ZeZee’s Disappointing Reads of 2021

With my favorites and most memorable books of 2021 out of the way, it’s now time to focus on the disappointing ones, because they need some attention too.

I know many people shy away from making lists of books that disappoint them, but I don’t. This is a blog about what I read and what I like and dislike. It’s a blog for readers. Plus, I often get recommendations from lists like these. After all, just because someone disliked a book doesn’t mean I will too.

My ratings for these books are middling and aren’t exactly low. 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. 

These are listed in the order that I read them.

The Conductors by Nicole Glover ★★☆☆☆ ½

Aww man, I really thought this would be one I’d like. It’s a debut historical fantasy that mostly takes place in Philadelphia shortly after the Civil War. The story focuses on Hetty and Benjy, a married couple who used to work as conductors on the Underground Railroad but now help Black people in their community to resolve dire situations — like finding someone who’s gone missing. I think the story has a lot of potential, but it fell flat for me. I think the world building, magic system, and characters needed more development and the plot needed to be ironed out a bit more to make it flow more smoothly. However, there’s enough potential here to make me curious about the second book, so I might give it a try.

Wrapped Up in You by Talia Hibbert ★★☆☆☆ 

Ugh, this book. I didn’t like it at all. It’s a contemporary romance novella set around Christmas about a movie star returning home to the U.K. to spend the holiday with close family friends and finally tell his childhood friend how he feels about her. I read Hibbert’s Get a Life, Chloe Brown and enjoyed it so, this being a Christmas story, I was expecting it to be light, fun, and enjoyable too. It wasn’t. The characters were too stuck in their heads and hung up on their personal issues, which made the plot seem to drag and made the story seem longer than it is. I was SO bored and actually fell asleep listening to it. And the narrators of the audiobook didn’t help either because I wasn’t feeling their performance. Ugh! Didn’t like this one at all but many others did, so if you try it, I suggest the physical or e-book.

The Colour of Magic by Terry Pratchett ★★☆☆☆ ½

This was a surprise because I didn’t expect to find a Discworld book that would disappoint me, but this one did. It’s the first novel in the Discworld series — a satirical fantasy series set in a flat world that lies atop the backs of four large elephants that stand on the shell of a ginormous turtle that’s flying through space. This first book focuses on the failed wizard Rincewind catering to a tourist to Discworld. After reading this, I was grateful that it wasn’t my introduction to the Discworld books. I enjoy the Discworld absurdities, but in this one they sometimes fell flat for me or annoyed me. I was also often bored as I read as the plot and characters would lose my interest. By the end, I wondered if I was in a weird mood because I’ve really enjoyed the Discworld books so far. I intend to reread this one someday.

The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris ★★☆☆☆ 

Here’s another one that was huge disappointment, mostly because it was overhyped and it was the hype that drove my interest in it. It’s a contemporary thriller about a young Black woman named Nella working at a popular publishing company where she’s the only Black woman on staff until one day another young Black woman, Hazel, is hired. Although Hazel is friendly at first, things take a turn and soon Nella begins receiving odd, mysterious notes at the office. I thought this would be one of my top reads of the year. The book starts out interesting, but quickly went downhill. Nella’s obsession (seems like an obsession to me) with her job and Hazel almost drove me to DNF the book. I felt worn out by it all and thought the book could have been much shorter. Also, the ending sucked for all the build up we received, and I don’t think the thriller bits were strong enough or certain characters’ motivations adequately explained, which I think was REALLY needed considering that this is a book that touches on racism and Black experiences and all that yet I still don’t understand why certain Black characters teamed up with a White dude to control other Black characters. But what irked me the most was the hype surrounding the book. I felt so tricked because all the hype and praises don’t match what I read.

Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers ★★☆☆☆ 

It’s YA fantasy about assassin nuns who are the daughters of Death. That premise sounds SO good that I thought I’d love this, but I didn’t. The plot is so slow and the protagonist so dull that I quickly lost interest and was even hoping for the romance to dominate the plot as is typical of YA fantasy these days (and which I usually avoid). But I didn’t care for the romance either — or maybe it’s that I didn’t care for the protagonist because I didn’t like how she’s described in regards to the romance, for she’s often said to be “innocent” and “naïve,” which I often rolled my eyes at because… the dude is older than her and I’m just tired of that trope. But really, the big reason why this one did work for me is because I was expecting a badass assassin nun and just got a dull, innocent, naïve nun who was very ill equipped for the situation she’s in.

The Beautiful Ones by Silvia Moreno-Garcia ★★★☆☆ 

Here’s another one I thought I’d like because I enjoyed Moreno-Garcia’s Mexican Gothic. Like Mexican Gothic, The Beautiful Ones is very well written. It’s a novel of manners about a young woman who’s sent to the city to enter society (or be presented to society) because her strong telekinesis ability, which she finds hard to control, makes people tease her in her small town. The story also focuses on a famous magician who has returned to the city hoping to reconnect and run off with his lost love. This is also another one that bored me. I was bored for the first half and frustrated by the second half because of the characters. But despite being frustrated, I was hooked on the second half and completed it in a night.




20 thoughts on “ZeZee’s Disappointing Reads of 2021

  1. Compared to other Moreno-Garcia’s book, I also found The Beautiful Ones a disappointing. To be fair, though, this was one of her earliest books, republished on the wave of Bridgerton mania, I think 😉


  2. You helped me to change my mind on The Other Black Girl, I was glad of that. And I didn’t really enjoy the first four Discworld novels then gave up. That’s a weird pairing of books for me to talk about, but there you go!


  3. The Colour of Magic is a perfect example of what you were saying about how one person diliking something doesn’t mean I will, too. I got a kick out of the book. I wouldn’t say I loved it, but I did enjoy it and it got me interested in reading more from the world. I will say it’s my least favorite Discworld book so far, though I’ve not read that many. Hopefully I can get to at least one more this year.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I always tell people not to start with the first Discworld books but one of the later ones (like Tiffany Aching, if they’re into YA or the Watch if they’re not). I remember not liking The Colour of Magic much either!


  5. I’ve heard others find The Other Black Girl lacking–I haven’t read it. Have you read Colson Whitehead’s Underground Railroad? If the one you mentioned, The Conductor, fell flat, Whitehead’s book will be what you are wanting. Even if you have watched the tv version, I still highly recommend reading the book. Wow.

    Liked by 1 person

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