Top Ten Tuesday: Top 10 Books That Really Weren’t My Thing (But I liked them anyway) – With gifs and reasons and stuff

Image Source: The Broke and the Bookish

Top Ten Tuesday is a really fun topic (again) this week* – since it highlights books from genres or on topics that we don’t normally read, but that we really liked.

As a bookseller, it’s part of my job to read a diverse selection, so I have read plenty of books that I wouldn’t pick up because I simply wanted to. Here are 10 of the books I liked more than I thought I would!
As always, TTT is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, and you can find out how to participate in the link-up right here. (Disclaimer: All images belong to respective copyright holders and are not being used for any financial gain)
And here we go . . .

Top 10 Books That I Liked (Even Though They Weren’t My Usual Reads)

1. The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

Why it isn’t me: I don’t usually go for cute and cuddly NYT bestsellers.


*Sniffles* Pushing Daisies!
How it changed my mind: While it was most definitely cute and cuddly, and bestselling, The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry was sweet not sappy, and a love letter to books and bookstores. How could I not approve? The author really captured the charm of indie bookstores, reading, and the quirky people you meet in the bookish world.

2. The Iron Fey Series (And The Immortal Rules) by Julie Kagawa

Why they aren’t me: Two words- paranormal romance. And they were billed to me as “swoony,” which always earns an eyeroll (internally, of course, one must be polite).

My eyeliner is never this flawless, but this is how I’ll react . . .
How they changed my mind: While there was zero swooning, I did find the characters charming** enough to read every one of the Iron Fey books (and I even made it through the slight love triangle unscathed).
Anyhow, these books are like those giant cupcakes — you buy one and one becomes five and . . .  anyhow, I actually really enjoyed them. But I sort of felt like I had a sugar hangover after the fact. The characters are fun, the worlds are lovely (I especially love her take on the Fey), and Julie Kagawa is a good storytellerImmortal Rules was one of the more interesting vampire books I’ve come across, and I loved Kagawa’s take on a post-apocalyptic setting.

3. The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

Why it isn’t me: It’s an adult contemporary romance/comedic novel. I don’t usually enjoy romantic comedies, and they only ask for an hour of my time. A book is much more demanding.

How it changed my mind: It was actually hilarious. The characters were quirky and fun, and I loved Don Tillman. He's autistic, brilliant, and so socially awkward that I was immediately charmed. Rosie was fun, but Don's narration won this novel for me.

4. The Benny Imura Series and The Joe Ledger Series by Jonathan Maberry

Why they aren’t me: I am not into zombies. Period. And the Joe Ledger series are an adult zombie series, which really isn’t my thing . . .

Before Rot & Ruin
How they changed my mind: TOM.*** While there are a lot of zombies in both series, they also include: strong characters, brother bonds that will make you cry in a hole, great action, swords, authentic and relatable teenage drama, adorable characters, plotlines, humor, philosophy, and really complicated but terrifying villains. And did I mention Tom Imura? No? Small oversight. And as for the Joe Ledger books - they're like a Clint Eastwood movie with zombies and humor. A little rough,**** but I liked them way more than I thought I would (I haven't read them all yet, but they're still going strong)
After

Why it isn’t me: I read some of Faulkner’s short stories for school and was driven mad by his stylistic decisions (run-on sentences, strange punctuation, etc). Despite my love of classic lit, we didn’t click.

Trying to capture that eerie, empty feel with a gif here
How it changed my mind: I saw how short it was, and picked it up on vacation. And I was completely won over by the eerie darkness, the strange style, the drama, the depiction of the South, the story, and the narrators. Faulkner went from my never-read-again list, to my read-everything-eventually list. Just because of this book.

6. The Smell of Other People’s Houses by Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock

So pretty

Why it isn’t me: I tend to avoid coming-of-age novels as a genre, especially when they sound like they’re just about teenagers doing teenage things (no, I never liked them when I was a teenager).

Couldn’t resist, mate
How it changed my mind: First, there was the evocative title. Second, I met a few people at Winter Institute who completely convinced me to read it with their love for this book. And then the author read an excerpt, and I loved her prose. The story is much more layered and complicated than what I expected, the characters are lovable and seem like real people, and the peek into 60's-70's Alaska was absolutely fascinating. If you like contemporary-ish YA at all, you should definitely give this book a shot.
Just look at this cover . . .

Why it isn’t me: While I love manga, I’m not much into the shoujo/school stuff/romance. I prefer shonen, hands down.

And Hiro – that kid with unlimited adult sass
How it changed my mind: Blogger Victoria Grace (Stori Tori) convinced me to watch the anime first, and I was hooked. I swear I've never been so invested in school clubs or random everyday life before. I had to read the manga because the anime doesn't have the entire story! And there are three very important things I haven't mentioned:
1. Everyone and everything is so darn cute!
2. The Chinese Zodiac have human forms, and they revert to animals when hugged by the opposite sex. It's weird and random and provides tons of hilarity.
3. The characters have surprising layers, and/or really dark sides.

8. Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare

Why it isn’t me: See #2. Guys – this is so “not me” that I was almost too embarrassed to put it up (and I am not knocking anyone who likes these books, I promise). Paranormal romance, love triangles, ridiculously unrealistic characters, weird taxidermied-looking dudes on the covers, I could go on for days here – but they’re not my normal thing, obviously.

Taxidermy . . .
How it changed my mind: This was just a fun book. I stopped thinking and just giggled at the dialogue and got lost in the indulgent steampunk world and fun. Quirky, cute characters and plenty of action helped too.
Got to love that title though

Why it isn’t me: This is the sort of book I’d never even notice. Confessionals, anecdotes, personal mother-daughter stuff, chick-lit, etc.

Batman, are you trying to make us all feel bad?
How it changed my mind: I got this ARC from a box at work when I was desperately seeking a beachy read for a review program. The review was due in two days, and I needed something quick and easy. What I didn't expect was how much I enjoyed it! The stories were pretty relatable, and funnier than I thought they would be. As I have a close relationship with my mother, I found the mother-daughter stuff endearing and fun. It was easy to read, but only just fluffy enough. Sweet and sincere, I could honestly recommend it as a "beach read" to readers and non-readers alike.

10. Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens

Why it isn’t me: I was fully persuaded that I didn’t like Dickens. (Too early of an exposure – which was my own fault!). Long, overrated, boring, and melodramatic – that’s what I thought. And Little Dorrit is basically moose-sized.

How it changed my mind: I watched the Masterpiece Theater (love MT!) version and was hooked, so I decided to give the book a chance. I liked it even better. It was hilarious - with a such a heady level of satire I was completely surprised, and the characters were brilliant. The Circumlocution Office still figures into my conversations. Anyhow, Little Dorrit rekindled my love for Victorian novels, and sparked a new one with Dickens' works in particular. Many years later, I'm still a loyal fangirl <3

So, what was the last book you read that was out of your comfort zone or not something you’d normally read? Why did you like it? Have you read any of these books?

Footnotes:
*Last week was 10 Songs that Should Be Books - which was a fabulous idea!
**Ash is my spirit animal (okay, one of my many spirit animals)
***Tom Imura = <3<3<3<3<3
****The Joe Ledger covers are gross. Who wants to look at this? 

Top 10 Fictional Worlds I’d Like to Visit (Top 10 Tuesday) (with reasons, gifs, footnotes, and theories as to why I’d leave)

It’s Tuesday, which means it’s time for Top 10 Tuesday with The Broke and The Bookish. For instructions on how to participate, click here.

Usually there is a theme for the list, but this week is a freebie, which means that we have all picked our own topic. My topic: The Top 10 Fictional Worlds I’d Like to Visit (with reasons, gifs, footnotes, and theories as to why I’d leave)

1. Middle Earth (from The Silmarillion, The Hobbit, and LOTR)

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As soon as my feet touched that fantastical grass, I’d be off.
The Shire, Mirkwood, Rivendell, Lorien, and Rohan would be top of my must-see list.
Elves, dwarves, hobbits, food, the clothes, roughing it Fellowship style . . . why would you ever leave?

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I have a theory: Basically, it would be like high school, where everyone in Middle Earth would be the “cool kids table,” and I’d be that person who everyone felt kind of bad for, but still didn’t let sit with them (you know the one, the one trying so hard to be all elvish and awesome, and failing miserably).

That, or I’d get eaten by a spider when I was in Mirkwood.

2. The Enchanted Forest (from the Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia Wrede)

Artist: Peetasokka Image Credit

If I survived Mirkwood, I think a kindlier, more whimsical magic forest might be in order. Dealing with Dragons was (still is) one of my favorite fantasy novels, and it still cracks me up. Cimorene is a kindred spirit, and I would love to help her make buckets of cherries jubilee for the dragons. After that, I would do some exploring, and hopefully not run into any annoying wizards. I’d be sure to carry spray bottles of soapy water with lemon though, as a precaution . . .
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Being polite, sensible, and not prone to eating random plants, I would probably get along just fine in this world. In the end, I’d probably leave because I’d want to see my family.

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3. The alternate 1914 of Leviathan (Scott Westerfeld)

It’s Clankers (they use machines) versus Darwinists (genetic manipulation) on the brink of World War I. Though there were parts of these books I didn’t enjoy so much, I did love the crazy alternate world. It would be fascinating to explore! I would like to travel the world and compare it to actual 1914. I would probably end up leaving because I’d miss my writing and my books. As much as I like writing by hand, I’ll take my laptop back, thank you very much.

4. Camelot (Gerald Morris edition)

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Knights, picking flowers?* I am a King Arthur devotee, in all seriousness. I write retellings, I will read almost anything Arthurian, and I have a passionate love/hate relationship with the stories themselves. That being said, Le Morte d’Arthur is incredibly depressing.** Gerald Morris took all that pathos and ran over it, with scissors and a crazy grin (metaphorically). His knights go on pointless quests, take vows of silence where all they do is talk, and stumble in and out of the Otherworld at random. It is hilarious, and yet it somehow manages to stay true to the spirit of the beloved stories. Also, his version is a little kinder to the ladies. I would probably stick it out here until I was cursed by wandering Fair Folk, or swallowed by an enchanted castle, or something. If I survived that, I’d probably head somewhere a little more “modern” next.

5. Early 1800’s England-a la Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell (Susanna Clarke)

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I sat here in a crisis of indecision over including this or Jane Austen’s 19th century, only to realize that they were basically the same. But JS & MN has magic. As an American of average looks who is too fond of books and lacks sufficient funds, I doubt I’d have much chance at society (unless my book hopping came with magical powers?). Maybe I would just try to get a job as a servant? Perhaps I could pretend to be an heiress . . .

I would love to snoop on Strange and Norrell (though they’d probably discover me, non-magical person that I am). Assuming I didn’t get tired of the mud or my inferior social status (or someone found out I was a fraud), I would explore this version of England until I felt too restricted (or until I got on the fairies’ bad side, whatever happened first).

6. New Pacifica (Diana Peterfreund’s Across a Star-Swept Sea***)

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The islands of New Pacifica, Albion and Galatea, are stand-ins for London and Paris during the French Revolution. Across a Star-Swept Sea is a retelling of/tribute to one of my favorite novels, The Scarlet Pimpernel. Throw in crazy futuristic elements (the sea minks, the fashion, the tech), class unrest (they have good reasons), and a fascinating future world, and it is definitely a place I’d like to visit. The main thing I didn’t like about the novel was the teen romance,**** but if I was exploring the islands, that would be a non-issue. And I really want to see all those lushly described island locations . . . (Pimpernel is a far superior novel, but I don’t fancy visiting the actual French Revolution!).

 I’d fully intend on turning smuggler and helping to spirit people away from certain death. Which is how I’d end up leaving (what does happen if you die in a fantasy world?)

7. The Unwelcome Stranger (which is actually a ship in 1712 [seventeen twelvety] alternate timeline Earth)

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Which brings me to piracy. Long before I understood the moral implications, I really wanted to be a pirate. It was one of my favorite things to play/pretend as a kid (after wood elves!). When I was a teenager, I discovered Tanith Lee’s wonderfully strange pirate fantasy, Piratica. The pirates drink coffee (instead of rum), some of them are actually traveling players, and they really only rob other pirates (and follow silly treasure maps). In other words, it’s all the fun of Treasure Island with none of the serious danger (or scurvy, which is more of a deterrent). I would happily take up with Art and her (mostly) daring crew of ne’er do wells. Always a restless wanderer myself, I’d sail their way until I remembered how badly I wanted an awesome horse.

8. That obscure Caribbean Island from Walter Farley’s Island Stallion

I read everything with horses on the cover when I was younger. I always wanted a horse like the Black Stallion, or Black Beauty, or even the Chincoteague ponies. I would visit the Island and camp out until I got a really awesome horse (which I would somehow manage to smuggle back). If I couldn’t keep the horse, I’d leave, heartbroken.

9. Discworld from Terry Pratchett’s Discworld Series

They made a play in Chicago!

I confess that I haven’t read every one, but if I had to pick, I’d join up with the Monstrous Regiment ladies, disguised as a man, naturally. Or I would try to have coffee with Death. Or maybe I would just explore the glorious, ridiculous world and talk to its inhabitants. Regardless, Discworld is full of adventure, satire, looniness, and general chaos. I think I would end up leaving because it made me exhausted (or overstimulated)!

10. Harry Potter’s England

I’d want a job at Flourish and Blotts, or failing that, Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes. I am not above sneaking into Hogwarts. My top priority would be the library! If I had the great good fortune to arrive and find I had wizardly gifts, I would be transported with delight. If not, I’m sure I could still have plenty of fun. One of the best parts of HP is the fabulous alternate world, existing right under Muggle noses. Diagon Alley almost holds more appeal than Hogwarts, if I’m honest, and I’d love to catch a professional Quidditch match. I think I would leave eventually, and maybe start back at Middle Earth?

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Honorable Mentions: Narnia! (Chronicles of Narnia), New Beijing (Lunar Chronicles), Namid (Others Series), London Below (Neverwhere), The Well of Lost Plots (Thursday Next Series), I could go on forever. There were so many places that I’d want to go that I just went for variety in the end. 

It was hard to pick 10. However, I noticed that a lot of my favorite books weren’t represented (I wouldn’t really like to live in most of them, I suppose). As much as I love books like Rot & Ruin, The Haunting of Alaizabel Cray, or The Count of Monte Cristo, I am not ashamed to admit that I’d far rather read about a lot of things than live them!

What about you? Are there any fictional worlds you’d love to visit? Do you think you’d actually give up the real one for them (if you could)? How do you think you’d fit into your world choice? Tell me in the comments 🙂

Footnotes: 
*Actually from the soul-destroying (but hilarious) musical Camelot. Lancelot’s disbelief seemed to fit here.
**I prefer the Celtic tales-less drama
***The companion novel, For Darkness Shows the Stars, is a retelling of Persuasion! I read these despite my dislike (loathing) for the author’s other series. ‘Nuff said, I’ll keep it to myself.
****Despite the fact that it’s in essence, a drippy (but not unbelievable) teen romance. I knew that going into it. It says a lot for the book that I liked it anyway.