My Worst Books of 2020

Wednesday 20 January 2021

This was a really weird year for me. Two of my favorite series released books that made it onto this list and two books that I thought I was going to like also made it on the list. 2020 was a weird year for many reasons. If you check out my Top Ten Books of 2020 post, you'll see that I read some amazing books last year, but the bad ones are still worth talking about.

5. Peace Talks by Jim Butcher

This hurts my heart. The Dresden Files is my favorite book series of all time. It got better and better with each installment. Then Skin Game came out in 2014, which was a great book, but it took 6 years for the next book to come out. Unlike Patrick Rothfuss, Jim Butcher made it clear he had good reasons as to why it took so long but when two books were announced in one year, I was so happy.  Then Peace Talks came out and I picked it up and.... almost put it down.

Here's what I think. I think Jim Butcher wrote one big book. He wrote one book that was over 700 pages and either he decided or his publisher decided to break it into two books. Because when put together Peace Talks and Battle Ground make for one epic book. But when you separate them Peace Talks is a boring mess with no point to it and Battle Ground is exciting but mostly all action. Peace Talks is the literary equivalent of Ben Stein's voice while Battle Ground is a coked up Tasmanian Devil.

If Butcher had released Peace Ground or Battle Talks in one big volume, we wouldn't have having this conversation. But two separate books were released and Peace Talks was not only the lesser of the two, but it was slow, boring, and pointless. 

4. The Genesis Game: Vol 1 by Andrew O'Kelley

I love LitRPG books. They're my guilty pleasure. They're so nerdy that even I hesitate, briefly. Then I own it. I also love Net Galley because thanks to that service I've read a lot of books for free before they even come out! This was one of those books.

This books is about Seraph, a tyrant known as the Angel of Genocide. He is the strongest person in the world dungeon, a powerful place that's coming marked the end of humanity. Seraph finally reaches the Altar of the End but is cursed and sent back in time with his powers sealed away. This time he's forbidden from hoarding the power for himself and must help humanity survive.

I wrote a full review on Goodreads but to give you the Cliff Notes version, this book had terrible pacing. The story moved so fast that it felt like O'Kelley was too excited to get to the next part that he rushed the plot. A downside of everything moving faster than The Flash with his ass on fire is that you don't get to know the characters so I didn't care about a single person.  To quote my review: “Seraph is supposed to come across as some dark and broody bad ass but he's just an a-hole. We meet his father but we get so little of their relationship that I think the Lindbergh baby would have been closer to his father than Seraph and his dad.”

Seraph and his dad's relationship is supposed to be his only hope to not turn out like the villain he was. But I never once cared. This book was bad.

3. My Best Friend's Exorcism by Grady Hendrix

Talk about a bait and switch. If you look at the cover of this book it sets you up for something light hearted or even comedic. If not that, then it hints that it's not super serious, something along the lines of Stranger Things. But no, this isn't a comedy, this isn't even slightly humorous. It's considered horror fiction and not only is it not scary in the least, it's so slowly paced that it could be cut down by half and it would only make it better.

Almost every character is unlikable and the two main characters Gretchen and Abby, are idiots. Gretchen is possessed for most of the book, so she mostly gets a pass, but even before she's possessed, she's simply boring. Abby is an idiot who has less personality than Katniss Everdeen. 

This book is boring and a waste of time.

2. The Land: Monsters  by Aleron Kong

This is another one that hurts my heart. The Land is another one of my all time favorite series. I stumbled upon the first book thanks to a sale on Audible and fell in love. The Land: Founding is a great book and a wonderful introduction to the LitRPG genre. If you like the first one, then dive right in because the first seven books are great and the 7th book is epic and is 2202 pages long (or 48 hours for the audiobook) but the 8th book is when it hits it's first hiccup.

There was no point to this installment. Nothing really happens. It's pointless and you hardly see any of the side characters as it mainly follows Richter as he tries to escape the underworld or wherever he is. But it feels like Kong took what could have been 2 -3 chapters and turned it into it's own book. 

You know what this felt like? This felt like something mindless Kong wrote that should have been released as a freebie to his fans or as a reward on Patreon. That would have been fine. I wouldn't have minded this if it was sold to me as a mindless add on and not an actual part of the story. But for the 8th book in a series I loved? It's terrible.

1. The Frame-Up by Meghan Scott Molin.

I hated The Big Bang Theory. It was just a group of aholes who were gross stereotypes of nerds. MG, the main character of this book, could have fit right in with that group of dicks. 

This book follows MG, a comic writer who realizes a recent string of crimes are just copies of crimes from her favorite comic series. So she takes it upon herself to help the cops track the killer, but can a geeky comic nerd really help stop crime

The story for this was more basic than a “ripped from the headlines” episode of Law and Order. It's a story that's been done before and done by better writers. Also, MG was horrid. She hates it when people put her in a box and assume they know who she is but she turns around and does the same thing to most people she meets.

What's worse is that there's at least one “nerdy” reference on each page and even worse than that, they're not all correct. I really should have written down some examples but at the time I was too pissed off to care, but there were quite a few times that  the nerdy stuff Molin was referencing, was completely wrong. Also, the constant nerdy references got super old. 

I also feel like Molin must have some huge chip on her shoulder because it came across in the book. MG is one of the most hateful and judgmental characters I've ever read and it feels like Molin was using her book as an outlet. 

This was a true waste of time. This is the first book in a series and if I ever read the second one it's because someone paid me a lot of money to do it OR my life was threatened.

So there you have it. My worst books of 2020. There were others that I didn't like but these were the ones that actually got a reaction out of me. What books from last year did you hate? And if you're not the type to hate, which books did you seriously not like? Let me know by leaving a comment!

The Anti TBR Tag

Monday 18 January 2021

This blog has been sitting in my drafts for an embarassing amount of time. My wife has already published hers which you can find here. But thanks for taking time out of your day to check out my answers to this and if you have done this tag or plan on doing it, let me know and I'll check it out!

. A popular book EVERYONE loves that you have no interest in reading.

I hate to copy my wife's answer for this question, but I will anyway. Game Of Thrones was not only a very popular TV show, but a massively popular books series as well. There are a few issues I have with this series after watching a few seasons of the show. It's too grimdark for me. I stopped watching The Walking Dead as well because it was just too grim.  Hell, Supernatural isn't nearly as dark and one character went to hell and another was trapped in a cage with Lucifer. 

There's also the question of the future of the series. The last GOT book came out in 2011. 2011! The man has had 9 years to write a follow up. But instead he's working on other series and writing the history of GOT families that only hardcore fans would ever care about. And finally I just don't want to read about things like rape and incest. 

George R. R. Martin is just like Patrick Rothfus he can't finish a damn series. True, the third book in the Kingkiller Chronicles is supposed to come out in 2021, but I'll believe it when I see it.

So not only do I have no interest in the series, I don't want to read something that may never be finished.

2. A classic book (or author) you don’t have an interest in reading?  

Franny and Zooey by J D Salinger.  I hated Catcher in the Rye with every fiber of my being. It's not a good book. I'm sorry if you liked it when you were an angsty teen and thought that it was written just for you. But Holden Caufield is a horrible character who has no redeeming qualities, no growth, and nothing about him that's worth a damn. No wonder he thinks everything is the worst. It's because he a waste of good oxygen. Because of this, and the fact that my wife hated it, Franny and Zooey will never be picked up by me unless it's to use it as kindling. 

3. An author whose books you have no interest in reading?

Robert Galibraith / J K Rowling.

Yes, this answer is, in part, because J K Rowling (aka Robert Galibraith) is a dirty TERF who I regret ever giving money to. But there's more to it than that. This might have been my answer even if she didn't hate the Trans community. It's because she got lucky with Harry Potter. They were very well written books and a truly well thought out series. But anything else she's done since has been awful. Every time she tries to add on to the Harry Potter universe, she only screws it up. 

The Fantastic Beasts franchise had hope but she's already screwed the pooch on that one. Not only was the last movie one of the worst I've seen in a long while, but she's already messed with already established HP mythos. She got the continuity of her own series wrong! 

Add on to that the fact that there's problematic Trans representation in her latest Robert Galibraith book and I'm officially done with her. She could write a new HP series where it's a new generation at Hogwarts and I wouldn't even think of picking it up. She did one good series and anything else she touches is crap.

3.2 A problematic author whose books you have no interest in reading?

Rainbow Rowell, author or Eleanor & Park. I don't know how popular this book really is as Fangirl and the Simon Snow series really are her more popular works. But I'm counting this because she's a popular author and this is one of her books.

I have no interest in this book because of the very problematic Asian descriptions in it. An article from the Northeastern University Political Review called The Problem with Eleanor & Park goes into more detail about her problem filled book.  In her defense it seems like her transgressions come from a place of ignorance rather than purposeful racism, but I'd rather not support someone who could make such obvious mistake and never own up to it.  The only thing Rowell has ever done was defend the use of Park as a first name and how she, a white woman, can have an Asian character. As far as I can tell she never apologized or addressed the issues.

She could write the next great book that wins each and every prize and I wouldn't care because I don't want to support someone like her.

4. An author you have read a couple of books from & have decided their books are not for you?

Patrick Rothfuss. Apparently you have to like him if you like fantasy books, but I disagree. I find The Kingkiller Chronicles to be a painfully slow and uninteresting series.  It has a lot of promise but Rothfuss is so long winded that I stop caring about anything. Kvothe could have been a very good character and the story could have been really good, but it goes on for so long that by the end, I just want it to end so I can move on with my life. 

Also, Rothfuss has spent so long writing the next book in the series (7 years) that if I did care enough to read it, I'd feel like I have to reread the first two books just to read the new one. Also, he wrote a novella about a side character and I fully DNFd it because it was too painful to read.

Patrick Rothfuss seems like a nice guy, but I'll avoid any future books by him. 

5. A genre you have no interest in OR a genre you tried to get into & couldn’t?

Classic Cyberpunk. I've read Neuromancer by William Gibson. I've tried to read Idoru and few short stories of his as well. I also tried to read Snow Crash but I just couldn't get into it. I'm almost 100% done with this genre. Next year I plan on reading the last book I have any interest in. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip K Dick.

I was specific when I said “classic” cyberpunk because there are quite a few more recent books that I think I may like. Warcross by Marie Liu is on that list as well as The Windup Girl by  Paolo Bacigalupi. Just older Cyberpunk is too boring and hard to follow.

6. A book you have bought but will never read? (this can be a book you have unhauled/returned to the library unread)

The Broken Empire by Mark Lawrence.  I bought the books because my group of friends loved them. We have very similar tastes in terms of Fantasy and Sci-fi.  I saw these books at a library book sale and got them. Before I could pick the first one up, I found out that he's a very problematic author. He apparently has been very mean towards women on book tours and on twitter and he hates booktubers and book bloggers as well as not caring about any opinions on his book except from actual book critics. Overall he's just a huge ass. 

I have so many books on my TBR that I don't want to waste time with someone like him. I couldn't find evidence to substantiate all the claims I've heard about him, but a simple google search showed me more than enough to know I'd rather not support him.

7. A series you have no interest in reading OR a series you started & have dnf’d?

Easy. The Wayward Children series by Seanan McGuire. I tried this series out a couple years back and I was so sure I was going to like it that I took the first three books out of the library and even considered buying them before I even read them. Then I read Every Heart A Doorway and it was one of the worst books I ever read.

Seanan McGuire isn't a good author. The only thing that she did well was come up with a very good idea that I'd rather someone else write (like Rebecca Mead maybe?). Her characters were mostly forgettable. They made very weird choices and said odd things that didn't seem to further the plot or serve as any kind of development. The pacing of the story was horrid and it all seemed to end out of nowhere.  The ending was also awful and happened in the stupidest of ways. 

My wife wants me to read the third Wayward Children book because it's her favorite but I don't want to because I'd rather rinse my eyes out with bleach.

8. A new release you have no interest in reading?

A Beautifully Foolish Endeavor by Hank Green.  I feel bad. I like Hank Green as a person. He seems super nice, super smart, and like a genuine good person. But the first book in The Carls series An Absolutely Remarkable Thing was a test of my patience.  April May is a worthless tryhard piece of literary garbage and the only reason I would pick this book up is if she died a horrible death and even then I would only read that part just to make me smile.

Hank Green is pretty damn great and I feel bad for this. I love him on YouTube and TikTok. I think he's very smart, funny, and nice, but his books are just not for me.

My Top Ten Books of 2020

Saturday 16 January 2021

2020 allowed for a lot of reading for most of us. Can't go out because of a pandemic made worse by idiots not following the rules? Then stay inside and read a book instead! So since I've read more books than ever this year, narrowing it down to a ten could have been hard, but I've read some pretty outstanding books this year, so it wasn't a difficult decision. Here's my top ten which I painstakingly put in order. Some of these have been around for a while and others were released this year, so you'll find a nice mix here. Enjoy!

10. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

This is a heavy book that follows young Leisel Meminger who has a history of stealing books. It all started when she steals the Gravedigger's Handbook at her brother's funeral. Leisel then goes to live with the Hubermann family, but not all is well as WWII is in full swing and Leisel and the Hubermann's don't drink the Nazi Kool-Aid but must survive by pretending they do.

I listened to this as an audiobook and I can't imagine it any other way. It's narrated by Roger Allam and he did a fantastic job. The narrator of the story is Death and Allam's smoky storyteller voice was perfect.

The Book Thief was everything I expected. You don't go into a WWII book expecting things to be happy. But what I didn't count on was being charmed by the characters, especially Liesel's foster father Hans Hubermann and his ornery wife Rosa. The characters are what set this story apart from others like it. It took me a while to read it and I'm glad because 2020 needed to be a good reading year.

9. Red, White & Royal Blue

This was a popular YA book from last year the follows First Son Alex Claremont-Diaz and his relationship with Prince Henry of Wales. The two met once and Alex has considered them mortal enemies ever since, but after a snafu at a White House Christmas party, the two are sent on a PR tour to fix it. But what Alex doesn't know is that his feelings for the Prince are going to grow.

I love love. You've heard the saying “Love is Love” and it's true. I love love stories. I love romance be it straight or any color on the LGBTQ+ rainbow, I can dig it and I'll get all sorts of warm feelings reading it. But it's more than just romance. The book has to be well written too. It needs characters who have more than one dimension. It's needs to have a realistic relationship even if the circumstances are extraordinary. It needs to be exactly what Red, White, & Royal Blue was.

If you're in the market for a solid romance with a touch of politics, this is for you. This may be labeled as YA, but like a lot of YA books, it's for everyone.

8. The Voting Booth by Brandy Colbert

This was published back in July and it's about two high school students, Marva and Duke. Marva is very passionate about politics and voting as she understand People of Color need to vote if anything is going to change. After she votes for the first time she runs into Duke who is having trouble voting. So she takes it upon herself to ferry him around town, skipping school, to get his vote to count. Marva is having some relationship issues but will Duke be the answer.

I expected a basic YA romance book. Something good. Something fun. But also something I've read before. What I got instead was a YA romance that was perfectly balanced with commentary on important political issues. Brandy Colbert expertly discussed these issues while making it part of the story. The book does stand on a soapbox at times about issues like the systematic inequality for African Americans in the American political system and it does so while never letting the story of Marva and Duke get lost in the process.

Brandy Colbert's expert touch is what set this book apart from other YA romances. 

7. Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse

Xiala is a captain who is promised a ship of her own if she completes one job. She's tasked with ferrying a young man named Serapio to the holy city of Tova in time for the Winter Solstice. In the holy city the Sun Priest, a woman named Naranpa, prepares for the solstice celebration but finds that some of her so called political allies may be plotting against her. 

I had read Rebecca Roanhorse's Sixth World series and loved it. So when I heard she was starting a new series I preordered the book. But lucky me, I got an ARC on NetGalley and got to read this before my physical copy came.

Rebecca Roanhorse is a fantastic world builder. I had no trouble understanding the setting, the politics, and the magic of this new series. It's a vast world that doesn't get too confusing. The characters are all unique and as the story jumped between the two (3 at times) points of view I never once felt lost.

The story was enthralling and Roanhorse as an amazing way with words.

6. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

The Night Circus is a magical thing. It appears without warning, capturing the imagination of all the locals and then disappears just as fast. Celia and Marco were both trained by famous magicians and are pitted against each other in a very odd contest and the circus is the stage.

If you've heard about this book and you think it's about two magicians doing battle, I'm going to have to put a stop to that. This isn't a battle. There's no magic duel. Whoever wrote the premise to this wanted to try and make it sound more epic than it is.

What this book really is, is a beautiful story that revolves around the setting. The characters are still very important but the main character is the circus. Erin Morgenstern used some beautiful flowery language and if you listen to the audiobook you have the benefit of Jim Dale's voice which makes the whole thing feel like a bedtime story.

5. Becoming by Michelle Obama

I shy away from books about politics. But here's the great news, this isn't a political book. This is the life story (so far) of former First Lady of the United States Michelle Obama. It follows her from her upbringing on the South Side of Chicago and follows her up and up and up all the way to the White House. 

This book showed that she's more than just the wife of a president. She is a powerhouse of a person who uses her abilities and fame to advocate for women and people of color. This was also an entertaining memoir full of anecdotes that made me smile, stories that made me cringe or get teary eyed, and it was a wonderful way to relive the historic moment Barack Obama was elected.

What's more is that I put the book down and felt hopeful. Even if the last four years have been bad, there's hope that good people are out there who want to help.

4. Anxious People by Fredrik Backman

To shamelessly steal the first paragraph of the synopsis: A poignant, charming novel about a crime that never took place, a would-be bank robber who disappears into thin air, and eight extremely anxious strangers who find they have more in common than they ever imagined.

I had no idea what to expect with this book. But that's just Fredrick Backman's style. He is a true master of characterization. This was full of characters who shared the spotlight equally and not once did I get confused because I knew who everyone was.  This was a page turner but not because it was exciting or fast paced. It was a page turner because I cared about what happened to everyone and I NEEDED to know how everything went down. 

Each character had their own wonderful arch and by the end I liked everyone. Even the people I started out hating, I even grew attached to them. Is this the reading version of Stockholm syndrome? Or is Fredrik Backman a master at what he does? Or maybe it's both.

3. The Only Good Indians By Stephen Graham Jones

Four American Indian men made a horrible mistake when they were but young boys. Now, decades later, those boys are men and that event is coming back to haunt them in the form of an entity bent on revenge.

Writing a premise for this book wasn't easy. I know. It was only two sentences, but I read the official premise and it's just not quite right. I think the official premise is slightly misleading. 

Enough about that though. Jones is an amazing writer. I would compare him with Stephen King, not because they both do horror, but because they're both masters of the written word. But Jones has the benefit of getting to the point, which King can sometimes forget to do. The Only Good Indians is an amazingly written book. This is the only book of his I've ever read so all I can say is this book, at least, is a masterpiece. This is also an own voices book as Jones is Blackfoot. 

2. Punching The Air by Ibi Zoboi and Yusef Salaam

2020 was a very volatile year. The Black Lives Matter movement exploded onto the tips of everyone's tongues due to the demonstrations caused by the rampant police violence. Due to that, Punching The Air was an unfortunately perfect timed YA Fiction piece loosely based on real events. Yusef Salaam of the Exonerated Five (aka The Central Park Five) used his own life experience to help Ibi Zoboi craft this truly powerful story.

This revolves around Amal Shahid, a young artist and poet who was on the wrong end of a biased system and the victim of systematic racism. Due to events that wouldn't have happened had he been born White, this sixteen year old is convicted of a crime he didn't commit and sent to prison. But can he make the best of a horrid situation or will he fall victim to a system designed to make him fail?

I say this book is powerful. That's not just some meaningless critic buzzword that can be slapped on the cover of the book. It's the truth. This is a fictional tale with it's roots based in horrifying reality. But this story isn't just doom and sadness. There is hope. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. But it's going to be a fight getting there and Zoboi and Salaam were the two best authors to tell the tale.

This next book needs a trigger warning for sexual assault. There's no graphic detail but it is discussed. 

1. Know My Name by Chanel Miller

This is a story of survival and about the woman formerly known as Emily Doe, now openly known by her true name of Chanel Miller. She was made famous by her victim impact statement that went viral after the trial of convicted sex offender Brock Turner. This book shines a light on not only Miller's experience but how the horrors of sexual assault continue even after the heinous act is committed. 

I'll be honest. I was going to let this book pass me by. I was familiar with the Brock Turner case and followed it as it was going on. I, along with the rest of the world, was left dumbstruck by the light sentence the judge gave as well as the horrid statements made by Turners parents.  I read the impact statement by Miller written when she was still keeping her identity a secret. So I knew this wasn't going to be like any other memoir I've read. I tend to read memoirs by comedians and actors, people who tell funny stories and make me laugh, but after my wife read it and loved it, I new I had to read it too.

I'm so glad I did. It's a super tough subject but it's so very important to read. It's very eye opening to the court process and how unfair it is. How Miller had to defend herself even though she was the victim. She had to prove that she didn't want it or deserve it which is outrageous. Also, if her family wanted to testify they had to put their lives on hold and risk their education and jobs. It'd disgusting and Miller's story helped bring light to something I never knew.

A bonus to this book is that she has an amazing way with words. She's a fantastic writer, but even if she wasn't, this was still an important and necessary story to tell. 

So what were your favorite books of the year? Let me know! 

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