Hey everyone! Welcome to the second installment of Expectations vs. Reality. If you’re new, this is a series where I tell you whether my highly anticipated releases lived up to my expectations. This year’s list is much shorter and only includes nine books because I still haven’t read Starsight by Brandon Sanderson. I’m waiting for my library to get a copy. Anyways, if you missed the 2018 edition, you can check it out here. The books are listed in publication order and covers are linked to Goodreads. I hope you enjoy!
1. The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi
This book was highly recommended to me and the early reviews were kind of mixed. A lot of reviewers compared it to Six of Crows, which made me really excited because I love books with strong friend groups/ found family.
Reality ➼ The magic system is kind of confusing and it reads like a sequel more than a first book in a series, but I still loved this. The representation is pretty amazing and this book gave me Haitian rep in YA fantasy, which is something I never imagined. You can see me squeal about that in my review.
TGW gets a bad rep and I think it’s unfairly compared to Six of Crows. Yes, there’s a heist and crew, but it’s more National Treasure/The Da Vinci Code. Can’t wait to read the sequel!
2. The Kingdom of Copper by S.A. Chakraborty
Even though I read this in 2018 because I received an early copy, I still had it on my most anticipated list. I couldn’t wait for it to be out in the world.
Reality ➼ Okay, this is cheating because I read this book in 2018. BUT it didn’t come out until 2019 so I still had it on my most anticipated list. I expected this to be good, but I didn’t expect it to THE BEST DAMN SEQUEL. I can’t wait for the conclusion, The Empire of Gold. 5/5 stars.
3. King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo
I had really high expectations for King of Scars because Leigh Bardugo is one of my favorite authors.
Reality ➼ Unfortunately, it left me with so much disappointment and I’m sure if you listen closely, you can still hear me shading the fuck out of it. This was a meandering mess that could’ve benefited from another round of edits. I adore Bardugo but, sadly, she’s 0-for-2 this year. 2.5/5 stars
4. We Hunt the Flame by Hafsah Faizal
My interest piqued because this book seemed kind of thematically similar to An Ember in the Ashes. Also, the male protagonist sounded a little like Elias (An Empire in the Ashes). I expected lots of feels and pain from this one.
Reality ➼ Unfortunately, I couldn’t get through this at all. I struggled with it for two months before making the decision to set it aside for good. I was really bored and the characters were kind of flat. The writing was impressive, but overly descriptive for me and the pacing was too slow. DNFed @ 115 pages.
5. The Bride Test by Helen Hoang
I read The Kiss Quotient in January and absolutely loved it so I jumped at the opportunity to read and review The Bride Test.
Reality ➼ I enjoyed The Bride Test tremendously. The beginning was kind of slow and took a while to get into, but overall it was such a cute and fun story that I found even more endearing after I read the author’s note at the end of the book. My only gripe with this was Esme’s lack of boundaries in the beginning. There were times when I felt like she didn’t respect Khai’s personal space/boundaries and that bothered me. 4.5/5 stars.
6. With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo
The Poet X was one of my favorite books last year so I was really excited to see what Elizabeth Acevedo cooked up (no pun intended) with this new release.
Reality ➼ With the Fire on High was a beautiful slice-of-life novel with a stunning cover. We follow the MC, Emoni, in her senior year of high school as she tackles motherhood, high school, family, co-parenting, and her dreams of becoming a chef. She’s surrounded by an amazing support system, which includes her abuela, her best friend, a few teachers and other characters we meet along the way. 4/5 stars.
7. Aurora Rising by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
Aurora Rising broke the internet. Not only were people up trying to pre-order a special edition of this like Beyoncé tickets, but some were acting uncouth on Twitter for those sprayed edges. Regardless, I heard great things about this book. Even though I had only read Illuminae by this writing duo, I was really excited to read this and even placed a library hold weeks before the release.
Reality ➼ I expected so much more more from Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff. The plot was just okay, the writing seemed younger than its intended audience, the humor forced, and the action scenes were boring. The book depends on its characters to carry the story, but it didn’t do that effectively because the characters were underdeveloped. The only character POV I enjoyed was Finian, which is why I ended up giving this 2/5 stars.
8. The Dragon Republic by R.F. Kuang
The Poppy War was on of my favorite books last year so I couldn’t wait to read the sequel. I couldn’t wait to see what shit Rin got herself into and I expected this to be grimdark-er than The Poppy War.
Reality ➼ The Dragon Republic is one of the best books I’ve read this year. I can’t talk about how much the ending rocked me because I don’t want to spoil anything. However, I will say that if you’re invested in this story, you’re not ready. Part I was kind of slow and the writing felt unfamiliar but once the book hits its stride in part II, it never took its foot off my neck. I can’t wait for the final installment. 5/5 stars.
9. The Toll by Neal Shusterman
This is the only book on this list that I haven’t really talked about on here and that’s because I didn’t discover this series until April of this year. I devoured Scythe and Thunderhead and couldn’t wait to read The Toll.
Reality ➼ Unfortunately, this book didn’t live up to my expectations of it. I liked it, but I think it could’ve been better. I went into this expecting Citra and Rowan to have a big role, but there wasn’t enough of them. On top of that, I wasn’t a fan of the tonists in this. I ended up rating it 3.5/5 stars.