Top 5 Wednesdays: Most Disappointing Books of 2021

This week’s topic was supposed to be my best books of the year, but I thought I already had that pretty well covered in yesterday’s Top 10 Tuesday post on the same topic. I was a little surprised to see that none of my groups included a prompt for least favourite or disappointing reads, although I guess it makes sense since they might want to focus on the positive. To be fair, I didn’t have too many disappointing books this year in general! This year had my lowest ever number of books rated below 4 stars, although there were a few that were really 3.5 stars that I rounded up. Even one of my 3 star reads hardly qualifies as disappointing since it was a book that I didn’t really expect to love anyway. After looking back over the books I read this year, I noticed several that I found disappointing especially since I’d been meaning to read them for such a long time. None of these books were necessarily bad, but they were not really what I expected either.

Top 5 Wednesday is a meme created by Gingerreadslainey on Youtube, and is now hosted by Sam at ThoughtsOnTomes. The official GoodReads group with the weekly topics can be found here.

1) The Daughter By Jane Shelmit


I’d been meaning to read this book for such a long time, so it was disappointing when it only ended up being a 3.5 star read! This book is about a woman named Jenny whose 15-year-old daughter Naomi goes missing one night after her school play, and as the search goes on, she realizes she might have known her daughter as well as she thought. I absolutely love thrillers that are premised on the idea of how well a parent really knows their own child, but this one wasn’t really what I thought. I loved the beginning, but started to find it a bit too slow-paced toward the middle and often found my attention wavering. I liked the theme of how little Jenny really noticed about her own family, but also had a lot of trouble connecting with any of the characters. I liked the ultimate reveal of what happened to Naomi since it tied together seemingly irrelevant parts from earlier in the book, but it also didn’t quite work for me because there wasn’t enough development of Naomi as a character to really understand what led to her decision. I did ultimately round this one up to a 4 because there was more that I liked than didn’t like, but it wasn’t really what I expected either.

2) The Exit by Helen Fitzgerald


I think if I had to pick one least favourite book of the year, it would be this one. I’d been meaning to read this one for so long and I thought the premise sounded incredible, but the execution just wasn’t good. This book is about a spoiled 23-year-old named Catherine who is forced to start working at a care home to appease her mother, and she soon meets 82-year-old Rose, a resident with dementia who insists that something sinister is going on that is putting them all in danger. I absolutely loved the concept of Rose knowing what was happening but not being trusted because of her diagnosis, but unfortunately found her parts of the book difficult to read because they were so repetitive. I wouldn’t mind that if it had been done intentionally to show how her dementia impacted her, but that didn’t seem to be the case. I did like the way Catherine’s character development through the book, especially her realization of how her friends weren’t great friend. I thought the dark turn that the book took toward the end was a very unexpected and interesting twist, but couldn’t’ help being disappointed by how much stronger this could have been if the writing had been better.

3) The Silent Wife by A.S.A. Harrison


This book was mostly a case of mistaken expectations. I had been meaning to read this book for years and assumed it was a thriller along the lines of Gone Girl, probably because I had seen it pitched that way. Unfortunately, I would consider this book more of a character study than an actual thriller. This book is about the breakdown of the relationship between Jodi and her common-law husband Todd, leading up to his death. Since his death was already announced in the synopsis, I found that a lot of the suspense was already removed however I did enjoy the moments in the book that were more like a traditional thriller. I was especially interested in the issues posed by the fact that Jodi and Todd were not legally married and the exploration that allowed for what “wife” really means. However, I found the entire plot around Todd’s death underwhelming and I would have loved a lot more attention given to a specific reveal about Jodi’s past that seemed mostly glossed over. While I did end up enjoying the book overall, it was disappointing that it wasn’t really what was advertised and definitely took some adjusting of expectations to really enjoy.

4) A Boy Made of Blocks by Keith Stuart


To be fair, I didn’t necessarily expect this to be a 5-star read, but I was still a little disappointed that it ended up being a 3.5 stars read instead. I did end up rounding it up to a 4, but it was a tough decision. This book is about a man named Alex who had been kicked out of his house due to his inability to cope with their son Sam, who has autism. Alex soon begins to connect with his son through playing Minecraft together and begins to understand more about who Sam really is. My main issue with this book was that I didn’t really care for the writing style since I found it repetitive and thought it dragged on too long for what it was. I loved the way Minecraft was incorporated and also enjoyed. I liked the depiction of autism and some of the daily struggles Alex and Jody had with Sam’s behaviour, and I liked the perspective of a parent who really didn’t know how to interact with his child at first. However, I also had a lot of trouble connecting with the characters and thought they all felt very underdeveloped. It was a decent book, but considering autism is a huge buzzword for me in books and I also play Minecraft myself, I expected to love this one even more.

5) It’s a Whole Spiel edited by Katherine Locke and Laura Silverman

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Anthologies are always a bit hit-or-miss for me, and although I was very interested in the concept of this one, I found it pretty mediocre overall. This book consists of a collection of stories featuring Jewish characters and that focus on a variety of topics relating to Judaism. I think the most successful stories for me were the ones that involved characters not feeling “Jewish enough”, such as the stories by Rachel Lynn Solomon and Lance Rubin, which both focused on characters meeting their partner’s more Orthodox families for the first time. I also really liked the stories that involved some kind of nerd culture, especially Katherine Locke’s story that was formatted as online fanfiction, and Laura Silverman’s about introverts meeting at a convention. However, there were also a few stories that I just didn’t really get at all, and found some of them a bit rushed and hard to see the connection to the theme of the anthology. When I averaged out my ratings for each story, it ended up being somewhere between 3.5 and 4. I ultimately decided to round it up to a 4, but compared to other short story anthologies I’ve read, this one just wasn’t a favourite.

Honourable Mentions:

  • Every Breath by Nicholas Sparks – I liked this one, but I also thought it read like an amalgamation of several other books by this author. A lot of the second half of the book also relied too heavily on characters just telling each other about their lives in what seemed like a big info-dump, which wasn’t particularly interesting to read.
  • Loves Music, Loves to Dance by Mary Higgins Clark – I didn’t really expect to love this one since I rarely give this author’s books any more than 4 stars, and this is one of her older titles. I felt like I had to include it here though, since it was my only other 3-star read even though it wasn’t disappointing since that’s about what I expected of it
  • This Train is Being Held by Ismee Amiel Williams – This book was a fairly solid 4 stars so I definitely didn’t hate it, but I’d also expected it to be an easy 5 stars and it wasn’t. I did not think the 3-year timespan that the story was supposed to encompass did not really come across clearly, and thought some of the plot points seemed a bit too shoehorned in

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