|Image from The Broke and the Bookish|
Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week's prompt is a reminder of all my reading fears. What if I hate a book everyone loves? What if I love a book everyone hates? What if my FAVORITE AUTHOR OF ALL TIME writes a book that makes me go *meh* (shrugs shoulders)? What if a great series starts strong and then loses steam and intensity; thus, I lose interest? All these what if's are a long winded way of introducing my top ten books/authors (in no particular order) that pleasantly surprised me or unpleasantly let me down.
- The Casual Vacancy J. K. Rowling - I am a die-hard Harry Potter fan, but I approached The Casual Vacancy with trepidation. Billed as adult, political fiction, The Casual Vacancy was not my normal reading fare. I understood that Rowling was attempting a dramatic departure from the wizarding world she had created in the beloved Harry Potter series. She succeeded in her aim, but had J. K. Rowling not written this novel, I would never have picked it up and probably would have been less objective in my criticism of it.
- The Scorpio Races Maggie Stiefvater - This book is about killer water horses. It says so on the back. So...yeah...However, The Scorpio Races is about waaaaayyyyy more than racing flesh-eating horses that rise out of the ocean every fall, and Stiefvater manages to deliver her story in a way that makes that one plot point seem perfectly natural. In short, this book is an amazingly well-written, intriguing story. Lesson learned: Don't judge a book by its plot summary.
- Ellen Hopkins (2009-present) - I have been a die-hard fan of Ellen Hopkins since I first read Burnedyears ago. I respect her determination to represent a typical teenage experience without shying away from uncomfortable details or feelings; however, as I have grown out of my own teenage years, I have found her novels less relateable. I was pleasantly surprised by her depiction of military relationships in her newest adult novel, Collateral, though. While Hopkins will always be on the top of my to-read list, especially because of her beautiful, poetic writing style, I am less sure that I'm going to love everything she publishes.
- David Levithan - Unlike Hopkins, I haven't read Levithan's novels consecutively as they were published. As a recent recommendation post shows, Levithan is very hit or miss for me. Most recently, he's been more miss than hit. Last month, I began Will Grayson, Will Grayson with high hopes only to be let down by the same overly prophetic message about love and homosexuality that has turned me off in some of his other novels. I get it; people should be allowed to love who they want, but like I tell my students all the time, show me; don't tell me (or in Levithan's case, beat me over the head with it).
- The Hello Girl Merline Lovelace - Like The Scropio Races, The Hello Girl provides another example of "Don't judge a book by its plot summary." Unfortunately, The Hello Girl illustrates the negative effects of a well-written plot summary. On the surface, The Hello Girl sounds like an intriguing, moving historical romance; however, the writing is stilted and the story formulaic - probably because the book is actually a Harlequin romance - a fact I was unaware of until I was mid-way through the reading. I forced myself to finish it even as I began skimming over nauseating cliches such as "He rung my bell like Big Ben." (Note to self: In addition to the plot summary, check the publisher.)
- The Cellist of Sarajevo Steven Galloway - I found The Cellist of Sarajevo in Target at the same time I found The Hello Girl, so I began it with trepidation. However, instead of an overwrought Harlequin romance, I discovered a very tense yet elegant portrait of a city under siege. This novel is brimming with historical significance and poignant moments of terror, survival, and kindness in the face of unimaginable violence. It's a tough read but well worth it.
- Tess of the D'Urbervilles Thomas Hardy - The summer before my senior year of high school I was faced with the dreaded back-to-school reading list from which I had to select two books. The first was Jane Eyre, which I loved to pieces, and retrospectively, may have been the reason why I became a Brit. Lit. major. The second was Tess of the D'Urbervilles, which I detested so thoroughly I did not finish it. Retrospectively, this may have been my first DNF as well as my first BSed paper. Even though I am a huge proponent for Freedom to Read at any age, I do also believe that some books resonate with us more deeply at different times in our lives. Case in point, as a graduate student, I was assigned Tess of the D'Urbervilles to read. I dutifully began again a book I already knew I hated only to become totally wrapped up in the story and blown away by the ending. As the World Turns ain't got nothing on Hardy. This is a real soap opera. I loved it so much that I wrote an essay on how to teach it in tandem with Laurie Anderson's Speak, a book I argue has similar themes in a more contemporary setting, that I later presented at a conference in Charleston, SC. Hardy also figured prominently in my Master's thesis. Lesson learned: Re-reads are worth it.
- When She Woke Hillary Jordan - A trusted friend recommended When She Woke to me, and as a literary lover, I am a sucker for contemporary re-tellings of a classic story, so Jordan's revision of Nathaniel Hawthorne's A Scarlet Letter, a book I also hated on first read but have since grown to respect, seemed right up my alley. And it was...until halfway through the novel when it turned into a secret spy op to overthrow a sadistic government. Not what I signed up for.
- The Wolves of Mercy Falls Trilogy Maggie Stiefvater - Stiefvator has earned herself a spot on my auto-buy author list, and Shiver put her there. I never really jumped on the paranormal YA lit bandwagon, but I thought Shiver was a beautiful love story - even if one of the main characters was a werewolf; however, Linger and Forever let me down. I sincerely believe Shiver would have been a fantastic standalone. The rest of the series drags down a standout first novel in my opinion.
- Rick Riordan - If someone had told me as an adult with a full-time job, out of college, I would be anxiously awaiting the release of the next book in middle-grades series about demigods, I would have laughed in their faces. Yet, I have read and adored every single one of Riordan's novels about Greek, Roman, and Egyptian demigods. Riordan's recent post on Reading Myths may explain why.