Hey, the disappointing books I read deserve some love too, so here’s a list of them.
I’m of the opinion that listing my disappointing reads can help them attract a new book lover. Just because I didn’t like them doesn’t mean everyone else will. I don’t often see people list their disappointing reads, but I’ve sometimes found recommendations on the few such lists I’ve seen and have even added a book to my TBR after reading a negative review of it. So, although these books and comics didn’t work for me, they might interest you.
You’ll also notice that not all of these disappointing reads received a low rating. I mostly rate based on my enjoyment of what I read because I read to be entertained, but I also consider how well crafted the book, comic, or picture book is. So some of these received a high rating because they are well written (and I probably enjoyed them at first) but ultimately let me down by the end (and I couldn’t ignore/forgive that so I added them to this list).
These are listed in the order I read them throughout the year. If I posted a review, I will link to it.
(NOTE: If the layout below looks wonky, it’s mostly likely because you’re viewing this on your phone in the WordPress Reader app which, for some reason unknown to me, keeps messing up the layout when I use certain gallery settings to format the layout of photos. If you view it on the website instead, it will show correctly.)
The Twisted Ones by T. Kingfisher ★★★☆☆
It’s a horror novel about a young woman who sees and experiences some weird stuff while cleaning out her late grandmother’s house. I liked the story at first because of the humor as the protagonist makes excuses for the weird things she glimpses. But as the story wore on, the humor became annoying because I wanted the protagonist to take things a little more seriously. It’s an interesting story and isn’t a bad read. I’d actually recommend it; I just didn’t like it by the end.
Oddly Normal, bk. 1 by Otis Frampton (illus.) ★★☆☆☆ ½
This is a middle grade fantasy story about a lonely half-witch girl who is bullied at school. On her 10th birthday, she makes a wish that upends her life and causes her parents to disappear. I liked the first part of the story but wasn’t as interested when the protagonist gets whisked away to the land where her mom is from, Fignation. It just seemed like nothing much changed since she’s again bullied and is an outcast. However, I think the story may be interesting to kids and I do like the illustration style, especially the colors used. It wasn’t a bad story; it just didn’t work for me.
The Madness of Cambyses by Herodotus, transl. by Tom Holland ★★☆☆☆ ½
This is an excerpt from Herodotus’s The Histories and is very short (less than 60 pages) but even so, I was bored. It’s about the antics of a Persian king who everyone believed to be mad. It was an interesting read that might interest those who enjoy reading history books, but it was too dry for me and boring, hence the low rating.
Lumberjanes, Vol. 1: Beware the Kitten Holy by Grace Ellis and Noelle Stevenson, illus. by Brooke A. Allen ★★☆☆☆
The first volume in a middle grade fantasy comic book series about the friendship between five girls at a summer camp. It’s a fun read with crazy adventures, references to Greek myths, and a focus on the strength of friendship, but it didn’t appeal to me. I also wasn’t crazy about the art style. It wasn’t a bad read. Many people like it, but I’m the odd duck who didn’t. I’m starting to wonder if I read it at the wrong time. Maybe I’ll reread it.
The Magic Thief by Sarah Prineas, illus. by Antonio Javier Caparo ★★☆☆☆ ½
A fast-paced middle grade fantasy novel about a street urchin who becomes a wizard’s apprentice after stealing his locus magicalicus, a special stone wizards use to work magic. I thought the story was entertaining and I actually liked it, I just thought the plot progressed too quickly and things came too easily to the protagonist. I’d say he’s a bit of a Mary Sue character. I also didn’t like the writing much. There are a lot of rhyming compound adjectives that became annoying after a while. I am invested in the story, though, so I’d like to try the next book in the series.
Brass Carriages and Glass Hearts by Nancy Campbell Allen ★★☆☆☆
I was really looking forward to this book but, unfortunately, it was the most disappointing book I read in 2020. It’s a steampunk, historical romance novel with some supernatural influence about a young woman who receives death threats because she is a popular supporter of shapeshifter rights. A young detective is assigned to protect her as she plans for and attends a summit to present her views on shapeshifter rights. The story is tagged as a “steampunk retelling of Cinderella,” but it didn’t come across as that to me. The fairytale influences in the story were very minor and almost nonexistent. I also didn’t like the protagonist and thought the romance developed too quickly. Unfortunately, the only positive thing I have to say is that I prefer the previous three books in the series.
Watersnakes by Tony Sandoval (illus.), transl. from the French by Lucas Marangon ★★☆☆☆
It’s a YA fantasy-horror graphic novel about a girl who becomes fascinated by her friend’s teeth, which she learns are actually the guardian warriors for a dethroned king within her friend. It was a weird read that didn’t work for me and, although I love the cover, I didn’t like the art style for the illustrations. This is another one that I’m an odd duck on because many others seem to love this book.
Forest Mage by Robin Hobb ★★★★☆ ½
Yes, despite the very high rating, this was a disappointing read for me. It’s the second novel in the Soldier Son trilogy, a fantasy story about a young man who believes he’s destined to be a soldier but gets caught up in some spiritual intrigues that changes his path. I loved the first book (it’s on my favorites list for 2020) but this book seems to go off on a tangent that it never returns from. Also, reading about the hardship and torture the protagonist endures was overbearing. Some of the torture seemed unnecessary. He never gets a break, is always obsessed about the split within him, and “the magic” is blamed for everything. This story was almost one annoying thing after another for me with no real explanation given for why things happen. Ugh! Even thinking about it now is making me annoyed. However, it is very well written and even engrossing. I would have liked it if I didn’t find the protagonist so annoying.
Black Witch Magic by Mila Nicks ★★☆☆☆
I like the title and that’s what made me buy and read this book and kick off a binge on romance novels. It’s a paranormal romance novel about a young Black woman whose family is treated like outcasts in her small town, which she can’t ever leave because of a curse on her family. The young woman is also a witch and ends up getting involved with a guy who co-hosts a paranormal investigation show. The story is a light, quick read that was entertaining, but I had some issues with it. I didn’t like the male love interest, wasn’t really feeling the climax, and thought the story took a while to end and didn’t adequately wrap things up. Also, although the protagonist is a witch, she wasn’t a very convincing witch. It was an okay read but didn’t work for me.