Books That Didn’t Live Up to the Hype in Mini-Reviews

1232Title: The Shadow of the Wind
Author: Carlos Ruiz Zafón
Source: library
Rating: ★★★☆☆

I’ve heard almost exclusively good things about The Shadow of the Wind. I’ve loved all of the other translated fiction I’ve read, and I love books about books. Objectively, this book was perfect for me. For some reason, though, I just didn’t connect with it. I did sometimes find the prose really beautiful and the loving descriptions of books and secret libraries made my book-loving self very happy. I also liked that the conversations followed a distinctly different pattern than what I’m used to. I felt like I was getting a glimpse of Spanish culture. However, the main character is essentially swept up in someone else’s story. I felt he had very little agency. There were clearly intended to be parallels between his life and that of the man whose life he enters, but I thought the connections were superficial. I ended the book wishing there had been something more.

6460221Title: Sharp Objects
Author: Gillian Flynn
Source: library
Rating: ★★★☆☆

Unlike The Shadow of the Wind, nothing about Sharp Objects suggested it as a book for me. I was excited to read it for my book club because it was outside of my comfort zone and because of all the Gillian Flynn hype. To be fair to the book though, I’m probably not the intended reader because I generally prefer happy books. Sharp Objects is anything but! Wow, was this book dark. I can see why it has so much great hype though. The writing is completely brilliant. Anytime a metaphor or simile is called for, the comparison is to something dark. This quickly pulls you into a dark and creepy state of mind. I didn’t think the plot was as impressive, consisting mostly of predictable bits and bits that were surprising because the main character made such bad decisions. However, if you like dark and creepy this is precisely the book for you. There are some images from this book which I will never get out of my head. And much as I might want to forget them, I think their staying power is a testament to Flynn’s ability to write. 

38 Comments

Filed under Fiction, Thriller, Translated Fiction

38 Responses to Books That Didn’t Live Up to the Hype in Mini-Reviews

  1. I loved The Shadow of the Wind, but the style keeps the reader at a distance, if I remember correctly. I didn’t like the following novel as much, because I was disappointed to find a new main character, I think!
    Laurie C recently posted…What to Read after The Goldfinch: The Orphans of Race Point by Patry Francis @HarperPerennialMy Profile

    • I think that’s a great description of the book! I don’t think I really connected with the characters and that probably made a big difference to how I felt about the book.

  2. I was really excited when I read The Shadow of the Wind years and years ago. Like you said, objectively it sounds like my kind of thing, but I felt that it fell prey to melodrama. I ended up rolling my eyes far more than was healthy.
    Andi @ Estella’s Revenge recently posted…Top Ten Books I’ve Read So Far This YearMy Profile

  3. I’m sad to hear about The Shadow of the Wind. That one has been on my tbr for ages, but maybe there is a reason it hasn’t actually made it to my shelves!
    Lindsey recently posted…It’s Monday and I am a happy theatre girl!My Profile

    • That could be :) I know a lot of other bloggers have reviewed this far more glowingly than I did though, so if you do get to it, hopefully you’ll like it too.

  4. I’m with you, I haven’t been swept up by either author. I’ve yet to read Flynn, but I have GG on my bookshelf.
    Geoff W recently posted…Book 36: The Grifters – Jim ThompsonMy Profile

    • Even though Sharp Objects wasn’t my cup of tea, I think I’d still like to give Gone Girl a try. It sounds like it’s a bit different from Flynn’s other books and I did think her writing was impressive. If you do get to GG, I’ll be excited to hear what you think :)

  5. I didn’t think The Shadow of the Wind was anything special either. I did wonder when I read it if the translation was a bit off. It must be so easy to lose subtleties when translating.
    Ellie recently posted…Top Ten Books I’ve Read So Far This YearMy Profile

    • I’m sure that’s true! I agree with Laurie’s earlier comment that the style of the book kind of keeps you at a distance and it’s possible that feeling is partially a result of the book being a translated work.

  6. Aww, sorry to hear The Shadow of the Wind didn’t live up to expectations; it sucks when that happens, especially after hearing so many good things about it and/or the premise sounded like it would be something you’d enjoy.

    I have yet to read anything by Gillian Flynn. The movie trailer piqued my interest for Gone Girl and my cousin recommended the book to me so I guess I should pick that book up at some point, lol xD
    Lianne @ caffeinatedlife.net recently posted…Meme: Top Ten TuesdaysMy Profile

    • After reading Flynn’s book, I’m a bit nervous to watch the movie version of this one. It’s such a dark book, it would really scare me as a movie, I think. I’ve heard that Gone Girl is a little less creepy though, so perhaps I’ll still read the book and consider seeing the movie :)

  7. I hate when books don’t live up to the hype — but as you mentioned, sometimes the hype means people who wouldn’t normally pick up that particular book actually do and that is not always a recipe for success! I finally read Gone Girl last week (still need to review it!) and am sufficiently intrigued to want to read her other books. I think I’m going to stick to audio though since the Gone Girl audio was really well done.
    Christine @Buckling Bookshelves recently posted…Children’s Books: Five Mini ReviewsMy Profile

    • I’ve heard Gone Girl is a bit different from Flynn’s other books, so I’ll be excited to hear what you thought of it. I feel like I actually read an article once about how being a best seller can drag down the rating of a book because people will try reading outside of their comfort zone to pick up a best seller. That was definitely me in this case!

  8. You know, I enjoyed The Shadow of the Wind, but honestly I’d expected a bit more based on the enthusiastic recommendations I’d gotten. It’s rare for me to start a series and not finish it, but I just haven’t had much of a desire to revisit this one. I haven’t read Sharp Objects, but I think you and I are soul sisters of a sort when it comes to happy books. I LOVE the warm fuzzies. I’m less inclined to pick up something I know is going to be a downer, particularly if laughter through tears isn’t an emotion I’d be getting. (Laughter through tears will make me pick up a book I know is going to be a tearjerker though, because much like Dolly Parton’s character in Steel Magnolias, it’s one of my favorite emotions.)
    Katie @ Words For Worms recently posted…Top Ten Tuesday: The Best of 2014 (so far)My Profile

    • I suspect the hype was probably part of my feeling that there should be more here, although even without the hype, I think I would still have felt as though the main character was making a cameo in someone else’s story. I’m glad you enjoyed it pretty well despite the hype :)

      Given the dark description of this book, I never would have picked it up were it not for a book club. I don’t know that I’ve read a book which has made me laugh despite crying – maybe The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry? – but your description of Steel Magnolias has me intrigued.

  9. I’m glad I weeded The Shadow of the Wind last summer when my bf was moving in. I weeded a bunch of books I hadn’t read and was skeptical I would enjoy. I bet if it hadn’t been hyped so much, I would have wound up reading it and maybe enjoying it. There’s definitely such a thing as too much hype!
    Amanda recently posted…Book Review: Hang Wire by Adam ChristopherMy Profile

  10. Hmmm I hear lots of people mention loving The Shadow of the Wind, so maybe it’s a hit or miss? I don’t know enough about it to ever make me want to read it.
    Jennine G. recently posted…The Forgotten Man – Guest PostMy Profile

    • Yeah, I know a lot of other people loved it, so I definitely wouldn’t just take my word for it. It’s possible it would appeal to you more than it did to me :)

  11. I’ve definitely heard a lot of good things about The Shadow of the Wind. Thanks for offering a balanced perspective!

  12. I haven’t read Shadow of the Wind yet because of the hype. People seem to love it a little too much, if you know what I mean. I’m glad you gave a balanced review. I still intend to read it someday when I’m in the mood. And when people stop raving about it.
    tanya recently posted…Top Ten Tuesday: The Best of 2014 (so far)My Profile

  13. I loved Shadow of the Wind and so did the 20 members of my book discussion group. This is a novel for those who love mysteries, books, the traumas of loving, writing, and Barcelona. The translation is excellent, the characters are seductively entwined with one another, and the metaphors are profound. For those of you who didn’t like, give it a second reading.

    • I’m glad your book club enjoyed it so much! Since I’ve really enjoyed several books about books lately, I was surprised that this didn’t do it for me. Although there are some classics I read before I was old enough to appreciate them (Beloved, The Great Gatsby) which I think I would appreciate more on a second read through, I’m definitely not going to be trying this one again any time soon since I don’t think that would make a difference to how I felt about it and there are many other books I expect to love jostling for a place on my TBR. Thanks for commenting! :)

  14. I liked Gone Girl, but didn’t love it and that’s one of the reasons I haven’t picked up any of Flynn’s other books. I doubt I will do anytime soon.

    Sorry to hear The Shadow of the Wind didn’t do it for you. I loved it and I was one of those that enthusiastically raved about it. I understand why it didn’t do it for you :)
    Melinda @ The Book Musings recently posted…Frog Music by Emma DonoghueMy Profile

    • I’m bad at even getting to other books by authors I love, so I definitely don’t go out of my way to give authors a second chance when I don’t enjoy the first book of theirs I pick up! I might still try Gone Girl though since it’s gotten so many good reviews and since I think it might be a bit different from Sharp Objects. We’ll see.

      I’m glad to hear that you enjoyed it! I was surprised I didn’t love it too and I appreciate you understanding that not every book is for every one :)

  15. I feel like we’re the same people right now. I DNF’s Shadow of the Wind and while I haven’t read Sharp Objects, I was underwhelmed by Dark Places. It happens.
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  16. I actually really loved Sharp Objects, but was completely let down by Dark Places, which a lot of other people seem to love! I think Gillian Flynn can be really hit or miss despite the hype around her.
    Amy @ Read a Latte recently posted…Venturing Into Literary Disco: Where Books go to DanceMy Profile

    • Wow, that surprises me! I’d heard Gone Girl was pretty different from Flynn’s other books but always imagined that Dark Places and Sharp Objects would be very similar. Given how good I thought her writing was, I think I should probably give her a second chance, since one of her other books might be more my thing.

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  18. I started reading The Shadow of the Wind a couple months ago and I just sort of fell out of it. Partly I was struggling because I was reading it in Spanish and my Spanish is getting rusty, but also the story wasn’t enough to make me feel like I wanted to continue plugging along. It’s not a bad story by any means, but I was definitely expecting some sort of magical, otherworldly reading experience from the reviews I’ve seen. Eventually I’ll pick it up again and finish it (gotta keep using that Spanish!), but I don’t know if I should still be hoping something magical is going to happen or if I should just accept it for what it seems to be.

    • I think I expected a little more magic than I found in it. I’m impressed you were reading it in Spanish! I’ve loved most of the translated fiction I’ve read, but I’m sure it’s even better in the original language.

  19. Too bad about The Shadow of the Wind! I’m planning to read it later this year, so I’ll be sure to go into it with managed expectations.
    Christina recently posted…Review: No Bed for BaconMy Profile

    • I hope you like it better than I did, but I think it’s probably always a good idea to try and ignore the hype. It’s entirely possible I would have liked this better if I hadn’t had such high expectations. At the end, I just felt like I’d wanted something more from the book.

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