Books that I thought were one thing… but turned out to be something totally different

We’ve all seen the big claims on book blurbs:

“THE NEXT HARRY POTTER AND HUNGER GAMES COMBINED!”

We’ve all seen the hype online:

“THE BEST THING YOU WILL EVER READ”

I know I’ve complained plenty about hype and books I’ve been disappointed with over the years. And yet, I don’t think I talk enough about the times when I’ve read a book that was just a little miss-marketed. It doesn’t mean the book was bad per se (in fact there are some good books on this list) but that I was sold something *totally different* to what it actually was. So today, I’ll be sharing some of those bad boys:

orangutan list

Caraval-150x225Caraval– oh gosh this book really disappointed me. It’s not a terrible book buuut it was way too overhyped. Basically it never should have been described as the *next Night Circus*- and that thought actually inspired a piece with the lovely Trang@Bookidote eons back about how books are marketed.

 

lonely hearts hotelLonely Hearts Hotel– it often seems to be describing a book as like Night Circus that does it a book in for me (so much so I now often avoid books with that moniker) cos this book was given that label too. And if you want to read/enjoy book, you need to get that notion out of your head RIGHT NOW! This is about as far from Night Circus as Lolita is from Carroll. They’re not even in the same genre. And I also feel like I could have done with the warning that this contains a lot of (not always well handled) abuse.

burn for burnBurn for Burn– I actually enjoyed this book for the most part- but one thing that threw me and was totally left of field is the supernatural element. This series is generally marketed as YA contemporary… and it’s not exactly that.

 

girl on the trainThe Girl on the Train– here’s another time that a book was killed by the hype. Frankly, this isn’t a bad thriller, but the only comparison you can really make with Gone Girl is that it has “girl” in the title and it’s in the same genre. Otherwise, the two never should have been lumped together.

 

Legend_Marie_Lu_Book_coverLegend– I really like this author, however I wasn’t totally blown away by her first book. That’s because it distinctly said on the blurb that it was “inspired by Les Miserables”- and perhaps that’s the case- nonetheless it should have been left off the marketing because the two stories have basically *nothing* in common! (okay, there are some parts if you really, really look for it, but it’s not exactly obvious!)

stagsStags– now this one isn’t so much that the blurb or marketing did anything wrong. Rather, Stags simply didn’t live up to the promise of the opening line. It’s more than a little frustrating to have the narrator confess to murder at the start and then have that not come true in the slightest- it made me feel cheated and like I’d picked up the book under false pretences.

And BONUS…

eleanor oliphant is completely fineEleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine– this is actually the one time on this list that I was pleasantly surprised, cos I picked this book up thinking it had *contemporary romance vibes* (especially given where it was placed in bookshops) and it’s not that AT ALL- but in a good way- cos this book is awesome 😉

 

So have you felt let down by a book blurb before? Have you been promised something that a book hasn’t delivered? Or have you been pleasantly surprised by mismarketing? Let me know in the comments!

106 thoughts on “Books that I thought were one thing… but turned out to be something totally different

  1. Aargh, I hate it when that happens! I’m a mood reader so I select what to read based on my expectations of a novel – then when it turns out to be something else I get very annoyed.

    Also, am I the only person in the world who didn’t enjoy The Night Circus? I thought it dragged.

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  2. I /still/ need to read Eleanor Oliphant, it seems like such a cool book. I think the last book I was really surprised by was Spinning Silver, I really hadn’t expected it to be that intricate and slow-burning. I love it when books surprise us for the better ^^

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  3. I’m constantly disappointed in books that I think needed editing. And since Lucindablogs mentioned it – no, you aren’t the only person who found The Night Circus lacking, oh what, maybe a plot? Development of characters? Convoluted and totally unnecessary meandering timeline? Not to mention that pretentious present tense presentation. I could go on but maybe I’ll save my wrath for other unworthy books. Never mind, no one needs to get depressed by my harangue.

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    1. I think that’s totally fair- I also thought it was on the slow side (though overall I liked it a lot as a slow burner and gave it 4/5) hehe I’m sorry to hear you disliked it so much- but honestly enjoyed your wrath 😉

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  4. I had no idea Legend was compared to Les Mis?? I don’t see it at all. I enjoyed Caraval but it’s definitely a guilty pleasure read for me! The supernatural element in Burn for Burn threw me off too! Granted, I didn’t really enjoy it all that much and that kind of made it worse. Eleanor Oliphant was one of my favorite reads last year! I’m kind of feeling the itch to re read it.

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    1. I know right!?! It doesn’t fit!! And cos I love Les Mis so much, I spent wayyy too much time comparing the two! I can understand that too! I do get that for sure- it becomes more of a problem as the series goes on as well :/ Ah it’s such a great book!

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  5. I was pleasantly surprised when “Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell” turned out to be quite a bit different than advertised. The blurb I read made it sound like it was all about the revival of magic which is then used to fight the Napoleonic Wars. While technically true, the tone and focus of the book is much more Jane Austenesque than epic/military fantasy. I think that the frequent negative reviews of it as “boring” are by people who went into it expecting action, violence, and/or dark gritty conflict rather than something more witty and character-driven.

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    1. That’s good you got more out of that- I’m not gonna lie I’m in the camp that thought it was going to be a bit more exciting (but I think for the most part my issue was that I didn’t connect with the writing style- it’s a shame cos I do like Austenesque books)

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  6. I absolutely hate when books are marketed as the next Hunger Games or Gone Girl. If I want to read a book like the Hunger Games I’ll just read the Hunger Games. I want something original. Thankfully I haven’t read the Night Circus or Gone Girl so comparisons to them mean nothing to me. Possibly why I enjoyed Caraval.

    I was very recently misled by the blurb for The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett. The blurb suggests thriller and it’s really not. I thought it was going to be MC investigating her disappearance but instead MC is convinced she didn’t didn’t disappear but turned into a werewolf (???) so spends the rest of the book trying to convince everyone (including the boyfriend) that’s what happened to her. It’s very weird, not bad, but odd.

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    1. Yes!! So agree with you!! More often than not, I’m actually put off by those labels! Ah that’s good at least! And makes sense- I always thought the hype for Caraval was one of the reasons I felt so letdown by it.

      Ah that’s good to know- cos I wanted to read it…. and WOW that’s not what the blurb on that one implies at all!!! I can’t believe it’s so different to the blurb!

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  7. This happens way too often!! I remember being so excited to read the Magicians because it was marketed to grown-up Harry Potter fans (I don’t even know what that means because I will love Harry Potter until I am ancient), and it was nothing like it at all. Marketing needs to be more careful with those comparisons.

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  8. You know it’s a bad thriller when you can guess whodunit within the first 50 pages — looking at you, Girl on the Train! I swear that book was all hype and no payoff. I saw the movie with my book club and for Emily Blunt 🙂

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  9. I totally agree with Girl on the Train – I was confused why the comparison was made when I read it; although for me the common thing was that I didn’t love either.

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  10. I don’t really remember but sometimes I would see a book that said it had political intrigue and there turned out to be…not so much. I’m a reader who likes lots of court intrigue though so it may be just me wanting more 😉

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  11. I agree that marketing needs to do more to let a book stand on its own! I was majorly disappointed by the comparison of Flame in the Mist to Mulan — it might have an Asian backdrop and a female MC, but Mariko was a wimp compared to Mulan, so the comparison fell completely flat.

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      1. It’s possible that the sequel is more similar, but definitely don’t read the first book expecting Mulan. I can’t say if I would have liked it if I wasn’t expecting Mulan, but since I was I was very disappointed by the book. Hopefully you’ll like it better since you can read it for what it is and not for a bad comparison!

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  12. Do you Dream of Terra Two is the one that springs to mind. I enjoyed it (apart from the ending) but it is no way like Long Way To A Small Angry Planet (which I adore) apart from the fact they both have people on a spaceship.

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  13. I completely agree about The Girl On The Train! I absolutely loved Gone Girl and felt really let down by The Girl On The Train because there was no where near the same clever underlying plotting. The end plot twist was good, but it was a disappointing read in general because of all that hype comparing it to Gone Girl and finding it was anything but ☹️

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  14. I definitely agree about Lonely Heart’s Hotel. I made it through about 50 pages before I just decided not to put myself through it anymore! Ditto for The Girl on the Train. It was an OK thriller but that’s about it. It was so overhyped that by the time I read it, I was just underwhelmed.

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  15. This used to happen, when I still bothered with blurbs. Now, if someone I know hasn’t reviewed it, chances are I am not going to read it. And most of the people I follow, even the nancy-pants non-spoiler ones, do a good job of letting me know what the book is actually about.

    It’s all about WHO you know! 😉

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  16. Glad to hear you enjoyed Eleanor Oliphant! I want to read that one soon.

    I just finished House on Fire by Bonnie Kistler, which I was really into for the first hundred pages or so, and then it became a totally different book with a different plot and a lot of different characters. Two books in one, except the second book was not as good. (I skimmed a lot of the end.) The two stories were barely related, and it didn’t make sense.

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  17. I think inaccurate blurbs are pretty common (although I can’t think of anything egregious now), which is why reviews are so important to me.

    I tried reading The Girl on the Train but didn’t make it past the first few chapters. Sometimes I think I’m missing out, but now, not so much 😝

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  18. I’ve had this happen (drawing a blank on the book), but felt it was a complete disservice for the book because the publicity was setting reader expectations for something completely different than what it delivered, so pretty much going for the wrong audience.

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  19. Marketing is really interesting. I don’t see it quite as much in books (or maybe I don’t notice it as much because I don’t rely on it as much?) but there have definitely been movies where the marketing has left me baffled.

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  20. Any time something is marked as “the next Harry Potter,” I’m immediately suspicious. It’s not like I won’t read it, but I’ve been burned before. I believe it was Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments books (which are great, but they’re not like Harry Potter). It’s like, come on! There’s not much that’s going to be like a wizard who managed to inspire an entire generation! Also, anything that compares itself to The Hunger Games. No. You can be your own Hunger Games. The only one I liked that kind of compared itself to that one is Pierce Brown’s Red Rising. It mentioned Katniss and Ender on the back cover, but that is it. They share some of the same themes and I have to say it was enjoyable. 🙂

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  21. I agree Caraval was completely mismarketed, and maybe I would have liked it more if I weren’t expecting something more like The Night Circus.

    Also I love that Court of Fives was compared to Little Women. Because…the main character has sisters?

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  22. The surprise supernatural thing has never been a good thing for a book, in my experience. I do sometimes read books with supernatural content, but I like to know what I’m getting into up-front. If the marketing doesn’t at least imply the werewolves/vampires/fairies/whatever then it hasn’t done its job.

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  23. I definitely get this! I hate when books are marketed like this, because you inevitably feel let down when you finally open it. Woman in the Window is a good example for me because there was so much hype surrounding it… and while it was great it probably didn’t deserve all that buzz!

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  24. Ugh I am always so frustrated when a blurb is so misleading, I feel like you get so many expectations and you can’t help but compare the book to another and when it ends up being something entirely different that you’re not too fond of… well, you feel betrayed, I know I do haha. I didn’t expect Burn for Burn to give into supernatural elements either, at first, at all!
    Lovely post! ❤

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  25. Very interesting post! I often feel like disappointment arises not just from the hype but of expectations vs what the book is actually like. Sometimes re-reading it can lead to a better experience because you know what you’re going in for an you can appreciate what’s there rather than what you were expecting to be there.

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  26. I enjoyed Eleanor Oliphant but I thought along the same lines as you that it would be a romantic contemporary read about a single, professional woman along the lines of Bridget Jones but dysfunctional in a different way and boy…. was I wrong. But in a good way wrong.

    To be blunt – I hated Caraval. I was so disappointed which was a shame because I was so excited for it but I completely agree, it should NEVER have been marketed as the next ‘The Night Circus’ and the cover was designed to lead people in that direct also.

    It got a big nope from me!

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  27. In fact this is one of the reasons I’ve stayed away from Caraval. I would most definitely be looking for a Night Circus feel. Even knowing going in that it’s not that, I’d still be comparing the whole way through.

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  28. Being the moody reader I am, my expectations do influence what I read. Caraval was a disappointment to me too. I’m very careful of hyped books for many have let me down. Some books, especially those from indie authors fall under the radar like Taurok’s Vengeance and Light Between Worlds. Great list! ❤️❤️

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  29. I feel like this is a lot like when people meet singers/bands whose music they’ve never heard before and force them to describe who they sound like… I think publishers think readers want that type of comparison and, in doing so, end up miss-marketing a book. I wish they’d understand that they just need to write a good synopsis, send out some ARCs for reviews, and let us book bloggers help out with placing them in comparative categories 😉

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  30. One of my biggest pet peeves is when a book is marketed to be something it is not: the official synopsis and blurbs make it sound like one thing but you get something else entirely. Often times I enjoy the content, but am so mad at getting something I wasn’t expecting that it sours my experience. I am still bitter about The Witch of Willow Hall – I expected a witchy book and got essentially a historical romance. Which I would have liked had I not been expecting something else entirely. Great post!

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  31. caraval was so damn disappointing. i haven’t read the night circus yet though. i think caraval being compared to the night circus makes me avoid it. but if it’s different then i think i’ll give it a try.

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  32. Was trying to think if I’ve fallen into this marketing trap- I probably have but can’t think of a particular example just now… I do very much dislike when a book is being compared so boldly to another… hmm… it’s a tricky business that which often falls flat.

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