2019 delivered a lot to the world, both good and bad. For me, in my reading life, I read a lot and there were some books that caught me off guard by how much I loved them and books that I thought I would love that just really disappointed me. I wanted to share a list with you of some of my biggest surprises and those disappointments, just to sort of reflect on how well or not well I know what I should like at this stage in my reading life.
Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid
If you’ve been around here long, you know that Daisy Jones is my new favorite book of all time. I expected to like the book because I enjoyed The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo and the audiobook was full cast, which I usually adore. But, I definitely wasn’t expecting this book to leapfrog over Pride & Prejudice or Harry Potter and become my favorite book of all time. But it is. I just… It’s everything I want in a book somehow without actually being what I think I want. I mean, this book is just not a Jenica book. It’s just not. Like, there’s drugs, sex, rock and roll, emotional cheating, and an ending that doesn’t slot it into the romance category. It really just should not be the book for me, but it is THE book for me, you know? So, Daisy Jones, for sure.
Lover Awakened by J.R. Ward
So, I just was not expecting to ever actually fall into this series. I read Dark Lover because of the Fated Mates podcast and wasn’t sure if I was going to continue after that. I did though because I was intrigued and then I kept going because I fell in love with Bella and was intrigued by Zsadist. Well, this book blew me away with how much I loved it. Absolutely blew me away. It’s much angstier than books I typically like, but I loved everything about it. I’m so glad I read it, although so far, none of the books after this one have compared.
Written in Red by Anne Bishop
So, aka The Others series. I was supposed to have started this book as a buddy read with Aarya, except I wasn’t ready to read it when she wanted to and then she live tweeted her reactions and I was like, “Oh, yeah, I really need to prioritize that.” Except, I didn’t. I finally picked it up in August and I fell into this world so hard and fast, it was absurd. I love Meg and Simon and despite having read the original five books in a span of like two weeks, I still have no idea how to describe the plot. It’s a small town paranormal type situation and it’s so good. There are a ton of politics and also cannibalism is a thing? Sort of? I mean, humans get eaten, but not by other humans? Idk. Listen, this is the slowest burn of slowest burns and I wouldn’t say that it’s the most satisfying ending in the world, but I adored it nonetheless.
The Duke I Tempted by Scarlett Peckham
I haven’t been in much of a historical mood for going at least a year and a half now, but that didn’t stop me from falling head over heels for this angsty historical romance. It does admittedly have some tropes I love, but it takes a bit to get to the whole marriage of convenience thing. Regardless, I loved this one and Poppy is a fantastic heroine.
The Bride Test by Helen Hoang
Okay, so as a person who hates deception plots of any kind and also has some issues with power dynamics, this book promised to test my desire to like it. Additionally, I, unlike the rest of America, did not fall head over heels for The Kiss Quotient, so I was concerned. But let me just let you all know, I did not need to be. I absolutely adored The Bride Test and think it was done with a deft hand and also the Author’s Note may or may not have made me cry.
Fumbled by Alexa Martin
I meant to only include five books in this list, but honestly, Fumbled wins for book I definitely should not have liked and fell madly in love with, ergo, a surprise. I do not like secret baby books. There are virtually no reasons good enough, in my opinion, to keep a baby from their father that still make the father a candidate for a love interest. My typical exception is if it was a one night stand and you don’t know this guy’s name (and also Sarina Bowen’s Bountiful, which is similar but it wasn’t a one night stand). This book does not have that excuse. Poppy is a single mother because she thinks that when she was a teenager and got pregnant by T.K. he was an asshole and tried to pay her to go get an abortion. I was like, “alright, reasonable,” but I still wasn’t thinking I would fall in love with this book because again, secret baby. But somewhere along the way, watching TK fall in love with Ace, back in love with Poppy, and tackling CTE, I did fall hard for this book. It was great and I would highly recommend, even if you, like me, don’t like the trope at all.
Biggest Disappointments of 2020
I don’t really want to dwell on why the following books disappointed me, so this list will contain only a brief explanation.
The Wallflower Wager by Tessa Dare
I was loving this book right up until there was suddenly a prior history of sexual abuse that didn’t feel like it was handled well and also that just… didn’t jive with the tone of the rest of the book.
The Serpent King by Jeff Zetner
My expectations for this book were probably too high, but also I felt like this was the YA equivalent to Hillbilly Elegy and I just didn’t care for the Appalachian representation at all.
When We Left Cuba by Chanel Cleeton
I think this was a case of my expectations after Next Year in Havana were just unlikely to be met, especially given what I wanted the book to be and what the book is didn’t align. (Aka, it’s me not the book.)
The Write Escape by Charish Reid
I really felt like this book could have used all of the opportunities it took to talk about the lack of representation in romance novels for Black women to shout out the voices that have been providing that rep for decades. I read it at a time where that was especially relevant in terms of social media conversations, so it irked me more than it may have otherwise.
99 Percent Mine by Sally Thorne
I think it’s rare that I dislike a heroine enough for it to actually affect my enjoyment of a book, but WOW, I did not like Darcy and more than that, I felt like the internal consistency was off with both Darcy and Tom.
Sweet Ruin by Kresley Cole
This one I place firmly at Sarah MacLean’s feet because the way she made it sound on Fated Mates, we would all love Sweet Ruin the most and I… just didn’t. So sorry, Sarah.
And there you have it! Six and six. What were your favorite surprises? And feel free to tell me why I’m wrong about my biggest disappointments in the comments as well. I don’t mind.