Great Expectations: Books That Failed, Books That Impressed, and the Book I’m Excited For

Last year, I made a similar blogpost – here – about five books I had read that disappointed me and five books I was excited to read this year. Sadly, of the list of five I wanted to read, I only got through one. It was another rocky road for reading, but not necessarily for lack of trying. Sometimes life kicks you when you’re already down.

According to Goodreads, I’ve read twenty-four books this year so far and averaged a rating of 3.29 stars. Better than my ratings last year, but not by much. Of them, I have compiled a list of three books I expected more from and two I underestimated. And at the end, I’ll have one book I’m hoping to read next year.

Three Books That Failed the Hype

1. Mask of Shadows by Linsey Miller

It’s not often that you find transgender rep in novels, less often still that this rep happens in fantasy. I’d heard Mask of Shadows get talked up for the longest time and decided that I had to read it.

Then I did. And I was so disappointed.

The entire book underwhelmed me, but by far the worst parts were the genderfluid rep and the world building. The plot itself was… mildly interesting. The characters were forgettable. Yet it made me scratch my head how Sal could be genderfluid and no one bat an eye, and yet (it seemed) being gay was still subject to the same homophobic nonsense we have in our world. I… don’t understand it at all.

Worse than that, however, was how… flawed Sal was? They had a “system” that while I guess works was rather underdeveloped and cisnormative. “If I wear a dress, call me a girl. If I were pants, call me a boy.” And that was another thing that confused me. They said if they weren’t dressed in a masculine or feminine fashion, that they were gender-neutral and went by “they” which is fine but… I mean I guess it works if they gender clothes differently than we do, but I doubt it considering how heavily they gender other articles of clothing.

In interviews, the author says she consulted trans people when writing Sal. Honestly, should’ve done more research.

2. This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab

I follow Schwab on Twitter, I’m pretty sure, or I follow someone that does. Point is, I’ve seen her around for a long time and her books have been quite hyped up. Without realizing, I bought more than one book by her – more books to read, I guess – and ended up reading this one first.

The basic idea itself was interesting? But it surrounds a lot of world building that I find… superficial. So much was left unexplained that it hindered the plot a bit. The characters fell flat a lot of the time, honestly. It wasn’t a terrible book, by any means, but it didn’t live up to the expectations I guess I had set out for it.

3. Rat City by Tyffani Clark Kemp

I talked this book up a lot last year in my list of books I was excited to read. It was also the only book in that list I ended up reading this year. And it was… not what I expected it to be.

I feel like I was promised a lot of things I didn’t end up getting. The world building was weird and the plot kept getting sidetracked by a romance arc I smelled from the first page. There were some unfortunate editing mistakes, both grammar-wise and on a grander scale. All of the things that I was thinking of when I first got this book are not what I ended up getting and… safe to say I was sorely disappointed. And while the ending is certainly not what I was expecting, by the time I got it, I was so disappointed that I don’t think I will be purchasing the sequel.

Two Books I Underestimated

1. Vicious by V. E. Schwab

After reading This Savage Song, I wasn’t sure what I could expect from this author anymore, but I still had this book in my library, so I decided to read it.

I’m glad I decided to give this author a second chance, because Vicious was fuckin’ incredible. Is it a perfect book? No, but certainly left quite a taste in my mouth. It has a lot of the aspects I love reading about and the characters are a blast to read about. It was a wild ride from start to finish that I devoured. I was so impressed, in fact, that I purchased the sequel as well. We’ll see if it too lives up to the hype.

2. The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

I don’t really know why I underestimated this book. Maybe it is the demographic this book is aimed at. Maybe it’s because I disagree with the author in some regards. In any case, I kidded myself into thinking this book wasn’t as good as it was.

And this book ended up being… wonderful.

This book has been in my life since high school. This year, a local queer organization I’m involved in decided for their book club, we’d start off with this. A good choice, honestly. The prose really makes you think. I like a lot the characters quirks. If I ever found my attention wavering, there was always something that quickly dragged me back. And while I guessed at a few of the twists, I didn’t fully expect them. It was nice to see.

Gotta say, though, that the summary is a bit misleading.

One Book I’m Excited to Read in 2020

We Hunt the Flame by Hafsah Faizal

This book has been sitting on my TBR all year and I’m itching to finally get my hands on it. Doesn’t help that my timeline has been talking about it virtually nonstop – means I think about it all the time! As soon as I can, I’m purchasing this book and setting to make it one of the first books I read in 2020. It has all the makings of a fantasy book I’d love to read, as well as some things I’ve not yet seen before.

Author: draconako

Alex is a queer writer, game-maker, and mountain of incomprehensible goo living in the Pacific Northwest. When they aren’t being paid to manage insurance accounts, they’re researching whatever interests them, reading from their arsenal of books, playing video games, or spending time with their partner. They can be reached at @draconako on most of the internet or at

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