{mini reviews} Books Outside of Our Comfort Zone

Hello friends! We’ve been struggling with today’s Top Ten Tuesday (hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl) topic – we’ve both felt like (1) our comfort zones are pretty big, (2) because of that we don’t really read lots of books that fall terribly outside of them. Because of this we twisted the topic a bit, and are bringing you mini reviews for books outside of our comfort zone (six in total!)

This means that we’re sharing positive and negative thoughts about these six books; that is we may not have liked them all equally – or at all. We’ve really loved working on this post, so we hope you’ll enjoy it despite the changes from the original topic.

While I like watching true crime (Buzzfeed Unsolved in particular is amazing), I’ll Be Gone in the Dark was my first venture into true crime books. I really appreciate all the work and research Michelle McNamara put into writing this book, and into finding out the identity of the Golden State Killer.

Even so, I should mention that I feel a tad bit let down by I’ll Be Gone in the Dark – it is, perhaps, all the praise it’s received that made my expectations impossibly high, but nonetheless they weren’t met. In the introduction, Gillian Flynn praises McNamara’s ability to connect to the victims and to write about them with empathy, but in all honestly, I felt as if empathy was lacking from the book.

Reading about the majority of the victims felt like a chore – they were stats and crime tapes on the page, not real people. Later in the book, McNamara visits some of the crime scenes, and I was sad to see that those parts felt a helluva lot more emotional – as in, we were seeing her emotions – then what happened to the victims. Again, this may have been a conscious choice on McNamara’s part, but after Flynn’s intro, this was not what I was expecting. I’m going to stop here, because this was McNamara’s life’s work, and I do not want to undermine that, but I don’t fully understand the hype over this book.

four potted plants/stars

At first glance, I’m Thinking of Ending Things doesn’t seem like something that’s outside of my comfort zone; after all, (adult) mystery and thriller are two of my favorite genres. But the novel’s drastically low average rating (it currently stands at 3.38 on Goodreads), and the rather mixed reviews I’d read prior to picking it up made me hesitant.

(I wrote two posts about my struggles with goodreads averages, and hey, this book was also included there! Click for part 1 and part 2.)

The scariest was that people who love weird things found the book, specifically the ending, too out there even for their tastes. Generally, I’m not a massive fan of weirdness, so that was worrisome, but I’m pleased to say that I’m Thinking of Ending Things was quite good. It was a creepy, fascinating and claustrophobic experience, and the ending left me in total shock. I did have some problems, however, but it’s impossible to bring them up without spoiling the ending, so that’s that on that.

four potted plants/stars

I know, I know – I’ve talked about the London Celebrities series before… multiple times, actually, but I cannot help myself, I just love these books to pieces. I love romance novels – contemporary and historical alike, but I don’t particularly enjoy Romantic Comedy. Or so I thought, before I read Act Like It by Lucy Parker, and beamed through the entirety of it.

Laini and Richard have the best, most entertaining banter I’ve ever seen in a book, thus their interactions were a delight to read. It was also amazing to get a look inside London’s West End, and to see the highs and lows of our main characters, both of whom are actors.

I could go on and on about this book and this series, but I’ve recently finished working on a full post dedicated to London Celebrities, so you’ll be seeing more of Lucy Parker and her wonderful books soon enough.

five potter plants/stars

I feel like its slightly cheating to say graphic novels are out of my comfort zone because I’ve loved every one that I’ve tried. But that is a grand total of about five. They’re generally super expensive here and my local library doesn’t stock any so my options on getting them are kinda slim.

But Alice Oseman is one of my all time favourite writers so obviously I needed Heartstopper in my life and it did not disappoint. I cant give an in depth review of the art style because hey, I’m not an artist. But I can say I really enjoyed it. It felt fun and easy-to-read (but in an arty way).

For me the real love I have for this book is the story itself. Charlie and Nick were my favourite characters in Solitaire (Oseman’s first book) and so I had high hopes for their story. Hopes which were definitely met. They continue to be my favourite characters and felt, to me, very much like they did in Solitaire. They also, by the way, looked exactly how I pictured so that’s fun. As with all graphic novels it felt like it ended too soon and I will definitely be trying to get my hands on volume 2.

five potter plants/stars

This is out of my comfort zone because middle grade. Oddly I always find myself wanting to buy middle grade books but never actually following through on reading them. So this post came at the exact right time for me to finally get on that.

Arlo Finch got off to a relatively slow start which worried me (and also might have lost me entirely as a child with no attention span) but once it got going I loved it. I never had the chance to be a scout (or brownie) or anything like that as a kid and seeing Arlo’s development through that was so weirdly satisfying. I now feel like I definitely missed out as a kid, even though obviously Arlo’s experience had more magic than reality.

The characters were super sweet in a way I’m not used to but I kinda loved. I’m an unapologetic lover of anti-heroes and “unlikable” characters. But the absolute adorable pureness of the characters here was (surprisingly) enjoyable for me. There was plenty of excitement to be had plot-wise which I liked. It reminded me a lot of when I first became a reader and the sheer fun of reading which I think I sometimes miss out on nowadays. If this is any indication I should definitely start reading more middle grade.

four potted plants/stars

Grasshopper Jungle

I think its very clear why this was out of my comfort zone and that’s that the words “horny praying mantises” on the blurb. Like why? How is that a thing? Is that a thing? Either way this isn’t a book I had ever really considered reading but it was majorly on sale in WHSmith and perfect for this post so….

I’ve seen a lot of people say this book isn’t for everyone and that’s exactly it. It just wasn’t for me. That’s not to say it was bad. The writing was good and its such an original concept and I just know that tons of people probably love it. But it just never quite worked for me. Once I got past the whole praying mantis thing I should have fallen for the main character because on paper he is the kind of character I would love to read about. But for whatever reason it just never clicked for me and that disconnect meant I didn’t ever get properly into the book.

The story is very weird and if the blurb didn’t already tip you off it is explicit and messed up and full of swearing. None of which really bother me but they also don’t draw me in. I really don’t know how to explain this book but if you read the blurb and were intrigued then it’s probably a good book for you. It just didn’t work out for me.

Let’s chat!

What genres, or topics are outside of your comfort zone? Have you enjoyed any book with those themes? Have you read any of our picks for today?

11 thoughts on “{mini reviews} Books Outside of Our Comfort Zone

  1. This was a nice twist to the topic. There are very few books out there that I have a 100% positive (or negative) opinion of. Seeing that nuance is so important.

    My TTT.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Any books that are really heavy fantasy, are out of my comfort zone. I normally don’t ever touch these books because I feel that I just won’t like them. Sometimes I am tempted to give them a chance, particularly the Game of Thrones series because I love the show so much, but idk.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Ugh, you reminded me that I have all of the London Celebrities on my kindle and need to start it one of these days.

    That’s interesting to note about the McNamara title. I love true crime so I got the audio book but I haven’t made it past like 20%.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. i’ve been hearing so much about ‘i’ll be gone in the dark’ and i’m really curious to pick it up (kinda scared tbh) but your critisicm is so Valid. i love this series you guys have going on, i find mini reviews so fun to read and i love challenging your reading tastes and trying books outside of your comfort zone.
    glad to see many high ratings on this list!!

    also, might i just add, i LOVE your rating system, the potted plants are so cute and creative

    Liked by 1 person

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