I do that ALL the time. And, usually, I'm pretty pleasantly surprised by what I find so I put together...
Top Five I-Was-Not-Expecting-That Books
From GoodReads: The Garretts are everything the Reeds are not. Loud, numerous, messy, affectionate. And every day from her balcony perch, seventeen-year-old Samantha Reed wishes she was one of them . . . until one summer evening, Jase Garrett climbs her terrace and changes everything. As the two fall fiercely in love, Jase's family makes Samantha one of their own. Then in an instant, the bottom drops out of her world and she is suddenly faced with an impossible decision. Which perfect family will save her? Or is it time she saved herself?
What I was expecting: Quaint summer romance and a secret that tears the main character and her love interest apart. Reviewers on GoodReads kept comparing it to Sarah Dessen so I thought the romance would be sweet (which it is) and PG.
What I found instead: So...this book is HOT! Like, Jennifer Echols hot. Don't let that pretty yellow cover fool you, there are very sexy scenes in this one. Mind you, they are all still PG-13 and very fade-to-black, but there were a few jaw-dropping moments for me. Well done, Huntley. Well done!
Incarnate, Jodi Meadows
From GoodReads: Ana is new. For thousands of years in Range, a million souls have been reincarnated over and over, keeping their memories and experiences from previous lifetimes. When Ana was born, another soul vanished, and no one knows why. Even Ana's own mother thinks she's a nosoul, an omen of worse things to come, and has kept her away from society. To escape her seclusion and learn whether she'll be reincarnated, Ana travels to the city of Heart, but its citizens are afraid of what her presence means. When dragons and sylph attack the city, is Ana to blame? Sam believes Ana's new soul is good and worthwhile. When he stands up for her, their relationship blooms. But can he love someone who may live only once, and will Ana's enemies—human and creature alike—let them be together? Ana needs to uncover the mistake that gave her someone else's life, but will her quest threaten the peace of Heart and destroy the promise of reincarnation for all?
What I was expecting: I knew it was a fantasy and there would be dragons and reincarnation and probably fighting or running or swords. Possibly magic.
What I found instead: This book gets a lot of attention for the masquerade scene, but I would like to address The Honey. Yes, the honey. You see, Ana is an adorable main character. She's grown up incredibly sheltered and has experienced pretty much nothing in her short 18 years compared to everyone's thousands of incarnated years. It's awesome watching her taking off on her own and experiencing the world around her. Also, there is this wonderful, adorable scene where Sam gives her a jar of honey and it's basically the sweetest thing I've ever read.
Something Like Normal, Trish Doller
From GoodReads: When Travis returns home from a stint in Afghanistan, his parents are splitting up, his brother’s stolen his girlfriend and his car, and he’s haunted by nightmares of his best friend’s death. It’s not until Travis runs into Harper, a girl he’s had a rocky relationship with since middle school, that life actually starts looking up. And as he and Harper see more of each other, he begins to pick his way through the minefield of family problems and post-traumatic stress to the possibility of a life that might resemble normal again. Travis’s dry sense of humor, and incredible sense of honor, make him an irresistible and eminently lovable hero.
What I was expecting: Uh, what were you expecting? Trish Doller not to make one of my Top 5 lists? When I first picked up Something Like Normal, I thought it was going to be a straight military romance. Think Dear John. With Channing. I mean, Travis.
What I found instead: This book has so much depth and character development and heart. The sexy romp I was anticipating became so much more. The situation Travis' comes home to from Afganistan is so relatable, and the supporting characters felt familiar and real. I know I joke about Travis being my book boyfriend (he is) and how I love Harper for punching him in the face (I do), but I think what I really love about this book is how real it feels and how Trish pulls you right into a contemporary story that could easily be happening as close to you as next door.
Jellicoe Road, Melina Marchetta
From GoodReads: Abandoned by her mother on Jellicoe Road when she was eleven, Taylor Markham 17, finally confronts her past. Hannah, the closest adult she has to family, disappears. Jonah Griggs, moody stares and all, is back in town. If Taylor can put together the pieces of her past, she might just be able to change her future.
What I was expecting: Everyone (*Ahem* DAHLIA) kept saying "just get past the first 100 confusing pages and it starts to get really good." No one defined what "good" was though.
What I found instead: Um, I did not expect to CRY MY ASS OFF! And then email Agent Lauren at 1:30 in the morning confessing that I was sobbing in bed and it was all her fault for making me read this book. It's the good kind of cry though, the kind that rips into your soul and makes you feel all the feels. Read this one.
The Girl Who Chased The Moon, Sarah Addison Allen
From GoodReads: Emily Benedict has come to Mullaby, North Carolina, hoping to solve at least some of the riddles surrounding her mother’s life. But the moment Emily enters the house where her mother grew up and meets the grandfather she never knew, she realizes that mysteries aren’t solved in Mullaby, they’re a way of life: Here are rooms where the wallpaper changes to suit your mood. Unexplained lights skip across the yard at midnight. And a neighbor, Julia Winterson, bakes hope in the form of cakes, not only wishing to satisfy the town’s sweet tooth but also dreaming of rekindling the love she fears might be lost forever. Can a hummingbird cake really bring back a lost love? Is there really a ghost dancing in Emily’s backyard? The answers are never what you expect. But in this town of lovable misfits, the unexpected fits right in.
What I was expecting: I had read The Sugar Queen and was expecting Sarah's wonderful blend of magical realism. I also knew cakes were involved.
What I found instead: My absolute, favorite book ever. It's not a YA, which is why I've never blogged about it before, but you know the feeling you get when you find your perfect book? This one is mine. The Girl Who Chased The Moon is sweet and quiet, the characters are warm and perfectly broken. But I think the theme of trying to find home is so perfectly done and kept me out at night looking up into the sky at the moon.
It's also home to my favorite quote ever (and, if it weren't so damn long, I'd have it tattooed on my body): "I'm homesick all the time. I just don't know where home is. There's this promise of happiness out there. I know it. I even feel it sometimes. But it's like chasing the moon–just when I think I have it, it disappears into the horizon. I grieve and try to move on, but then the damn thing comes back the next night, giving me hope of catching it all over again."
Those are my Top Five I-Was-Not-Expecting-That books. What are yours?