My Least Favorite and Most Disappointing Books of 2021

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 ๐Ÿ˜ญ

(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 ๐Ÿ˜ Still, I wouldn’t recommend any of them!)


๐Ÿ™„ My Least Favorite and Most Disappointing Books of 2021 ๐Ÿ™„


#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 ๐Ÿ˜ค

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… ๐Ÿ™„

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 ๐Ÿ˜…

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 ๐Ÿ˜ฌ


#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 ๐Ÿ˜ณ๐Ÿคข๐Ÿคฎ 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 erzรคhl dir eine Geschichte by Jorge Bucay

[original title: Dรฉjame que te cuente; English title: Let Me Tell You a StoryA 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 ๐Ÿ™ˆ 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 matรฉ 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 ๐Ÿ™„


#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 ๐Ÿ™ˆ๐Ÿ™ˆ๐Ÿ™ˆ 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 ๐Ÿ˜…


#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 ๐Ÿ˜ 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 ๐Ÿ˜ค 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 ๐Ÿ˜ก 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

(read in November; full review here)

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 ๐Ÿ™ˆ

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 ๐Ÿ™„

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 ๐Ÿ˜‚

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 ๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿค—

31 thoughts on “My Least Favorite and Most Disappointing Books of 2021

    • abookowlscorner says:

      I knoooow ๐Ÿ˜ญ๐Ÿ˜ญ๐Ÿ˜ญ Why couldn’t I just have loved it as much as everyone else did?? But seriously, all the music inconsistencies irked me so much!!!

      Still, if it sounds like something you’d like, don’t let petty old me get in the way ๐Ÿ˜‚ I’m the minority here, remember?

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Riddhi B. says:

    I literally haven’t read any of these books๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚
    But I was going to read ACOTAR (someday), but I am really having second thoughts, because literally everyone I see/read their posts/talk to is like, no I hate it, and well, Rhysand is either loved or hated, and all the doings of his that I’ve read about, I am like, no.

    And XOXO- well I was gonna read it, because everyone loves it, but well, idk, now….

    And ooh, I am sorry that Christina Lauren didn’t work out- I mean I’ve read two of their books, and I liked them! But I get the thing about authors switching genres and the novel not working out.

    Great post Naemi!

    Liked by 2 people

    • abookowlscorner says:

      Well, I’d definitely say you’re very lucky to have escaped these so far, Riddhi ๐Ÿ˜‚
      But I also have some pretty unpopular opinions, so maybe don’t put too much faith in them, either ๐Ÿ˜„

      And ACOTAR – well, it’s definitely a ride ๐Ÿคฃ๐Ÿคฃ๐Ÿคฃ I actually did like A Court of Mist and Fury (although it isn’t a literary masterpiece either) but the rest of the books in that series… ๐Ÿ˜ณ Still, if you ever need mind-numbing entertainment, I suppose they’re not bad ๐Ÿ˜‚ Though you could also just watch Cindy’s reading vlogs – in my opinion, they sum up pretty much everything of relevance in those books ๐Ÿ˜œ

      As for XOXO, I do seem to be the only person in the world who didn’t like it, so maybe I’m just being petty ๐Ÿ˜… If you do read it, I hope you’ll like it a lot more than me!

      And the Christina Lauren book was definitely a dud! I’ve read at least five of their books by now (I’m too lazy to check if I’m remembering all of them at the moment ๐Ÿ˜‚) and loved each and every one, except In a Holidaze. So I definitely wouldn’t give up on them!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Nehal Jain says:

    A rant was just the kind of post I needed on a day as awful as this…I recently caught a fever and its gone now but I feel weak and like everything sucks so… Thannks for posting this awesome rant. ๐Ÿ˜‚
    Forgive me for not commenting something long๐Ÿ˜“

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Divya Vartika says:

    Wow oh Wow…

    I have never had so much fun reading a rant about books before. I am feeling a little guilty in finding so much amusement in your disappointments. I particularly enjoyed your misfortunes with such sex scenes. I loved loved loved the way you described them.

    Coming to the books – I have to admit that I have never even heard about even a single one of them before reading your post. But I am super intrigued in checking few of them just based on your lovely rant.

    I wish you a very happy new year and hope that you get to read more amazing AND disastrous books this year too.

    Liked by 1 person

    • abookowlscorner says:

      I’m glad at least one person was able to find pleasure in my suffering ๐Ÿคฃ Seriously, though – those sex scenes were beyond traumatizing! ๐Ÿคข๐Ÿคข๐Ÿคข I was starting to feel genuinely concerned for some of these authors and couldn’t help but wonder if they let their respective partners read their books… ๐Ÿค”

      I’m not so sure whether I really want any more disasterous books this year, though ๐Ÿ˜… I’m more than happy to just take the happy new year and the amazing ones! But since you seem to be genuinely intrigued by some of these, I hope you hate them as much as you’re hoping to! ๐Ÿคฃ

      A happy new year to you, too, Divya!

      Like

  4. booksfromtenelan says:

    I have to agree with you regarding number 1. I really liked a curse so dark and lonely, like you said as well it was sweet and I even liked the characters. Then I started book 2 and I was so confused because everyone changed so suddenly and there didn’t seem to be a reason behind it. I don’t know if you have read book 3, but it gets even worse there…

    Liked by 1 person

    • abookowlscorner says:

      I’m so relieved someone agrees with me on this!!! I’ve seen people rave and rave about this series, but I just don’t understand ๐Ÿ™ˆ Are they so blinded by their love for A Curse So Dark and Lonely that they can’t see the sequels’ obvious flaws??

      I actually haven’t read book three, though! After the horribleness of book two, I was very on the fence about continuing, although I did love the first book enough to seriously consider it… But after what you’ve told me, I think I’ll probably steer clear! ๐Ÿ˜…๐Ÿ˜‚

      Liked by 1 person

      • booksfromtenelan says:

        I know!! I am always surprised when people say they loved the entire series๐Ÿ˜‚ I think I have heard people enjoyed the friends to enemies trope, and I guess it was a good idea, but the execution was so random. Things changed and I couldn’t understand why, and in book 3 I was just super confused because every single thing the characters did felt random and just convenient to the story๐Ÿ˜‚ That said, if you want to still give it a try, you might be one of those people who like the ending!

        Liked by 1 person

        • abookowlscorner says:

          Yes! I have nothing against the friends-to-enemies trope, especially since we don’t really see it all that often, but THERE HAS TO BE A REASON FOR THEM TO START HATING EACH OTHER! Here, everyone’s feelings just somehow magically changed ๐Ÿ™ˆ
          And lol, even if the ending turned out to be amazing, I don’t think I want to put myself through another book of random, plot-convenient character actions… ๐Ÿ˜…

          Like

  5. Simran says:

    Ok so I havent read any of these books except In a holidaze and ACOFAS and in both cases I agree with you they aren’t great ACOFAS was a major letdown and I was expecting so much more from Christina Lauren

    Liked by 1 person

    • abookowlscorner says:

      I mean, not that that I’m glad you didn’t enjoy those books… but I’m so happy I’m not alone! ๐Ÿค— Seriously, after all of the amazingness Christina Lauren have put out, In a Holidaze was such a flop! And ACOFAS managing to underwhelm my already far-from-high expectations is also an achievement ๐Ÿคฃ

      Liked by 1 person

    • abookowlscorner says:

      I’m glad you had fun! ๐Ÿคฃ At least the pain I put myself through while reading these was worth something ๐Ÿ˜ Although I still wouldn’t recommend ever picking them up, even if you want trash… There are much better trashy books out there! ๐Ÿ˜‚

      Like

  6. Line says:

    Deeds of Men as number two ๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜… It was probably more in the forgettable category for me rather than the traumatizing one, but I still understand your arguments. Anything important in that novella could just as well have been shown through a flashback in the proper novels.

    You’ve kept me from reading any of the others, but my favorite rant was the one for XOXO ๐Ÿ˜„ It’s not a good idea to write about something you don’t have much knowledge of, like classical music in this case, because you’re right, people who do know the stuff WILL read the book. I also get that the thing about stereotypes is annoying, but I sometimes feel they kinda go with the genre of contemporary romance. The focus is often on something other than creating complex characters.

    Also, I loved reading your rant about that Jorge Bucay book again simply because the concept behind that book is still the strangest thing ever ๐Ÿ˜‚

    And as to what my worst book of 2021 was, you’re going to have to wait till tomorrow ๐Ÿ˜‰ You know I had one-star reads though.

    Liked by 1 person

    • abookowlscorner says:

      Well, my hatred of books tends to intensify if they were bad and are connected to a series I love ๐Ÿ˜‚ Then the disappointment is so much greater!! (**cough Cursed Child cough**) So yeah, even though I rated Deeds of Men higher than Der Schimmelreiter, for example, I just felt it needed to go up there for the disappointment’s sake ๐Ÿ˜

      Of course, I’m thrilled you enjoyed the XOXO rant, though, because going off about it again was sooooo therapeutic ๐Ÿ˜‡๐Ÿคฃ I can’t for the life of me understand why it’s so popular; even if the music representation weren’t horrible, the plot barely has any depth to it, either!! Everybody’s probably just blinded by the cute k-drama vibes ๐Ÿ™„ And there are definitely also contemporary romances out there with well-developed characters, so even if the genre is often stereotypical, I am not accepting this book trying to hind behind that excuse ๐Ÿ˜ค

      And the Jorge Bucay book ๐Ÿ™ˆ๐Ÿ™ˆ๐Ÿ™ˆ I still don’t understand it, either ๐Ÿ˜… I thought the point of self-help books was to help people work through their emotions rather than further traumatizing them, but apparently not…

      And I’m very excited for that worst books post, obviously! ๐Ÿค— I’m definitely hoping to hear you rant some more about The Last Magician, The Bird King, and that January book because those rants were some of my highlights this year ๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚ And thanks to me getting home utterly exhausted after driving home through a snow storm at two o’clock in the morning and dropping immediately into bed and reading this comment only when I woke up to my evil 7:30 alarm that I apparently forgot to turn off, I don’t even have to wait until tomorrow until I get to read it ๐Ÿค—

      Liked by 1 person

      • Line says:

        It’s funny because I think I’m the opposite when it comes to disappointments within series. I’m more “oh but I loved all the other books so I can just ignore this exists” (except maybe with Cursed Child ๐Ÿ˜…). I’m more likely to go full rant-mode if I have no connection to characters or author.

        Maybe the author counted on people being blinded my the k-drama vibes so they didn’t need to development anything else about the book very much ๐Ÿ˜… You just need to only see the k-drama, Naemi, and then you’d love it.

        I thought you loved snow? ๐Ÿ˜‰ But forgetting the alarm on a Saturday is brutal! Then there’s me who just woke up on my own at 6.30. I hate myself ๐Ÿ˜’

        Liked by 1 person

        • abookowlscorner says:

          Interesting ๐Ÿค” I think I tend to be blinder to books’ faults if they were written by authors I love, but if they’re so bad that I can no longer satisfactorily uphold the illusion that the books were good, I just feel so much betrayal that my hatred intesifies a hundredfold ๐Ÿ˜…

          And I do love snow! Now that I no longer have to drive in it and see all the white prettiness outside, I’m feeling very mollified ๐Ÿฅฐ I am very sorry you woke up even earlier than I did and can’t even blame your alarm, though ๐Ÿ˜‚

          Liked by 1 person

  7. Rabeeah says:

    I love a rant! I havenโ€™t read any of these books (or heard of most), but I found your reasoning very sound. Iโ€™ve also heard enough bad things about Sarah J. Maasโ€™ books (as well as totally disliking the one half book I read), to plan on never picking any of them up, tbh!

    Liked by 1 person

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