Hello everyone! Long time no see lol. The holiday season has been crazy for me for a few reasons. I was feeling sick on and off for part of this month (it’s not covid but I think I’m getting better now), working, holiday stuff with family and honestly, not reading. I entered the worst reading slump right before the week of Thanksgiving and honestly, I haven’t pushed myself to try and read. With traveling, being busy and also not feeling well, I did a lot more video games and movies instead. But I’m back to share the 5 worst books and the 5 most disappointing books I read this year. I saw some people on Booktube do this kind of thing and I thought it was a fun idea. To me, there is a difference between something you REALLY disliked and one that disappointed you for whatever ones, but you don’t hate it. So without them being in order except for the number one spot, let’s jump to it!
Top 5 Worst Books of 2020
5. The Jewel Thief by Jeannie Mobley
This book centers around the Hope Diamond and the daughter of a famous gem cutter. Her father was supposed to fashion the famous diamond for King Louis XIV. But she’s imprisoned after trying to find someone who can help her father accomplish the task. This book has an intriguing plot idea with the famous gem and gem cutting itself. I really like historical fiction, but sadly, the writing style was horrible. This isn’t the author’s first book, but the writing was too dramatic, not descriptive enough and not engaging. The quality felt like a YA novel from the 1990’s that doesn’t hold up. Juliet is a pitiful protagonist who NEVER thinks through her plans, whines and stomps her foot and tries to get her way. I can respect her trying to help her father, but her actions never seemed genuinely brave or smart but the complete opposite. It also ended exactly like how I thought it would with the romance and the jewel’s outcome so the lack of any kind of mystery wasn’t fun. It was a chore to finish and one I don’t recommend.
4. The Empire of Dreams (Girl of Fire and Thorns #4) by Rae Carson
When I saw this book on Edelweiss, I was caught by surprise. I had no idea the author was continuing the series, so I requested it. We follow Red, told in Past and Present chapters, about her origins and how her fate ties with Queen Elisa from the original trilogy. I do acknowledge that I like Carson as a writer. Her Gold Seer series is fantastic (except for the last book) and the original Girl of Fire and Thorns trilogy is definitely worth reading. I will also say that the Past chapters were more compelling and offered enough interest to help me finish. BUT and I mean but, this was a complete cash grab and has yet another insufferable Mary Sue character. While Red was trained by palace soldiers in combat, she solves every problem, fights off every bad guy and constantly saves the day without any struggle. She’s so powerful and confident that she literally has no growth in this book. I felt bad for her due to her origin, since Carson doesn’t shy away from the girl’s harsh childhood. But it’s frustrating when a protagonist is so good at everything that they’ve already had their “growth” and that makes the book boring. Plus the way the story wrapped up was so lackluster and boring with no tension or real sense of danger. If you’re a diehard fan of the original trilogy, then you’ll enjoy some of this but personally, read the original series instead.
3. Forest of Souls (Shamanborn #1) by Lori M. Lee
This one kinda hurts guys. The cover is stunning and I love the idea of this book, which is why I got an ARC to try. Parts of the world were creepy and I like how the author let those creepy vibes fly so well. But sadly, this was another case of poorly done female friendship story and boring main character. We don’t get enough of Sirscha’s friend Saengo to care enough about her. When she dies and then is brought back, I felt nothing from it because honestly, their friendship didn’t get time to develop before that pivotal moment. We only get their friendship through dialogue and a couple moment of helping each other. It just wasn’t convincing for me. Plus I hated that Sirscha was so stubborn to someone who was going to teach what he knew of her powers. Why would you deny someone the chance to teach you about your new powers that are super rare and something you don’t understand? Sirscha can’t afford to be picky like that with all that happens in the book. Plus the pacing was a little off and after the ending, I just didn’t care. I wish all of the best for the author but I’ll try something else by her in the future.
2. Havenfall #1 by Sara Holland
A magical hotel with an attempted murder on the shorter side? This book sounded really cool and it was a quick read during the summer. While I do love that the hotel is set in the Rocky Mountains, this book was too short and really needed some more character work. I feel like the magical hotel and the different fantasy creature alliances weren’t utilized enough. This book focused WAY too much on the horribly thin “love triangle” instead of trying to figure out the assassination attempt on Maddie’s uncle. Her romantic distractions felt very misguided by the author and kept the story from reaching its potential. Nothing really happens with this plot thread until the last 70 pages of the book. That kills any tension you build up with this intruder and assassination attempt! So by the time the author finally gets back to the main story, so much time has happened that I was just impatient to finish. Plus Maddie is a very forgettable protagonist who was very wooden in personality and thought. I kept thinking: Why was she the protagonist for this book? WHAT makes her so interesting? I couldn’t find anything in the story that answered those questions. And while the story ends on a cliffhanger, I’m not interested in continuing. This has so much wasted potential and kinda turns me off from the author’s other duology.
1. Where Dreams Descend #1 by Janella Angeles
Yeah….this had to go on this worst list. I gave this book 2 tries, one with the audio book and the other with the physical ARC. The fact that I gave this two tries and felt both confused and utterly exasperated at the same time isn’t a good sign. I do want to try the author again for sure, since I do give an author 2 tries if I see potential. But this book utterly frustrated me with the writing style that doesn’t help you in any way! Things are written lushly but very vague at the same time. Plus, you have a protagonist that has powers and is confident but she’s unlikable and honestly felt like another Mary Sue. We see NO vulnerability or flaw about her at all with the 150ish pages I read/listened to. She keeps acting like she’s the best and doesn’t care about anyone. I can’t see how anyone can fall in love her due to her very cold personality. Plus, with what I did listen to, I knew there was the competition starting and that men are stuffed shirts and terrible blah blah blah but…that’s all there was. There wasn’t anything happening in the background that offered any fun tidbits to keep me interested. I could see the elements of both Moulin Rogue and Phantom which inspired the author but again, it wasn’t compelling enough. Everything felt confusing and there’s a booktuber I love watching and she says that hardly any questions are answered in this book. So knowing that, I’m turned off completely. This was sadly the book that made me mad.
Top 5 Disappointing Books
5. Tunnel of Bones (Cassidy Blake #2) by Victoria Schwab
I really enjoyed the first book in this spooky middle grade series, so I was excited to finally listen to this one around Halloween time. While the Paris catacombs (is it capitalized?) is one place I really want to visit in real life, this book was so flat and boring compared to the first one. We don’t get enough haunted sites and history in this book in France compared to Scotland. Plus the “villain” was much weaker than the first book and it took Cassidy and Jacob forever to figure it out. The story kept dragging on until the end. The last scene however was great and seems like a great setup for the third book, which I hope is an improvement. This was short but not as fun.
4. Eventide by Sarah Goodman
With this cover looking like Cat Winters book, I was really excited for this. I even got a physical ARC from a local book club I’m apart of. But while the beautiful cover hints at a ghost story, that is true but it wasn’t as creepy as I’d hoped. We follow Verity and her sister in 1907. Verity’s younger sister gets adopted by a family, so Verity gets hired on a farm hand to stay close to her sister until she’s eighteen. Verity is a booksmart girl who dreams of college and desperately wants her own place in the world. But she stumbles on a haunted wood and ghost story that might involve her family. While I do admit that the deeper roots of the ghost story was interesting, this book lacked the creep factor and scares. There’s only a few “scare” scenes and that’s it. Plus there is a clean romance that also distracted the darker plot of the story. There is one element at the end of the novel that was a nice surprise and I also think the farm couple that Verity helps were good people. I think the author captured the Arkansas town very well. But with the lack of scares, creep factor and too simple of writing, this debut was sadly forgettable and I recommend other creepy historical fiction instead.
3. The Life Below (The Final Six #2) by Alexandra Monir
I listened and read the first book and liked the space camp aspect. I liked how creative the author was with this story and you can tell she really did her research of space travel and what that could be like. So I was hopeful that the second and final book would satisfy that mystery of the planet they were heading to to help Earth. Sadly…this book TOOK FOREVER to get to the other planet. So much of this book could’ve been trimmed of extra filler in order for the ending to be satisfying. The group gets to their destination in the last 50 pages or so, then there’s a hint of danger and then it just speeds forward for a bit of a future look and then it’s over. So much is glossed over as far as tension and characters easily get away with things and don’t struggle very much. This book is less than 400 pages but really needed some extra work on the pacing. I wanted a longer period of time of them being on that planet, exploring and accomplishing their goal. But it doesn’t feel important and with that being glossed over, I was very confused of why this was even a series in the first place.
2. The Paper Girl of Paris by Jordyn Taylor
Oh boy did I have a rant about this book when I reviewed it earlier this year. We follow a girl who goes to Paris with her parents after her mysterious grandmother dies, leaving the protagonist her old apartment. Her grandmother never talked about her old life; she married an American solider after WWII and never looked back. So when clothes and a diary is found of her grandmother’s aunt, Alice is determined to find out what happened to her grandmother’s family. We also get Adalyn’s chapters, Alice’s aunt and her view of the Nazi’s in France during the war. While there were moments in Adalyn’s chapters that I admired her bravery for the things she accomplished, other parts just felt lacking in more emotion. Plus, Alice’s modern day chapters were extremely frustrating. I seriously hate when authors introduce a romance to distract the main storyline from happening. A good chunk of this book is about Alice pining over this French boy who decides to help her. THEN, we have a plot point of mental illness that abhorrently treated! This mental illness is never explored and treated like it’s almost nothing until the end. The author did a terrible job at bringing this to light. It’s just shoved under the rug until the end of the book and then it’s carefully talked about and that makes it better? NO! This plot line that is so terribly treated is one huge issue I had where I can’t recommend this book for historical fiction fans. Read Julie Berry or Ruta Sepetys instead. This book isn’t good. You can check out my review for the full rant if you’re more curious lol.
1. Obsidio (Illuminae Files #3) by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
THIS ONE HURTS SO MUCH! I listened to the trilogy this year and the audio books are DEFINITELY the way to go. After the masterpiece that was Gemina, I was beyond stoked with how this beloved series ended. While I like that we get to see what’s happening on the ground at Kerenza, part of me was just vastly disappointed by how this book couldn’t juggle all that was going on. I wonder if this needed to be four books or something because you’d get too many things happening at once and not feeling like some things were given the time they needed to be developed, resolved and or feel intense or emotional. Plus the final confrontation at the end was just so cheesy and unsatisfying coming from an author duo that I really like. I think they could’ve done a lot better with the final scene. I also personally feel like that having a romance in EVERY book to focus on was too much for this last book. I think it would’ve been better to have Asha and Rhys just be allies with hints of more. Their romance distracted the intense moments that should’ve had more punch. This book was too packed to feel like an explosive finale.
There we have it! What were your worst and most disappointing books this year? Are any of these on your list? Let me know in the comments!