This week’s topic was supposed to be my favourite books of the year, but I looked ahead at the upcoming Top 10 Tuesdays and noticed that next week’s prompt was also favourites, and I’d rather keep my list all in one place. I was a little surprised to see that none of the groups/memes I follow included a prompt for least favourite or disappointing books, although I guess some of those could fall under “surprising” books in a way. Just like last year, I had very few books that I rated less than 4 stars, and nothing that was lower than a 3! I had a total of just 4 books that I rated 3 stars, one of which was a children’s book that I read just to fulfill a difficult prompt so I barely even count that one. To be fair, I did have a handful more books that I’d rated 3.5 stars and ultimately decided to round up to a 4 for Goodreads since they were in that weird grey zone where a 4 felt too high, but a 3 felt way too low. I’m actually not particularly surprised by any of the books that ended up on this list since most were books that I didn’t have the highest expectations for anyway or that I’d picked up specifically to fulfill challenge prompts that I was having trouble with. I’ve become pretty good at predicting which books I’ll enjoy, but I know that if I pick something I’m not so interested in, the results can be a little more mixed. I wouldn’t say any of these books were necessarily bad since 3 stars is still a decent rating, but they just were not what I expected!
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) In a Holidaze by Christina Lauren
Immediately we’re starting with a book that I’d pretty generously rated 4 stars (although a solid 4, not a 3.5), but it’s definitely my least favourite Christina Lauren book that I’ve read so far. To be fair, I’m not really interested in Christmas stories to begin with, but I wanted to give this one a chance because I erally like this author duo and because of the whole “Groundhog Day” element. Unfortunately, I had a really hard time getting into this one at first because it dropped names of so many characters very quickly and without enough context to really figure out how everyone was connected. It took me a little while to realize that it was three different, unrelated families spending the holidays together. Similarly, because there were so many side characters I found the majority of them very underdeveloped and it seemed like many were just thrown in there to create the sense of a bigger group. I really enjoyed the Groundhog Day element of the main character repeating her day but was disappointed when that was stopped relatively early in the book and never really explained. I also found the synopsis a bit misleading because I had definitely gone into the book expecting there to be some kind of love triangle involving Mae’s friend Theo and his brother Andrew, and that wasn’t really the case. I wonder if the synopsis has been changed since I first saw it because looking at it on Goodreads now, I don’t see any mention of Theo at all, and I was sure it had come up when I first picked this book up. That’s not to say that I specifically wanted a love triangle to happen, but I remember that while reading it, I kept waiting for that part to happen and was a bit confused when it didn’t. I did enjoy the book overall but wasn’t particularly invested in the main relationship and generally found the book pretty mediocre, which was not at all what I expected from these authors especially given all the hype around it!
2) What Big Teeth by Rose Szabo–
I think this book was mostly a disappointment because I’d gone into it with completely the wrong expectations. I’d consistently seen this book compared to the Addams Family, and I’m pretty sure the people making those comparisons really don’t understand The Addams Family at all. The whole gimmick with the Addams Family is not that they literally are monsters (that would be The Munsters), it’s that despite their unusual interests and appearances, they are an exceptionally healthy and loving family. This was a book that I did rate 3.5 and rounded up fairly generously, mostly because I liked the atmosphere and enjoyed many of the family dynamics. My biggest issue with this book is that it was just so slow and I found it extremely confusing at first. I was pretty much lost for the first quarter or so of the book, but once I did catch on to what was happening, I liked it for a while before starting to lose interest again toward the end. I was also surprised a bit disappointed to see that Eleanor did not play nearly as much of a role in the story as expected given that she was supposed to be the main character. I was also surprised to see some pretty blatant homophobia from some of the characters. I’m not the type of reader who gets immediately turned off by characters being bigoted if it serves some kind of purpose in the story, but in this case I found it a bit jarring and didn’t think it added very much to the story. Plus, this just confirmed for me how unlike the Addams Family it really was, since there is no way they would have been so discriminatory. I was pretty let down by this book because I’d gone into it expecting to love it as a huge Addams Family fan, and I didn’t really feel like I got what I’d been promised.
3) Five Feet Apart by Rachael Lippincott, Mikki Daughtry and Tobias Iaconis –
I suspect I might have liked this book a lot more if I’d read it when I was younger, because I had so little patience for the characters. I haven’t seen the movie yet since I wanted to wait until I read the book first, and I’m still mildly interested in giving it a try. It took me longer than expected to get invested in the story and I didn’t really care for either of the character’s at first. Both of them did eventually grow on me a bit, and I liked the dynamic between them although I did find it a little strange that Stella immediately became so pushy about Will doing his treatments. I think my biggest frustration with this book is that it had so much potential to delve a little deeper and I kept getting annoyed when the authors didn’t go there. For example, I loved the idea of Stella vlogging about cystic fibrosis and thought including some more of her vlogs could have been an easy and in-character way for the authors to give more information about this disease to readers, since it’s something I don’t expect a lot of people know much about. Similarly, I thought the authors could have gone a bit deeper into Stella’s friendship with Poe, another patient, and her grief over the loss of her sister. The entire story felt rushed to me, and I wished the authors had added even 30 more pages or so in order to give a little room to develop some of the plot and characters a bit more. I also found some of Stella’s choices toward the end very frustrating since they all revolved around her relationship with Will, whom she had really just met, but surprisingly ended up loving the direction the authors ultimately took with the ending and even the epilogue. The ending definitely saved the book from being 3 stars for me. I ended up rating it 3.5 rounded up fairly generously to 4 because I could see myself liking it more if I was in the target demographic, but I was a bit disappointed after seeing so much hype around it.
4) Cappucinos, Cupcakes and a Corpse by Harper Lin
It almost feels like cheating to include this book here since it was something I had zero interest in reading in the first place, and I ended up picking it up as an audiobook because I needed something to listen to while working that would also cross a prompt off my challenge list. I’m not very interested in these kinds of cozy mysteries in general, but I did my best to go into it with an open mind anyway. Unfortunately, I found this book boring and completely unmemorable. I thought the main character Francesca was irritating and came across a lot younger than she was supposed to be. I was irritated by how quickly she jumped to conclusions without much evidence. It did make some sense since she’s not really a detective, but it was still annoying to read. I also struggled a bit to keep my attention on the audiobook. I generally find that I process audiobooks very differently than I process books I read physically (although both certainly still count as reading!), but this one just didn’t seem to get processed at all. Within a couple of hours of finishing the audiobook, I’d already forgotten most of what I’d heard. I also didn’t really care by the time the murderer was revealed, and didn’t like that there hadn’t been much lead up to who it was. It definitely wasn’t predictable, but I also don’t love when mysteries involve a culprit who seems fairly random. I ended up rating this book 3 stars because it was fine and mildly entertaining while listening to it, but not something I would go back to or even continue the series. I think if I had to pick my least favourite book overall this year, it would probably be this one.
5) 500 Miles From You by Jenny Colgan
This was another audiobook that I listened to while working and one that I’d picked up mostly on a whim since I’d at least heard of it before. I didn’t realize at the time that it was technically the third in the series, but it didn’t seem to matter very much that I hadn’t read the previous two. This book wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t really what I expected either. Based on the synopsis, I’d gone into it expecting to be a romance about two characters who connect with each other through emails after they temporarily switch places in an exchange program, but it wasn’t really a romance at all. I was surprised to see there was little focus on the email element at all, which was also strange considering both characters were healthcare professionals and it seemed weird that they were expected to take on each other’s caseloads with minimal transition of information. I did like both of the main characters in general, but found myself easily confused by the many side characters — one of the frequent challenges I have with audiobooks in general, but not really helped by the fact that some characters had similar names (Lissa and Larissa), and Lissa and Cormac were each interacting with each other’s family, friends, and patients so there were multiple relationships to keep track of. I liked many of these interactions, but also at times felt that they were included just to pad out the book. At over 430 pages, this book was a bit on the long side for what it was already! I didn’t hate this one and ultimately gave it a 3.5 that I rounded down to a 3 because even though there were several things I liked about it, it was another book that I’d found mostly unmemorable and a bit too dragged out.
- Silent Night by Nell Pattinson – I absolutely loved the first book in this series when I read it back in 2020, but found this one very disappointing in comparison. I had a lot more trouble getting invested in the story and was annoyed by the frequent mentions of the unnecessary love triangle. I also found the book repetitive and was frustrated by how incompetent most of the adults seemed.
- The Child Finder by Rene Denfeld – I was hesitant to include this one here because I did enjoy it overall, but I had a much harder time getting into it than expected and had a lot of trouble connecting with the characters. I was not particularly interested in the heavy focus on nature and trapping, although I did like the focus on disability. I also found the ending a bit lacklustre since I realized I’d already accidentally spoiled myself for a major twist by seeing the synopsis of the next book the author had written.
- Can Anybody Help Me? by Sinead Crowley – I want to try this book again physically at some point since I’m not entirely sure if the issues I had were because of the writing or because I listened to it as an audiobook. Because I was listening to it as audio, I had a really hard time differentiating characters and how they were connected, especially toward the end, which made the entire reveal of who was responsible completely lack impact for me since I barely remembered who that person was. I gave this one the benefit of the doubt because I’m pretty sure I just read it in the wrong format, but it’s hard to know for sure
- The Party by Robyn Harding – Again, I was hesitant to include this one because I did enjoy it overall, but I think it does fall into the category of “disappointing” in the sense that it wasn’t what I thought. This book is tagged on Goodreads as a thriller but it really isn’t one at all. I found the book got quite repetitive toward the middle and then the ending was very abrupt. The characters were all unlikable but that seemed to be intentional on the author’s part so that didn’t really bother me much. It just seems like every year I end up reading a book that’s pitched as a thriller but isn’t really one, and it’s a bit of a disappointment every time.
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