Mini Reviews: Missed Expectations

The title’s a little harsh but for today’s mini reviews, I’ve grouped books that weren’t as stellar as I was expecting. I am glad I read them and they were both on my 2021 TBR so I’m making good progress!

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the books below as they’re both pretty popular!

Book cover for The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman. Photo of a girl wearing a dress under water and near the surface of a large body of water.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

This book has been on my list for a while now and everyone I’ve talked to seems to love it. As I’ve been slowly making my way through Gaiman’s work over the past couple years, it felt like a good time to pick this one up.

The main issue for me with this one is that I was expecting a very creepy adult book. Instead, it most reminded me of The Graveyard Book, Gaiman’s short story collection for children. While I wouldn’t call this one a children’s book because of the adult content, it feels like a children’s book written for adults.

And it is in a way, as it follows an older man who has returned home and suddenly remembered his childhood. We get his adult perspective paired with his memories as a child guiding us through the story.

I wouldn’t say this is necessarily bad but it was so different from what I was anticipating that I was just disappointed that it wasn’t the adult book I was looking for. I did really enjoy the beginning and ending but the middle sagged a bit for me with this childlike story aspect and likely promise of a happy ending tamping down the suspense and creepiness level.

Book cover for Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen. Illustration of a drive up to a large estate. Leaves on the ground showing a fall scene.

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
Romance | Gothic

This was the last of Austen’s full-length novels on my Austen to-read list and while it wasn’t a favourite, I’m very glad to have read it.

I haven’t read many Gothic books but I think it’d be an added enjoyment for folks who have to pick up on all the jokes and comments that reference the genre. I wouldn’t necessarily classify this book as Gothic but Austen is clearly using the genre as inspiration and offering a fun tongue-in-cheek parody as the narrator clearly explains the way this story does, and does not, follow a traditional Gothic plot.

Because of this play on the genre, it feels quite different to her other books since much of it is a discussion of the genre from this external narrator. But I still loved the humour from these asides as well as the story itself.

The main issue for me was the reliance on ‘telling’ over ‘showing’ so it felt like a lot of the story wasn’t explored in as much detail as it could have. I was especially disappointed by the ending because of this (so much dialogue glossed over!) and the romance was difficult to get invested in. I wasn’t surprised to see that this was actually Austen’s first novel since I noticed the same kind of description in Sense and Sensibility but it’s good to know she improves later on!

Have your expectations for books been way off, whether good or bad?

Cover images from Goodreads.

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