This might sound a little crazy, but I don’t go into every book expecting it to be a home run. This is especially true of the first books in new series. I get pulled in by pretty covers and recommendations, and sometimes I just try something new from an author I like.
I sit down to read hoping for a remarkable escape, but I’ve read so much that I know it’s more likely I’ll get an enjoyable journey. Maybe later in the series it will become addictive. Or maybe it did its job of distracting me for a few hours.
Regardless, I love when a book surprises me—when that one you’ve picked up without a clue of its potential for real awesomeness turns out to be brilliant.
Most recently, I was floored by Kresley Cole’s Poison Princess. One of the things that make Cole’s adult romance novels so addictive is the well-written and super-steamy sex scenes. That’s a primary reason many of us come back to the Immortals After Dark series over and over.
Poison Princess is Cole’s first young adult novel. That means no graphic sex. I just wasn’t sure about the whole thing. Even seeing good reviews from friends didn’t sway me. But since Kresley wrote it, I was willing to give it a read. The prose was clearly her voice from page one, and I thought to myself, “See, all those reviews were just fangirl swooning, because it feels like a Kresley book.”
Then, I kept reading. The world building was detailed and the visuals let me feel the book. The hero was alpha with emotional flaws to make him so damn desirable. In short, I finished the book and felt like an idiot for ever questioning that it would be good.
And I love that kind of surprise.
She’s not the only author who brought the sneak-attack wow. Kevin Hearne won me over damn near immediately with his first Iron Druid Chronicles novel Hounded. As a debut book in a new series I expected it to be heavy on setting the stage for future books. Hearne never gets bogged down in setting descriptions. We’re immersed in Atticus’s world with nuance.
The writing in Hounded is spry, keeping the reading rushing forward through the pages. Not only was I surprised at how quickly I finished the book, but also at how much I loved Atticus as a protagonist. I don’t read much fiction with male main characters, after all.
Sometimes surprises don’t come from new series, though. Maybe the best surprise was discovering just how strong Kim Harrison’s Pale Demon turned out. It’s hard to sustain a series as it nears the double digits. The longer the series goes, the more it can feel like the author is phoning it in. I got my copy of the ninth The Hollows novel expecting good, but not excellent. So, as I went on the supernatural equivalent of the Great American Road Trip in Pale Demon, I was floored. This was the Rachel Morgan I knew. This was why I loved this series. And somehow a book so far into the series is one of my favorites from Harrison.
What about you? What books caught you by surprise? Do you pick books up on a whim and hope to be surprised?
While Chelsea Mueller runs Vampire Book Club, she won’t turn down a sexy werewolf, demon or faerie. Her appreciation of Alexander Skarsgard is well documented. Bother her on Twitter — @ChelseaVBC — she likes it.