Happy Friday, everyone!
As promised, I’m following up on my favorite books of 2021 by giving you my least favorites!
Evil as I undoubtedly am, this post is always one of my favorite yearly wrap-up posts to write. Because who doesn’t love a good old rant?
This time, however, we’re going to do things a bit differently. In previous years, I’ve always split this post into two parts: one covering books I absolutely loathed, and one covering books that ended up letting me down, even if I didn’t necessarily hate them. But in 2021, my most disappointing books generally coincided with my most hated ones. Yes, there were a couple that I had really been anticipating but ended up being kind of mediocre – The Library of the Unwritten, Interference, The Obelisk Gate, and Piranesi come to mind – but they were still enjoyable enough that I wouldn’t call them truly disappointing.
That’s why, this year, you’re getting only one list. A list of my top ten least favorite, most despised books of 2021, which also happens to encompass 2021’s biggest let-downs. I had high hopes for the majority of these, so having them turn out so awful nearly crushed my soul 😭
(Although I suppose I can’t complain too much, since I did not have a true one-star read for the second year in a row… I did give 1.5-stars to one of the books on this list, but the rest had at least a few redeemable qualities that put them into a solid two-star range 😁 Still, I wouldn’t recommend any of them!)
🙄 My Least Favorite and Most Disappointing Books of 2021 🙄
#1 A Heart So Fierce and Broken by Brigid Kemmerer
(read in March)
Although A Heart So Fierce and Broken probably isn’t the worst book I read last year, it is, without a doubt, the book I loathed the most. I HATED it with a flaming passion; so yes, it 100% deserves its number one spot on this list 😤
It is the perfect example of what not to do in a sequel – while A Curse So Dark and Lonely was heartwarming, entertaining, and one of the most original fairy-tale retellings I’ve ever read, A Heart So Fierce and Broken did its very best to destroy everything its predecessor had introduced. Best friends turned into raving lunatics willing to murder each other for no discernable reason, our previously headstrong protagonist became a bleating sheep, and if all men transferred their affections from one woman to the next as quickly as they did in this book, I’d seriously fear for the state of humanity. And don’t even get me started on the plot holes… 🙄
Honestly, this book felt like a horribly failed attempt at a jigsaw puzzle, like someone was trying to force pieces together that just didn’t fit. Like the author had so desperately wanted to write another story set in this world that she didn’t even pause to consider that her characters and plot weren’t compatible with the idea she’d come up with.
A Heart So Fierce and Broken had good writing. But apart from that, it was awful.
#2 Deeds of Men by Marie Brennan
(read in July)
If there weren’t also gems like Silver in the Wood and Drowned Country out there, Deeds of Men might have made me lose faith in novellas entirely. While I absolutely adored the first Onyx Court book and really liked the second book as well, Deeds of Men was so traumatizingly boring that I still haven’t found it in me to continue on with the series 😅
Seriously, even though this wasn’t even a hundred pages long, I almost fell asleep multiple times reading it!!! Instead of a sweet side story that would have given us more depth to the characters, Deeds of Men felt like a failed attempt to squeeze the plot of a 600-page novel into a tenth of that length. It was super rushed, confusing, gave us little to no character depth, and included so many historical info-dumps that my brain eventually refused to process the information.
Any merits the novella had could easily have been squeezed into the main series – which, for those you who don’t know, follows a secret fae court beneath London over the span of several centuries – and I seriously do not understand why Deeds of Men was necessary.
#3 Der Schimmelreiter by Theodor Storm
[English title: The Dykemaster / The Dikegrave / The Rider on the White Horse]
(read in December)
While I ultimately loathe A Heart So Fierce and Broken and Deeds of Men more because of how badly they ended up disappointing me, getting through Der Schimmelreiter was probably the worst reading experience I had in all of 2021. I do not, for the life of me, fathom why so many people think this novella is a beautifully haunting ghost story!!
Seriously, did all of you read a different book?? THIS WAS SO BORING!!! First off, there were two frame narratives that had absolutely nothing to do with the main story, kept interrupting it, and making it really confusing, and second, I just wasn’t interested in a selfish cat-murderer’s dyke-building obsession! I loathed the protagonist, I loathed that the other characters didn’t loathe him, and I loathed how mind-numbingly boring this was. In all honesty, I think Der Schimmelreiter might have overtaken Homo faber to become my most hated German classic of all time 😬
#4 The Steerswoman by Rosemary Kirstein
(read in January)
“Brilliant idea, horrible execution,” pretty much sums up my thoughts on The Steerswoman. You go into this thinking that you’re reading a traditional fantasy story, but then it turns out to be something else entirely.
The premise of this book – pure genius. The rest – not so great. The writing was awfully clunky and kept distracting me from the story I was reading. The characters were hardly fleshed out at all and had incredibly unrealistic relationship and character arcs. The plot was so straightforward that I had pretty much guessed everything of relevance fifty pages in.
I recommend you steer clear of this one.
#5 A Court of Frost and Starlight by Sarah J. Maas
(read in December)
Granted, I’ve never had a particularly high opinion of Sarah J. Maas’ books to begin with. I mainly read them when I’m so overworked that I want to kill my remaining braincells with mindless smut and entertainingly ridiculous plots and writing…
A Court of Frost and Starlight, however, did not even have a plot. It was about a bunch of horny and narcissistic rulers lounging around and worrying about what to give to each other as
Christmas, oh, sorry, Midwinter presents while their subjects suffered from their failures to enact protective policies.
Also, the sex scenes 😳🤢🤮 There are a number of things I could have happily lived my life without knowing, and Rhysand planning for months how to best bang Feyre in the sky was one of them. THIS IS NOT ROMANTIC, ALL YOU RHYSAND-FANS OUT THERE, IT IS CREEPY AND POSSESSIVE AS HELL!!!
#6 Komm, ich erzähl dir eine Geschichte by Jorge Bucay
[original title: Déjame que te cuente; English title: Let Me Tell You a Story: A New Approach to Healing Through the Art of Storytelling]
(read in November)
This book, in all of its belittling therapeuticness, seriously creeped me out. Written by an Argentinian gestalt psychotherapist, it follows a fictional patient called Demian through a series of therapy sessions with none other than Jorge Bucay, the oh-so-fat and oh-so-amazing author of this book.
And before you call me out on being rude – that isn’t my opinion. That’s how the author describes himself. Through the eyes of his patient 🙈 Yes, you understood me correctly – this book is written in first person, but the narrator is not Jorge Bucay. It’s his patient Demian, who never loses an opportunity to comment on Jorge’s all-knowingness, obesity, and seemingly crazy addiction to maté tea. I don’t know about you, but writing a book with a self-insert version of yourself that you continuously praise while simultaneously making degrading comments about their body strikes me as a little weird!!!
Furthermore, each of Demian’s sessions consist of Jorge Bucay telling him a story. And while I liked the stories themselves, I absolutely HATED how Jorge Bucay (both the author and the fictional one) had to spell out their metaphorical meaning for us. I mean, with Demian coming to his therapist with a certain problem and each of the stories having a very specific moral, you’d think we’d be able to make the intended connection ourselves… But noooooooo. Readers are dumb, so obviously, fat Jorge needs to share his wisdom with them in his amazing all-knowingness 🙄
#7 Bad Monkey by Carl Hiaasen
(read in September)
How??? How can the same author who wrote so many of my favorite YA novels have come up with the mess that is Bad Monkey??! I am genuinely at a loss.
While Bad Monkey still had traces of Carl Hiaasen’s wacky Floridian humor, most of it consisted of really weird attempts to write about people’s affairs, unsavory practices that go on behind the scenes in restaurants, and lots and lots of sex. Like, really weird sex 🙈🙈🙈 Forget Rhysand gloriously making love to Feyre above Velaris, here, we have people doing it on a mortician’s examination table, coming to a hurricane tearing off the roof above their heads, or to a monkey greedily eying their genitalia…
In all honesty, I am way more traumatized by Bad Monkey‘s sex scenes than the murder mystery that this novel was supposed to be about. And when you add its admittedly pretty flat characters to the mix, it doesn’t really get any better 😅
#8 XOXO by Axie Oh
(read in July)
I had such high hopes for this one, because how could a story about a cellist crushing on a K-pop star while studying abroad in South Korea be anything but adorably cute? Apparently, in a lot of ways.
To be honest, the only thing I liked about XOXO was its portrayal of Korean culture. The descriptions of Seoul and its people intensified my travel lust a thousandfold, and pretty much every mention of food had me drooling 😍 But the story? The romance and friendships came out of nowhere, and all the drama was completely unnecessary.
What absolutely made me detest this book, however, was its portrayal of classical music 😤 XOXO read like the only amount of research Axie Oh had bothered to do was doing a quick google search. There were so many mistakes and inconsistencies that I was pretty much rolling my eyes every time anything cello-related came up. But you know what made me really furious?!? The fact that this novel, like so many others out there, portrays classical musicians as weird, antisocial, elitist snobs with no sense of fun who look down on any other musicians out there 😡 You do realize, Axie Oh, that many people reading this book might actually play an instrument themselves and were hoping to see a nuanced representation of something they love deeply, rather than a hastily jumbled together assortment of stereotypes used as a plot device?
#9 The Bridge of Little Jeremy by Indrajit Garai
It pains me to put this novel on the list, since the author seemed like a genuinely nice person when he reached out through a friend and asked me to review it – but I just didn’t think this was a particularly great book 🙈
While the premise about a Parisian boy and his dog stumbling upon a mystery while trying to save their family from financial ruin sounded genuinely intriguing, its execution soon left me feeling bored. Both the characters and the themes the story touched upon were only superficially explored, and the plot was very straightforward. What annoyed me the most, however, was the protagonist. Jeremy was so utterly perfect that I had a hard time not despising him. And the way he talked!!! The way this story was written, you would have thought the narrator was a sixty-year-old tax lawyer rather than a twelve-year-old boy 🙄
Overall, I was not a fan. I liked the descriptions of Paris and the ending, but that was about it.
#10 In a Holidaze by Christina Lauren
(read in April)
Although it is miles better than anything else on this list, In a Holidaze was still a huge letdown for me. Christina Lauren is one of my go-to romance authors – or, to be more precise, author-duos – and I’ve loved everything else of theirs that I’ve read.
In a Holidaze, though, was, in my opinion, bland and uninspired. A Christmas romance with a Groundhog Day twist, this story has got to be the most boring execution of the character-gets-to-live-the-same-day(s)-over-and-over-again trope I have ever read. Seriously, the authors did absolutely nothing with it! The protagonist didn’t gain any additional insights, there were no causality paradoxes, and nobody thought the time loop thing was at all strange when the affected character brought it up in casual conversation. Which makes me ask: Why was this trope even there in the first place?
In my opinion, this book would have been so much better if it had stuck to being a regular contemporary romance. Without the magical realism elements taking up unnecessary space, the authors might have been able to flesh out the plot and characters more and made me feel truly invested.
Alright, rant over 😂
If you haven’t had enough yet and are craving more complaining, you can always go and check out my least favorites from previous years
or tell me about your own worst books of 2021 in the comments below!
As always, I’d love to know if you’ve read any of these, whether you agree with my assessments on them, or what the most terrible book you read last year was! Did you have any one-star books this year? Was anything boring enough to make you DNF it? I’m super curious, so feel free to spill all the tea 😁🤗