Expectations vs Reality / My Top Ten 2019 Anticipated Books

Welcome my friends and you shall hear of the tales of disappointment, fangirling and tears. That sort of rhymed, right?

While we all work on writing our 2019 wrap ups, I have been inspired to complain, exclaim and judge my most anticipated reads from this past year. Are you ready for some slight sarcasm and judgement and general reader angst? You’ve been warned. also, i’m not good at being judgey so yes, writing this was an intense struggle against my own personality.

1. Wayward Son

small confession: I actually didn’t start the year looking forward to this book. But once I read Carry On this past spring, I was eagerly awaiting the sequel.

Did I have any idea what it was going to be about? no clue.

All I knew was that Baz and Simon are the cutest and I needed to know that they’re happy and well.

Expectation – Lots of cherry scones and heartwarming post Watford Simon and Baz life.

Reality – this was not the happy ever after I wanted it to be. but you don’t work seven months at disney and not develop a healthy skepticism for Happily Ever Afters.

So, while Wayward Son wasn’t the happiest story it was far better than my expectations. I LOVED the exploration of mental health and trauma.

I’ve very rarely seen childhood trauma explored in fiction and seeing it on page, well as a survivor of childhood trauma myself, it was refreshing and incredibly meaningful.

2. The Dragon Republic

You know I’m keen on any story that has lots of politics and fantasy. Add into that recipe a stunning debut novel that simply knocked my socks off, and you get perfection defined.

I remember picking up The Poppy wWar and just not being able to set it down. My absolute favorite kind of read. 

So you can imagine my extreme level of hype for this new book.

Expectations – Lots of action. Deep emotion. Compelling fantasy.

Reality – the Dragon Republic wasn’t bad. but it wasn’t five stars for me. Kind of like Game of Thrones season six. Not horrid like season eight but still could have had some improvements. Overall, it didn’t live up to the first book but I’m hopeful that the third book is simply amazing. 

3. Again but Better

I absolutely really love reading debut novels. There’s something incredibly magical about picking up an author’s first book and seeing their words on print in the store for the very first time. As a writer myself, I’m always excited to follow other writer’s journeys and read their stories.

sounds cheesy? it’s not, you just don’t understand debut magic.

Again but Better was such a debut. So my EXPECTATIONS, well they were off the charts. Not only was this book written by a booktuber, but an author in a similar stage of life – college graduated, nerdy and figuring out post college adulthood.

Reality – Um, how do you spell disappointment. This book. One of the worst books I read this year, the characters, the story, the writing it just was awful. 🙁

4. I Wish You All the Best

This book was one of my most anticipated for 2019. Opps, I almost typed 2020 because I am apparently THAT ready for the new year.

Expectations – It’s going to be great right? I mean, Becky Albertalli said this debut was a good story so I’ll probably like it, right? I totally trust Becky and knowing this novel was an own voices story featuring a non-binary teenager, had me pretty excited to check it out.

RealityFeels! Feels! Feels! This story is so meaningful and beautifully told. Some might call it a slice of life story and I deeply appreciate the soft writing and intimate feel.

5. Red White and Royal Blue

So you know I’m always that sucker for anything that mentions politics.

But confession time – a pink cover? I wasn’t sold on Red, White and Royal Blue’s cover. It didn’t jive with my idea of politics. Which is so weird and maybe was an internalized trauma or sexism. Who knows.

Expectation – Politics + romance. The politics is totally my jam, but the romance? I’m not sure if I’ll want to own a dozen copies of this.

RealityI will sell my soul for this book. That’s all.

also, yes now i will also die for this pink cover. truly believe RW&RB changed my idea of what I could write and expect from books.

6. King of Scars

I was definitely talking about this book months before it came out. For one, it was gorgeous and shiny! And mainly, it was written by one of the best Young Adult fantasy writers I know.

Expectation – Leigh Bardugo can do no wrong. six of crows is the highest achievement for young adult literature. Nikolai’s story will rule the world. I will be talking about this story for months. And eagerly await the next installment.

Reality – Ehhhhhh, it’s not bad but not the pinnacle of storytelling. Rather slow but at least Zoya can keep sassing everyone and everything.

also, i completely forgot until typing this line that there is going to be a second book. I don’t even remember if the title has been announced or if there is a cover and honestly, I don’t care anymore.

7. Muse of Nightmares

so the first book, Strange the Dreamer, was such a surprise to me! I thought the cover was ugly and I definitely judge books by their covers.

anyway, Lazlo Strange absolutely WON my heart. His tenderness, and reticence bolstered by incredible inner strength. Complete Hufflepuff energy combined with bookworm genius. Best character ever.

Expectations – this will be a beautiful, well rounded cohesive end to Lazlo’s story. I will love it and probably cry.

the harsh reality – what is going on. confused. tempted to dnf. twelve months later *nearly twelve* did i actually dnf this book? I don’t remember.

mainly, the storytelling just felt off for this sequel. New characters I didn’t really care about, weird emotional distance and it was just painstakingly slow. Laini Taylor is a very hit or miss author for me. And aside from Strange the Dreamer, all of her other books have been misses. *sad face*

8. On the Come Up

in the story of modern american teen books, few authors have published such groundbreaking debuts as Angie Thomas’ The Hate U Give. Thomas’ writing is rich, poignant and vibrant. I was excited that her next book came out the same month as my birthday and really wanted to get my own copy.

Expectations – It’s got to be great. Because Angie Thomas is a gem.

Reality – oh my goodness!!!! I actually liked this story MORE than THUG which says a whole LOT. Bri’s creativity and sass just made my whole damn reading day! my only regret is that i haven’t had much book money and so haven’t been able to get my own copy of this book.

9. Wilder Girls

a debut novel that featured a ton of internet buzz. and that cover!!!! yes, a confession, i fell for the hype. i am weak.

Expectations – so i know the internet is excited about this story. Now, I’m not a huge horror person but in book form it won’t terrify me. And this is feminist?? sounds intriguing!

Reality – oh my gosh, what a let down. the hype was, well, it was not for me. the story fell flat, the horror was distant and the characters felt like paper cut outs of their own personalities. and the ending? i yawned, and then grew annoyed because is there a sequel? Purposeful ambiguity? annoyyyyyyinnnngggggg.

10. King of Fools

how many sequels are on this list? Four, five? Too many, that’s for sure.

Expectations – I really liked Ace of Shades, and I had some medium high hopes for a sequel. Hopes like Enne being sassy and learning new skills, Levi falling more in love with Enne, and getting to know the rest of the crew. Also, cool villains, please.

Reality – Amanda Foody blew me totally away with this sequel! It was complex with even more rich world building, alongside lots of politics and more villains.

while i thought this book was massive, it was just soooooo long! I’m glad for those 600 pages because the story needed a ton of words to really flesh it out. We’ll see how long the third book turns out to be. *hides in fear*

Well, that’s enough of me being sarcastic and mean to these books! because i know publishing books is a harsh journey and i’m proud of all the work every 2019 author puts into writing, editing, and publishing their stories.

Now, i’m sure there are more than ten books from 2019 that I had expectations about. But i had to pick ten and run with it because ya know, you have to limit yourself somehow. and even then, i put books on the list that were most definitely not on my radar december 31st, 2018. so a tiny bit of cheating but i don’t care. do you? 

lets chat

What 2019 books were you excited about? which ones lived up to your expectations? Any that totally blew away your expectations? 

now for the downer, any that were disappointments? what kind of things disappointed you? 

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4 Comments

  1. December 22, 2019 / 11:00 pm

    Ahh, I love this post! 💖 I really wanna do something like this but with 2020 books, haha! But I feel the exact same way about The Dragon Republic. It was good, but not five stars for me. Maybe it’s because the series is a little too dark for my tastes though. We had the same thoughts on King of Scars! I feel like Leigh Bardugo’s books have been super slow as of late (looking at Ninth House here).She’s a good writer, and you can definitely see that her worldbuiling, charcter-building, etc. are top-notch, but she just tends to write in such a slow pace that it drives me crazy! Maybe there’s a reason she writes like that though. anyways, I have high hopes for the KoS sequel! I feel like it has the potential to be what everyone expected KoS to be.
    I’m so sad that you didn’t like Muse of Nightmares! But I totally get why it didn’t work for you. I read it, and I gave it 4 stars. I thought it was such a solid conclusion! But the writing—UGHHHH. Yes, it’s beautiful and Laini Taylor is a gifted wordsmith, but sometimes it became too heavy-handed, and I wanted her to stop with the purple prose. But I’m really happy that On the Come Up worked for you! It did for me too! Angie Thomas is such a great writer, and I feel like everyone should read her books. I also loved the rapping parts in On the Come Up!! Listening to the audiobook enhanced my experience tenfold!
    oh no… Wilder Girls is at the top of my TBR! Actually, you’re not the first person I’ve come across who didn’t like it, especially its ending, but I hope that this will help me lower my expectations!

  2. December 23, 2019 / 1:06 am

    I’m super hyped up for Wayward Son when Rainbow Rowell announced the title, because, you know, supernatural 😀 But tbh Carry On didn’t really work for me so I’m not actually that excited for the actual book. But somehow nearer the end of this year, I really really want to read it haha. I guess I just miss the wizarding world, both HP and in the Simon Snow universe.

  3. December 31, 2019 / 5:01 am

    Ahh I love this post, Liz, such a good idea! I’m so happy RW&RB exceeded your expectations. I was a little nervous getting into it, too, given all of its hype and I am so, so glad I did, it’s one of my favorites, too 🙂 ad I need to read I Wish You All The Best! 🙂

  4. December 31, 2019 / 1:19 pm

    Amazing list, Liz! I hope your 2020 reads treat you even better!! I absolutely agree with you on RW&RB! It wasn’t even on my radar until EVERYONE was talking about it and I had to see what the hype was about. I was not disappointed at all! It’s easily my favorite book of the year.

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