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We have talked a lot about bookish highlights lately but while those rankings usually featured the books we enjoyed most in the past months there we’re still a few titles that have been left out but deserve being mentioned – either in a positive or negative way. That’s why this week we’re listing those books that have surprised us in the past year, whether we enjoyed them more than we had expected or because they sadly couldn’t live up to our expectations.

Wolf by Wolf – Ryan Graudin
An alternate WWII history with a science fiction twist? It’s hard to believe anyone could mess up such an amazing premise, but kudos to Ryan Graudin for achieving it. Obligatory YA romance aside, Wolf By Wolf has weak worldbuilding and is riddled with inconsistencies, swear words in German (when the characters were already supposed to be speaking German!), stereotypical and ridiculous German names, and even more ridiculous food similes. Since when is being compared to celery a compliment? In short, Wolf By Wolf promised a lot and delivered little.

Sleeping Giants – Sylvain Neuvel
While Sylvain Neuvel’s debut novel seems to be widely considered a mind-blowing science fiction novel we couldn’t help feeling a bit underwhelmed by the first book in the Themis Files series. Sleeping Giants comes with an exciting story idea and an interesting concept but maybe the hype created too high expectations for us or it wasn’t helpful to read Illuminae short before this one because Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff executed the dossier style much better and in a way more creative way. Yes, it was a fun read but there just was potential for so much more.

Rivers of London – Ben Aaronovitch
A mysterious murder case? Involving a wizard policeman? In London, one of the most exciting cities in the world? Rivers of London came with such interesting and promising premises but instead of delivering a compelling and imaginative crime novel this book was just pure boredom. The case was boring, the protagonist was boring, the worldbuilding was boring and even the author himself often didn’t seem to know what exactly was going on in this story. May the Cruciatus Curse hit everyone who still describes this novel as „Harry Potter for adults“ – that’s just wrong on so many levels.

The Stand – Stephen King
This seems to be everyone’s favorite Stephen King book, so naturally our expectations were sky high. That made it all the more disappointing when The Stand turned out to be the most boring, long-winded novel of his we’ve read. We expected an epic plot and fantastic characters, but instead we got a novel with about 1000 pages too many, very little actual plot, and characters who have already faded from our memory.

Nevernight – Jay Kristoff
When everyone you know is calling something the Best! Book! Ever!, it’s hard not to be excited, and perhaps we expected too much from it. We thought we’d love it from page one, but unfortunately it took us 150 pages (Sebastian) / until the last 100 pages (Maraia) to actually understand why people love the book so much. We liked it enough (eventually) to read the sequel, but we were expecting this to be a new favorite, and it’s definitely not. (Note: The book design more than lived up to our expectations!)

The Naturals – Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Although the premise of gifted teenagers who get to train as profilers with the FBI holds a lot of potential, we didn’t have super high expectations for this YA novel. As a result, we were pleasantly surprised that this book was both addictive and suspenseful – even for two adult mystery/thriller fans. The ending actually managed to surprise us, which we weren’t necessarily expecting from a YA thriller. Now let’s see if the next books can live up to our higher expectations. 😉

Ice Massacre – Tiana Warner
When you see the title of this book you might expect a bloody survival thriller set in the arctic or in the mountains but we’re actually talking about a book that is about mermaids. But please don’t make the mistake and expect a Disney-like fairytale because surprisingly the book can actually live up to its title since it feels like a maritime version of the Hunger Games. Ice Massacre is about 20 girls who get sent out to slaughter mermaids that threaten their home and while the author can’t completely avoid one or two clichés you still get an exciting and action-packed sea adventure with many female kick-ass characters and even some diversity!

The Secret History of Twin Peaks – Mark Frost
It’s hard to have high (or any) expectations for a mock-nonfiction TV show companion book (especially when that show is one of the weirdest things ever to be shown on TV), but The Secret History of Twin Peaks turned out to be a fascinating read – much of the history in the book is actually true, and all of it is obscure. We figured it would be a book to skim and to look pretty on our bookshelf, but we didn’t expect it to be a page-turner or that we would learn so much!

Macbeth – David Hewson
Who doesn’t think of boring English lessons when hearing Macbeth but please don’t make the mistake and let your personal experiences keep you away from this audiobook. David Hewson managed to turn the Shakespeare play into an audio drama that could be described best as „Macbeth goes Game of Thrones“ with lots of drama, betrayal, murder, intrigues and epic battle action. Told by a terrific cast of narrators and with outstanding sound effects you really don’t have to be a Shakespeare fan to love this – but those who are will appreciate that Hewson still stayed close to the original.

Das Paket – Sebastian Fitzek
Sebastian Fitzek has definitely earned his reputation as one of the best German thriller authors but his latest novels often tended to get quite absurd and sacrifice a believable plot in favor of surprising but completely ridiculous plot twists. Fortunately Das Paket was a step back to the roots and came with a reduced setting, well-written characters and a thrilling story. Yes, there were still one or two twists and turns too much but it was definitely the best book Fitzek has written in a while.

Which books have surprised you in a positive or negative way lately and have you read any of the books above?

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