I’m a firm believer that “hype” doesn’t necessarily mean “best book ever” but it could also mean “worst book of the century” so I didn’t want to be scared off, or have my reading experience ruined.

      That said, both Red Queen and The Girl At Midnight do come with a mixed hype, so I suppose you’ll have to find out for yourself. 😛

      Thanks so much for your comment!

  3. You are not the only one who was disappointed by An ember in the ashes. Some of my most trusted friends and bloggers were also let down by it. Such a shame, because the cover is gorgeous and I love the whole idea. Soldier, slave, inspired by Rome, I love the sound of that.

    • Aly

      Hnnnng, yes <3 Exactly why I picked it up in the first place. It’s a shame 🙁 I’m hoping that maybe the second book redeems the series a little bit. I’m keeping my fingers crossed!

      Thanks for your comment 😀

  4. I literally JUST finished drafting a post today about how book hype increases my expectations for a book, and I’m almost always let down. I just cannot tune out the other voices! If everyone loves it, I assume it must be life-changing… and it almost never is 🙁 Red Queen was kind of like that for me too! It was similar to lots of other books but generally still enjoyable.

    • Aly


      Yes, RQ is definitely enjoyable, and it’s quite a fast read too, which is good. I don’t know how I would’ve dealt with, say, 800-something pages of it hahaha.

      Hype is like a virus. It’s so catchy.

      Thanks for commenting!

  5. I’m so with you on Red Queen!! It felt like Red Rising meets the Selection. GAH. And I heard a pitch somewhere that it was “a totally refreshing YA read!” and I just felt like growling clearly you haven’t read any other Ya books” *SIIIIGH* I’m harder to please the more I read though. heheh And I was let down by An Ember too!! I felt it was violent for the sake of violence, not for advancing and meaning something to the plot. OMG I AM HARD TO PLEASE ERRRRK. XDXD All The Bright Places is one of my all-time favourites too though. :’)

    • Aly

      YAS, THANK YOU, I AM NOT ALONE! *fist-bump*

      RQ felt a lot more X-Men meets The Selection, because I haven’t read RR yet. 😉 Although I do own it. I should probably get on that soon.

      AND YES. I feel the same way about Ember too! I didn’t understand the violence, because there was so much of it, but also, so many bloggers said it was the “most violent YA book they’d ever read” and I’m here like: “WHAT?!” Because sure it was violent, but not THAT violent. I was seriously confused.

      And high-five for AtBP! So much love for it. <33333

  6. I was going to read Red Queen and An Ember in the Ashes, but then I saw some mixed ratings and decided they proooobably aren’t worth it despite the hype. I also wasn’t going to pick up All the Bright Places, but I keep hearing good things about it, so I put it on my TBR! Sometimes books start to annoy me BECAUSE they’re hyped so much, but other times I read them because of it.

    • Aly

      All the Bright Places is definitely a book I’d say you should take a chance on! I hate that it’s marketed as “TFiOS meets Eleanor and Park” because I was one of the few people who really didn’t like TFioS and I still haven’t read E&P. Its take on mental illness and the way the issues are written about… I’m going to go deep here and say I felt it deep in my soul.

      Also, my tissues felt it.

      An Ember in the Ashes is definitely one of my most disappointing reads. I expected so much, and didn’t get much in return. I’m also now hearing it’s apparently a dystopian and not high fantasy, so what’s up with that? D:

      Thanks for you comment! 😀

  7. I completely understand. Hype can really end up being disappointing. I don’t think I’ll be reading Red Queen. To be honest, I haven’t felt like picking up a YA dystopian in a while. And even if I suddenly do, I don’t think I’d reach for this one. I’ve read in several reviews that it’s just a combination of so many other YA dystopians. And really, I don’t know if I’ll read All the Bright Places either. I’ve heard such good things about it. And even though you’re saying that it really surprised you and you ended up loving it, I’m just not sure… Maybe I will…

    Great post!

    • Aly

      Thanks for your comment, Jolien!

      All the Bright Places is definitely a book you should be in the mood for. Otherwise, I think you’ll end up not liking it. I’m like that. Who knows, maybe next year I’ll reread it and end up hating it, hahaha. But sometimes books surprise you, so I’m going to contradict myself and say: “Take a chaaaaaaance!”

      Red Queen… ack, I have so much to say about it. I often forgot it was a dystopian novel, because so many elements are fantastical. On the other hand, it was really annoying. I ended up rereading it with a friend, and I did enjoy it more the second time round, but I still wouldn’t say it’s the best book of 2015 or anything. Another book you’ll either love or hate.

      Thanks for stopping by! 🙂

  8. Woah Aly! I felt exactly the same about many of these books that you listed, I was super disappointed by how hyped the Red Queen was an An Ember in the Ashes, even though I enjoyed it, being mainly about the romance and everything I was like whyy? The Girl at Midnight I didn’t rate highly either by how unoriginal it was.

    • Aly

      Thanks, Jeann! I’m so glad I’m not alone, hahaha. I enjoyed Red Queen a lot more the second time round, but I’m still “meh” about An Ember in the Ashes. Definitely expected a lot more because of the hype. Now I hear rumours that apparently it’s NOT fantasy, but dystopian? Uh, not sure how I feel about that.

      TGAM could’ve been better. I’m hoping the second book redeems the series somewhat, because I don’t want it to be a DoSaB copy. D:

      Thanks for commenting. 😀

  9. Of the ones you had to put down. I haven’t read any of them myself. But I have read All the Bright Places and I did really enjoy that book! If you read the author’s note you can see how some of those things that happened really did happen in real life and are more realistic than I thought it was when reading. It was a brilliant book <3

    • Aly

      Author’s Notes at the end always get to me because they seriously make the issues hit home, you know? It’s all fine and dandy when you’re reading a fictional book because although you know these things do happen every single day, you close the book and you can forget about it. But when an author says, “This really happened” it seriously makes you think.

      Thanks for commenting! 🙂

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