Haven't all these guest Top 3s posts been fun? We have another one coming up next week, but I'm afraid for today you're stuck with me :)
As you might expect, I typically try to stick to reading books that I think I will like. But on occasion I have reason to read a book that I have a bad feeling I won't enjoy, and those are the books I want to talk about today. Because some of those books have managed to take me by surprise, and my opinion of them turned out to be far higher than I would've guessed. So here are my Top 3 books that exceeded my expectations:
3. Beast, by Chawna Schroeder
I've been fortunate to have the opportunity to get to know Chawna Schroeder through my local writing group. We connected early on due to the fact that fantasy writers tend to be a rare breed among Christian authors, and I so appreciate her sense of humor, strong faith, and extensive knowledge of speculative fiction (you can find our interview with her here). I had also heard great things about her writing, and knew that she had worked long and hard on her journey to publication. So when I had a chance to buy her debut novel, Beast, of course I snatched it up!
But I have to confess that while I expected it to be well-written and was curious about the story, it didn't really sound like my kind of book. Allegory isn't my cup of tea, nor is a protagonist who identifies more with animals than people (plus, not a hint of romance!). But I'm so glad I gave it a try, because even though it's not my usual fare, I ended up being completely drawn into the story. The writing was excellent, and the protagonist's voice as a beast / girl turned out to be one of the most fascinating aspects of the book, showing the world through the eyes of someone who's been raised among animals but has human intelligence. The action and plot twists kept the allegory from feeling too simplistic, and the ending delivered a beautiful message of God's never-failing love.
2. The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins
When I first heard the premise for The Hunger Games, years before I actually read it, I thought it sounded dreadful. Violence and gore are not my thing, so a "game" where kids are trapped in an arena and expected to kill each other? No, thank you. But it continued to grow in popularity, and more and more people recommended the series. Finally, when the first movie was about to release, I requested the audiobook from the library.
I soon discovered the difference between digging into a story versus just knowing the premise. Yes, The Hunger Games centers around a competition where teenagers are forced to kill each other, but the reader experiences it not as a spectator, but through the eyes of the participants. Even though Katniss was far from the most warm and fuzzy character I've ever read, I couldn't help but feel a connection with her when she volunteered for the games to save her little sister. Then the strategy of the events and interviews leading up to the games intrigued me, and even the dreaded games themselves were compelling as Katniss fought for survival, tested out different tactics, and made alliances. And of course I'm always drawn to romance, so the love triangle sucked me in and kept me turning pages. While I didn't enjoy the rest of the series as much as the first book, it was obvious after reading it why the books had gained such a following.
1. Zombie Takeover, by Michele Israel Harper
I would never in a million years have guessed I'd end up recommending a book titled Zombie Takeover to all my friends! I make a point of steering clear of anything zombie-related, so put it in the title and I'm running in the opposite direction. But then this story came along. I'd gotten to know Michele Israel Harper through Facebook, and she's sweet, fun, and always makes me smile. And at the time, I was very interested in Love2ReadLove2Write Publishing, which has since become the publishing home for my book as well :) So when I received a free e-book of Zombie Takeover as part of the blog tour celebrating its release, I decided, with great reluctance, that I should give it a try. (Check out Michele's guest Top 3s post here.)
Several chapters in, I was completely hooked. Yes, this book involves a lot of zombies, but it's so much more than that! Candace had a hilarious, memorable voice that reflected how I would feel in so many of the situations she found herself in, and Gavin was a swoon-worthy hero of epic proportions. The action and mystery kept it exciting, but it wasn't scary enough to be problematic (which is a low threshold - I scare easily!). The author even managed to work in a spiritual thread that really hit home for me. So don't let the zombies scare you off from this awesome book, I'd categorize it much more as a romantic comedy with a dash of action / suspense than a horror or thriller.
Now I want to hear from YOU! Have you read any books that you ended up liking much more than you expected? Are there certain types of books you usually try to avoid?
Thanks for reading!