Recently, I ranked the video games I played so far in 2019 and had a lot of fun with it. At first, I thought about doing this for the books I read, as well, but I soon realized that I have read close to seventy books and it would be a large undertaking, especially given that I would have to rank them all over again at the end of the year for the final list. Instead, I have decided to just create a list of the worst and best books I have read so far and then see what the second half of the year brings me. After I have posted both parts, I will write a reflective post that looks at how the first half of the year has gone, as well as what I would like to change in order to make the rest of the year the best it can be for my reading tastes!
Since I always like to get the rants out of the way first, I am going to start with the worst books that I have read this year. Not all of these are truly terrible reads, but they failed to resonate with me for a variety of reasons that I will discuss. In general, I don’t believe that what I may or may not enjoy has any bearing on what someone else will love, so if a book sounds interesting and the negative aspects I discuss don’t bother you, definitely give it a try!
Note: If you are interested in any of the books I am discussing, I will be including an Amazon associate link for each one. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. I’ll get a small commission at no additional cost to you.
10. Long Road to Liquor City – Macon Blair and Joe Flood
I picked up a lot of graphic novels from NetGalley at one point because none of them needed approval and I was trying to get my review percentage up when I first joined. Some of them turned out to be pretty good, while others were more questionable. In the case of Long Road to Liquor City, the latter was the case. In particular, I didn’t get along well with the art style, which made it difficult to enjoy anything else this book had to offer. The only saving grace that keeps it from being higher on this list is that it made me laugh a few times, which meant it had something going for it.
9. The Weight of the Stars – K. Ancrum
The Weight of the Stars is a classic case of “it’s not you, it’s me.” I picked it up expecting a sci-fi story that happened to have a romance in it. Unfortunately, the ratio was flipped around and it turned out to be a romance that happened to be set in a sci-fi-inspired universe. For people that are okay with this, it’s a beautifully-written story with good characters, but I felt like I was hooked into the book on false pretenses and wouldn’t have picked it up had the description been more accurate. In general, I don’t like to mix my genres with romance. It is fine for a fantasy or sci-fi book to have romance in it, but if I am reading something primarily for the romance, I would rather just pick up a contemporary title. I’m certain that this is a five-star read for another reader, but it just isn’t a genre that I wanted or had any interest in reading.
8. Walk on Earth a Stranger – Rae Carson
I have been slowly chipping away at an experiment where I read the titles Goodreads recommends to me based upon my favorite and least favorite books. Walk on Earth a Stranger was one of these recommendations, based upon my love of Obsidio, and I was actually really excited to pick this up. Given its placement on this list, it is safe to say that it didn’t live up to my expectations. The biggest problem is that it’s boring. It was about 400 pages long, but nothing of worth happened for about 350 of them. There’s also a supernatural element that is hinted at here and there, but it never becomes all that important, leaving me to wonder why it is there at all. Needless to say, I won’t be continuing with this series.
7. Rayne & Delilah’s Midnite Matinee – Jeff Zentner
Rayne & Delilah’s Midnite Matinee was a NetGalley pickup and I was incredibly excited to get started with it. While I hadn’t previously read Jeff Zentner’s works, I had heard good things about him and read a lot of similar authors, so I thought this was a good match. Unfortunately, this didn’t work for me, primarily because the book fell into the trap of one of my biggest pet peeves in reading: unrealistic dialogue. I hate that snappy, quick dialogue style that some authors like to use to show how witty and quirky their characters are. No one talks like that, and it immediately makes me less interested in continuing the story. Every character in this book sounded like they were trying to win awards for their hilarious one-liners and it made it so difficult to read at times. I have a lot more to say about this book, so for more details, check out my full review.
6. City of Ashes – Cassandra Clare
When I read City of Bones, I was actually pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it. It wasn’t the best book I had ever read, but I flew through it pretty quickly and wanted to know more about the Shadowhunter universe. The second book, however, gave me a lot more insight regarding why Cassandra Clare is a bit of a divisive figure in the book world. While the worldbuilding was still strong and at least a few characters were intriguing (I love Magnus Bane), the story just ceased to exist. Very little happened over the course of the book except for a lot of angst and longing glances between the various characters. I may, one day, give the series one last chance to impress by reading the third book, but I need a break for a while.
5. The Catastrophic History of You and Me – Jess Rothenberg
The Catastrophic History of You & Me was another read recommended to me from Goodreads, this time based upon The Selection. Admittedly, I went into this expecting to dislike it, as the synopsis of a teenager dying and being led by a guardian angel through the afterlife sounded too much like an angstier version of The Five People You Meet in Heaven. Unsurprisingly, my instinct was partially correct in that I didn’t like it, but I was wrong about the reasons why. It turns out that I enjoyed the first half of the read, but the latter half had some strange plot twists that made everything really weird. The plot twists definitely make or break the book here, and for me, I thought they were over-the-top and nonsensical. Since the writing was decent, I would like to eventually check out Jess Rothenberg’s new book and see if the second time is the charm.
4. Stop Looking at Your Phone – Son of Alan
Every book above Stop Looking at Your Phone is a two-star read, so this marks the beginning of the one-star picks. In most years, I won’t have many of them because I only give a book one star when it makes me physically angry for some reason. In this case, I found this title to be utterly pointless, if not a little insulting. This is a graphic novel where each page shows what a situation looks like when someone is on their phone, followed by what that same scenario would look like without the phone involved. It’s clearly using the stereotype that millennials don’t know how to get off their phones and enjoy the world around them and it’s not funny or engaging in any way. This book basically takes a two-panel comic strip that could have been mildly amusing and elongates it into over 100 pages of the same joke until it will never be funny to make a phone-related joke ever again. I picked this up off of NetGalley because I wanted something that would make me laugh, and I guess we can all see how successful it was at this.
3. Give Me Your Hand – Megan Abbott
All of my top three worst books of the year are titles I had high hopes for, so I have definitely had my fair share of disappointments recently. Megan Abbott is an author that readers tend to be divided upon. Most of her thrillers have an average on Goodreads that is somewhere around a three-star score, which is abysmally low, because people either rate her books five stars or one star in relatively even numbers. This was my third Abbott book, and after loving both of the previous titles I read, I assumed I was firmly in the “love” camp and picked Give Me Your Hand up without a second of hesitation. I was very wrong.
More than anything else, I just couldn’t stand how dumb the main character was, as she repeatedly made the wrong decision at every point in the plot. In fact, this entire book wouldn’t exist if the protagonist hadn’t made an extraordinarily bad decision from the start. In fact, I can actually prove this because the entire story is based upon a real-life criminal case in which the teenager that the protagonist is based upon made the logical choice that would have prevented the fictionalized events in this story from ever happening. Since I still loved two out of three of Abbott’s books, I will still continue to read more of her work, but I may take a bit of a break first.
2. The Magicians – Lev Grossman
I have been reading “Potteralikes”, or books frequently compared to Harry Potter, for a while and then reviewing them based on both their quality as a book, as well as how well they compare to the boy wizard himself. The Magicians was my first Potteralike, and it was not a pleasant experience. I have a full review, but in summary, I found that the worldbuilding held potential, but nothing could make up for the dismal characterizations and plotline in this story. Additionally, I felt misled over the fact that this is clearly a book more akin to The Chronicles of Narnia than it is to Harry Potter, but since it came out during peak Pottermania, it got marketed accordingly. Aggressively marketing a book to the wrong audience may move initial sales, but it will do nothing to gain the goodwill of readers. I really wish publishers would stop doing this.
1. A Gathering of Shadows – V.E. Schwab
Honestly, I didn’t expect that I would dislike anything as much as The Magicians this year, but A Gathering of Shadows came out of nowhere to stealth attack me from behind. I didn’t love A Darker Shade of Magic, but I found that it was perfectly serviceable as both a book and a Potteralike, and since everyone seemed to believe the books got better as the series progressed, I figured that I would move on and read the sequel. Most of the time, when I dislike a book, I try to find something positive to say about it, or at least figure out why others enjoy it, even if I didn’t. This may be the first time where I’m honestly at a loss. While I would never criticize someone for what they enjoy, I genuinely want to know why people like this book, because I have nothing good to say about it.
Everything I liked about the first book was completely absent. Remember how the entirety of the first book’s plot revolves around Kell’s ability to teleport between different variations of London? It turns out that the second book completely drops that entire premise, as Kell isn’t in any London other than Red for more than a few pages. What about Lila Bard? Well, she goes from a slightly annoying, but still endearing enough character to a psychotic sociopath who kills and steals without any sort of moral compass to speak of whatsoever. She also repeatedly insists that she is “not like other girls,” which has to be the most eye-roll-inducing phrase that I have ever encountered in a novel.
On top of all of this, misleading publisher blurbs strike yet again! The description discusses this awesome elemental competition that will be occurring, yet this competition doesn’t take place until the end of the book and isn’t actually all that important. In general, the contest is a pretty good metaphor for my feelings on the story, which is that it’s totally irrelevant and does nothing to move the overarching plot along. There is nothing here that warranted the 500 pages that I suffered through. I suspect that this trilogy could easily be a duology, with the few important bits of the middle entry thrown into the final book, though I will not be sticking around to see the conclusion here and find out if I am right. The only glimmer of good news here is that I find it highly unlikely that I will read another book this year that I dislike more, as this may be my new least favorite read of all time.
Now that all of my rants are out of the way, I can’t wait to move on and discuss the books I actually loved this year in a future post! What books did you dislike this year? Let me know in the comments below!